The New Look of Holiday Networking

Holiday parties. They seem to help fill up any block of free time during the already busy holiday season. Whether you’re attending for fun, for networking purposes or a combination of both, you looked forward to meeting new people. But COVID-19 changed that. Just like everything else about the holidays this year, the traditional holiday gatherings will likely be a thing of the past.

However, it doesn’t mean you can’t still expand your networks over the holidays. You just need to be flexible, adaptable and a little more creative.

Before you cringe at the word “creative,” think of it like this: WHAT do you want to share in your networking, and HOW will you do it in today’s world?

Let’s break it down, first focusing on WHAT you want to share. What are your greatest strengths and passions? How would you describe yourself to someone in a way that they will remember you?

The truth is there are few people who are self-aware enough about their strengths, passions and interests that they can share them succinctly enough to engage with others. So, we’re helping you out. We’re giving you the Personal Branding Statement Template. (Take our online personal branding statement course.)

The Personal Branding Statement is a two-sentence statement you create that introduces you to someone in a very quick and powerful way. Here’s the template:

I am a (talent), (talent) and (talent) person who loves (passion), (passion) and (passion). As a (identity) and (identity), I (verb), (verb) and (verb) to/for (what matters to you).

Here’s how it could look in the real-world:

I am a creative, dynamic and result-oriented person who loves to inspire people to discover, develop and live what is great in them. As a process-minded educator, I build easy to use tools to help people succeed in work and life.

I am a detail-oriented, logical and curious person who loves to solve problems and challenges to improve results. As an avid team player and athlete, I work as I train – to win, to succeed and be the best.

I am an analytical, logical and clever person who loves to make the complicated simple. As an action-oriented science nerd, I translate big science into practical and usable information for all.

Congratulations. You’ve just discovered an effective way to share critical information about yourself in a succinct and unforgettable way. And a bonus: you increased your self-awareness to uncover that information.

Now that you have clarity about your greatest passions and strengths – and HOW they can be used in today’s world – it’s time to explore HOW to share that information when traditional networking events aren’t an option. Here are 3 ideas you can try:

  1. Host recurring [holiday] Zoom chats. Schedule weekly Zoom calls with 3 of your friends and have each of them bring one friend to each Zoom call. Base it on shared interests, hobbies, similar work roles, people looking for work, etc. Or, consider bringing someone from a different cohort (Boomer, GenX, Millennial, Gen Z). Introduce each other and why you had them come to the Zoom call. Share your branding statements to get conversations started. Share contact information and encourage more conversations outside of the initial call.
    For an organization, organize holiday Zoom chats with 3 to 6 employees who don’t work together. Whether they’re at different levels, in different departments or different countries doing the same work on different teams, use this as an opportunity to network within the company. If appropriate, add the “bring a friend” component as a means to attract other talent to the company.
  2. Host a weekly holiday background Zoom call. Use the opportunity to invite different friends each week where you catch up, talk about the holiday and have a holiday background competition on each call (could this become the new ugly sweater contest?). Share your branding statements to get conversations started and talk about how their background aligns to who they are.
  3. Holiday masks. Host an event that is set up to encourage social distancing with 6 feet between chairs and in a room large enough for everyone to keep their space. Make a requirement that attendees wear a mask that is indicative of their work or a hobby. Spend time guessing information about each person based on their mask. An alternate version of the mask networking idea: host a holiday mask event where the mask represents what they feel or celebrate about the holiday. Whatever the angle, the mask serves as a discussion point to get conversations started about individual passions and areas of greatest interests.

Take Action
Think of holiday networking as the WHAT and the HOW. Get better acquainted with yourself to be able to complete and deliver a couple versions of your branding statement. It gives others a brief introduction to you and encourages conversation.

Then rethink HOW to connect with people over this holiday. Be creative. Be adaptable. But continue to be safe. In these moments, you will meet some cool people who can help you both personally and professionally as we all learn how to be successful and happy in our changing world.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Great Job Candidates Won’t Wait

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How to be a Gracious Election Winner or Loser

Our culture loves winners and losers. Winners get to stick it to the losers. Losers get to complain about how they almost won. The result is continued animosity. I bet you’re thinking of time right now when you were the gloating winner, or when you witnessed a particularly bad sore loser.

I once read that life sends two things: successes to learn to celebrate (winning) and challenges to learn something (losing). Let’s look at each.

Winning after hard work feels good. Celebrate that feeling. Celebrate the hard work. Celebrate the renewed energy, focus or direction. Great reasons to celebrate.

Then remember the other side of the win-lose continuum – those who lost.

We all know that losing feels terrible. For many people, it amplifies their reactions to things. Instead of using the moment to understand what didn’t work and why they lost, their feelings are heightened, and it activates the feelings and actions of anger or helplessness. But with all feelings, they need to be controlled and managed to be productive. Venting, complaining and catastrophizing are unproductive. They keep you stuck. It is your choice, after all, how to deal with any situation in life, even losing.

Remember back to a time when you were in this space. How did you feel? The reason why life sends us losses is to help us develop our compassion and empathy for others. In our tough moments, we learn what it feels like to lose, to come in last or even second. From these experiences, we can open our hearts to those who occupy that space because we can relate to their feelings. It makes us more human and more supportive.

So let’s explore this winner-loser mentality and rethink how to be gracious whether you win or lose. Though this is an approach I believe we should implement in all aspects of our lives, I think now is the time to talk about it because of one big event coming up: the election.

Think of the election as a job interview. One of the two candidates will have more votes to “be hired” than the other. Regardless of how passionately you feel about your choice, you have to share this “hiring process” with others. They get to weigh in, sharing their own perspectives and feelings about their choice and their vote.

Stop here for a second. Having the ability to choose is a remarkable right we have. There are still many places in our world where choosing the leadership of the country is not available. Keep things in context. We are blessed to be able to vote for who we feel best can handle the CEO role of the country. A role that requires clarity, integrity, compassion and adaptability, of committing to represent everyone, including those who did not support them in their “hiring” choice.

Regardless of how you feel about the candidates in this year’s election, consider these three ways to be a gracious winner or loser:

  1. Remember we are all part of the same country and there is more that connects us than disconnects us. Candidates use the election process to highlight our differences. But when we look closer, we see there is really more that connects us. Work hard to stop looking at others as members of a political party and instead see them as caring, feeling, hardworking, family-focused Americans. Down deep, we are more similar than the election process seems to highlight. Connect with what we each want: the ability to have a safe, productive, happy, healthy and successful life, able to love our families and do good work.
  2. Support the losers and applaud the winners. The election is a deeply personal event and can activate big feelings. Acknowledge what you feel. Remember the euphoria of winning and the pain of losing. After all, you have been there for both. Then, think of those you care about who are dealing with the pain of losing. How will you be there to support them as they work through their loss and grief? And, think of those who are celebrating. How will you give them the pleasure of being in the winner’s circle and not make it about you? Learning to win and lose graciously will serve you well throughout life.
  3. Hold each other to a higher standard. Use this moment to hold yourself accountable to being your best self and encouraging others to do the same. Winners, make it your mission to catch other winners who are gloating and antagonizing the losers. Remind them of our shared values and our commitment to be citizens of the same nation and humans in our world. Losers, make it your mission to catch those who want to retaliate against the winners. Call for better behavior. Remind them of the need to be collaborators to make life work.

Sometimes in a divisive election, we can see how far off our path we wandered. How we handle what comes next will influence how we reconnect and get back on our shared vision. Everything important in life requires us all to work together. From COVID-19 to global warming to every other issue, remember these are human issues, not Republican or Democrat issues. When we commit to being better with each other, we can redirect our effort and energy to solving our challenges instead of fighting and gloating.

There is no room for those behaviors in a world that needs as much attention as ours does.

Take Action
Make a commitment to be a gracious winner or loser. Then, roll up your sleeves and work together to address whatever life sends our way. We need everyone to make that happen.

So, in this moment you have a choice. How will you commit to holding yourself accountable, responsible and supportive, regardless of the results of the election? It will be in this moment that we commit to working together for our shared values and to helping all of us live wisely, healthy and well.

By Jay Forte

Article appeared on Thrive Global on October 26, 2020

Consider reading It Won’t Break When It Falls

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The Coaching Manager is the Key to a Successful Workplace Recovery

Some of your employees may still be working from home. Some may be back on-site, full or part-time. This unusual workforce mix creates a challenge for most workplaces and managers: how do you manage a hybrid team that still provides a dynamic employee experience and activates employee engagement?

At the center of this unusual moment is the Coaching Manager. Managers and coaching managers both focus on getting things done, but how they get it done makes all the difference.

Conventional managers focus on results and tasks instead of on the person completing them. This disengages your people and misses out on their expanded ideas, contribution and loyalty.

Coaching Managers (also known as Workplace Coaches) focus on relationships as the means to amplify self-belief, abilities and confidence as the means to performance. This builds a sustainable rapport and connection with their people to be able to gather information about what they may be dealing with as it relates to COVID-19. This information is critical to improve the quality of management’s response.

Relationships done well inspire your people to respond, perform and stay. Relationships done poorly encourage your people to use their time to search out new employment opportunities with organizations that celebrate, care about and support their people.

Here are three things coaching managers do well that activate performance and retention:

1. They build trust. As a certified coach, I know I can’t make any progress with a client if I have not first created an environment of trust. I do this by taking the time to get to know the other person, listen generously, support caringly and keep information confidential. Coaches understand people as people – what matters to them, what they struggle with, what success is for them. They listen to what is meant, not just what is said. They remember important details. They ask powerful questions. They care openly. This level of understanding and interest encourages a trusting relationship. Trust facilitates communication.

2. They personalize the contact. Coaches use a variety of skills and tools to understand each person as a thinking, caring and feeling person, who, when helped to feel valuable and important for who they are, respond by bringing their best to what they do. Expressing interest in the lives of your people is critical, particularly at this moment when so much of their days may be spent in anxiety or worry. Knowing what each person is dealing with creates the ability to better decide how to help them deal with it. They want you to know their name, their current situation, their worries and challenges, their strengths and abilities. They want to know you care and are available. Seeing your people as the means to results instead of people dealing with a pandemic will alienate them and send them looking for an organization with managers who think and act like coaches.

3. They guide and support instead of direct and control. One of the ways to encourage self-esteem, confidence and a greater sense of contribution is to help employees own their solutions and performance. Guiding and supporting encourages employees to tap into and use their abilities which activates their self-belief. Directing and controlling limits the employee’s thinking as they only see their ability to perform a task, not to own it or improve it. At this moment, we all need help feeling important, having purpose and making a difference. These feelings counterbalance the challenging negative feelings brought on by the pandemic.

Coach your people to encourage their connection to value, purpose and contribution. Coach them to help them feel heard and respected. Address these and you help employees feel safe and important in their workplace.

Your best talent wants to feel heard, valued, important, supported and cared for. Who wouldn’t when so much of the world seems out of balance? By doing this in the workplace, you not only help your employees stay connected, but you help them see that they are resilient and strong enough to be successful at home and at work – even during a pandemic. Coach them to keep them.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading How to Get the People Thing Right For Your Business

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Where I’m Meant to Be

Do you ever find yourself in the middle of a task thinking ahead to the next task you need to get through? Or maybe you find yourself thinking of something you’d rather be doing instead?

It’s human nature, I believe, to always be thinking of what’s next. We even have a program designed to help people navigate what comes next after a big life moment or shift from how things used to be.

But what if, before we started thinking ahead to what’s next, we take a moment to show up to and appreciate where we are. What if we could be fully present in each task to learn from and enjoy everything we can get out of it?

I’m the first to admit I’m always thinking ahead to the next task on the list, watching the clock to make sure we stay on schedule (the hangry is very real if I’m even a few minutes behind for snacks or meals). But when I interrupt this incessant need to be someplace other than right here, right now, I not only enjoy it more, but I also feel more at peace. I feel more productive. Ultimately, I feel happier.

Let me give you an example. Most days, my boys and I end up in our playroom for a few hours in the morning. As you can imagine, there are days when it feels like I’m constantly the referee, blowing the whistle and breaking up fights every few minutes. But, I’ve noticed that when I remind myself to be present to all the personalities, preferences and moods for everyone in the room, the entire mood changes. And a large part of it is I am now more aware of who each of my boys are and how to be with them so I am less triggered and wiser in what I say and do. As a result, everyone seems to be happier.

How do I center myself and remind myself to be fully present? I use this mantra: This is where I’m meant to be. Right here. Right now. Doing exactly what I’m doing.

How could a continual reminder to center yourself and bring your attention to the task, person, moment, feeling or situation at hand improve your productivity, your experience and, ultimately, your life?

Take Action
When you find your mind is in a place where your body is not, you are not present. But don’t judge it. Just notice it, and see that there is an opportunity to make improvements.

When this happens to you, take a deep breath, close your eyes and remind yourself this is where I’m meant to be in this moment. Come back to unite your mind and body. Be where you are. And if you need to be in another place, bring your mind AND body there. Your intentional effort to be present will cause a mindset shift and you’ll start to feel calm and focused instead of rushed or distracted.

Remember to be present in the moment. It will change the way you see everything you do and can set you on a more productive course as you move on to whatever comes next.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Managing Your Self-Talk

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Don’t Create Unnecessary Limits

What would you accomplish if you weren’t afraid? If you didn’t have doubts? If you didn’t limit yourself to time or other resources?

What if you allowed yourself to think big?

I think most people hear “think big” and “don’t limit yourself” and immediately say “it’s just not realistic because [fill in the excuse].”

Excuses like: I don’t have the time. I’m not financially prepared to try that. I have too much going on already.

And I admit I find myself in that mindset quite a bit, especially now when I’m home with EVERYONE, and the time I have for big thinking is after everyone has gone to bed… and I’m barely able to keep my eyes open.

So, rather than dwell on all the things I could do “if only I had the time,” I started thinking about why I feel that way. And I started by thinking of the people who have had a direct impact on the way life is today, like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos (to name a few).

These people didn’t do their best thinking when everything was quiet and perfect. Instead, they showed up creative, dreaming and inventing in the everyday moments of life. What they each created wasn’t always seen as a project, but more as a way of being.

So, do you impose unnecessary limits on your thinking, dreaming and inventing? Do you think that having the job or the life of your dreams is for others and not you? Maybe all you need is a reset. Here is my guidance:

  1. Set your goal. Picture what you want. It could be work related, could be family related, could be something else entirely, like losing weight or committing to reading more. Identify it (and be specific). Write it down. Allow yourself to think big. You’ve just allowed yourself to visualize your goal. Now you know where you’re going.
  2. Figure out where you are today. With greater clarity about where you are headed, refocus on your starting point. Be honest about where you are. Assess what’s working or not working in this moment. If it is working, do more of it. If it is not working, figure out why and make an intentional effort to change it (it could be the reason why where you are is not where you want to be). That’s okay. Now you know. This will help you decide on the options to move forward.
  3. Stop judging. Now that you see both edges – where you are and where you want to be – the gap between the two becomes clear. Maybe this makes you feel a little anxious. Maybe you’re running through a bunch of reasons why what you want could never happen for you. Maybe you have doubts about your abilities and think the goal is unrealistic, especially in the timeframe you identified. STOP. Stop right there. The purpose of setting a goal and getting clear about where you are right now is to see what is true in this moment. Don’t waste your energy on judging the situation. Instead, use your energy to come up with ideas to get closer to your goal.
  4. Stop comparing. This is your goal, specific to your wants and needs and your life. No one else has exactly the same goal. No one else encounters the same obstacles and challenges you will. No one has the same talents and strengths you do to get you to your goal. Don’t distract yourself by thinking about what success looks like for others. Stay focused on what success looks like for you.
  5. Make a plan. This is the hardest part because we are creatures of instant gratification. We can easily get distracted and frustrated as we work toward a goal when we don’t see progress immediately. So create a plan to reach your goal with mini-goals built in. Start small. One or two things. Then notice your progress and reach for more. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you will not achieve your goals in a day. But you can make remarkable progress little by little.
  6. Find an accountability partner. The best way to stick to your plan to achieve your goal is to ensure you’re holding yourself accountable to it. Sometimes, having someone else help you stay accountable can be helpful, especially when you have a human moment and feel too tired, too frustrated or too distracted to stay focused. Choose wisely.

Oftentimes, we are the greatest limits in our own success. Sure, sometimes there are finite resources, like the number of hours in a day or financial assistance, but that should not prohibit you from thinking, imagining, dreaming and inventing big. Instead of seeing the resources as obstacles, consider how they can become part of your plan to reach your goal. You may need to think a little differently to approach the goal (or mini-goals) to overcome the challenge of limited resources, but when you don’t allow the doubts to creep in, when you hold yourself accountable to the end result, you’ll see a significant change in how you think.

Take Action
Identifying a goal and sticking to it is hard. Just think of all those New Year’s Resolutions that rarely make it past February 1. The first step is to work on getting rid of your limited thinking. Dream big and start small to make it happen. Get clear. Get help. Stay on task.

As you practice this and start to expand your thinking, notice how you feel about each new challenge or opportunity that presents itself. Adjusting your mindset to avoid allowing doubts, fears and uncertainty take over your thoughts opens the door to an entirely new way of being.

Watch how it changes your work output, your relationships and your overall mental well-being.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s how you move past it.

So set your goal and have the courage to go get it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Creating Goals: Start with “Be Better”

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4 Tips to Not Be Bad at Working from Home

I was talking with a client recently who kept saying they are “bad at working from home.” Throughout the conversation, they mentioned their ability to be a forward or strategic thinker was hindered because of distractions at home.

Though we can all relate to having distractions at home in whatever form they come in (kids, roommates, the pile of laundry you’ve been meaning to do, food, neighbors, pets), learning how to be more efficient in your work-from-home approach will help you in the long run, especially as we try to imagine what life will be like during cold and flu season just a few short months after the stay-at-home orders around the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, first, create your space. Assess what you need to get done and create the space that will ensure you can achieve your performance expectations. Do you need privacy and quiet? Do you need a large computer screen? Do you need additional technology and connections? Do you have Zoom meetings that will show your space on screen? Create what you need to be successful.

Second, remove the obvious distractions. Working at home can put many distractions right in your reach. Scan your area for anything that will distract you such as the TV remote, the availability of snacks, piles of laundry, dirty dishes, other household activity. Take a step back and just observe your workspace. Ask yourself: what could disrupt me in an unproductive way? Then remove it.

Third, create a daily to do list. Spend whatever time you need at the start of your day getting your head in the right place. Review your calendar so you know what calls or deliverables are required. Consider creating your to do list in order of priority with the items at the top of the list that need to be done today. Or, if you like to see the red marks as you cross things off your list, consider creating an “at work” list and an “at home” list. Identify 2-3 big things for each list you want to accomplish for that specific day and stay focused on getting those tasks done.

And finally, divide your day into blocks of time. This includes work and home times. For work times, set your day up to tackle the biggest, most important or thought-provoking items you need to complete during the part of the day when you are most productive. Be sure to define a clear start and end to your workday to also be able to accommodate the home requirements. This may take some time to notice what works best for both your work and home responsibilities, so challenge yourself to take note of what works best to get done what has to get done.

Working from home can be challenging when there are multiple distractions outside of your control. But following these four tips can help you set yourself up for success as a productive work-from-home employee.

Take Action
Take each step on its own. Master each one before you move on to the next. Take a day to get adjusted to the approach and give yourself some grace in learning this adjustment. There will need to be some flexibility for the first week or so, but stick to your new guidelines. You’ll see a drastic improvement in your productivity and mental capability.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Balance Working From Home With Kids

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How to Help Your Kids Decide What to do After High School

Asking a 16, 17 or 18-year old about what they want to do for the rest of their lives can be daunting, especially now. Our world is unpredictable and, lately, pretty volatile. It’s hard to plan for something next week, never mind next year.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be asking our high school students – and even our college students – about what comes next. It all just depends on how you’re asking the questions.

Consider these four tips to learn how to ask productive questions of your high school student(s) to encourage self-discovery and a greater conversation about what comes after high school.

First, ask questions that help them focus on what they are good at and what they like. Questions like “What do you want to do with your life” are unproductive. These are too large and focus more on the end. Most people, regardless of their age or where they are in life, would probably answer “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” because this type of question can feel overwhelming. More productive questions include:

  • What is something you really love to do?
  • When you are the happiest, what are you doing that makes you feel so happy?
  • Tell me about something you’re really good at, something that comes naturally to you.

All of these questions set up the conversation to explore what they could do with their lives, but it starts by putting them in a comfort zone: asking them questions they know the answers to.

Second, build on that self-awareness by digging deeper. Ask for examples of when they feel successful. Ask about what impact or contribution they want to make. Ask about what gets their attention for careers and why. Ask about the things that matter to them and what careers could lend themselves to making the things that matter the priority. Encourage them to dig deeper into who they are, what matters to them and how they could see themselves. Despite being the parents or caregivers, you may find yourself discovering new things about your kids that you may have overlooked in the busy day-to-day of life.

Third, be prepared to explore a variety of options. This is the time of explorations, not solutions (those will come). Many teens have limited views of what is possible because what they think is often based on what their friends or family say. Help them see greater options to expand what they consider. Having a greater number of options can improve the selection of one that is truly meaningful. Options could include trade school, a 2-year institution a 4-year institution, a gap year, or going right to work. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so be flexible and encourage your kid to find the right fit for them, based on where their natural talents and passions lay.

And finally, be supportive. Regardless of what your kid(s) may want to further explore or what talent they want to expand on, it is their life they are building, not yours. Remember that your role as the parent and caregiver is to guide from the side, not be the sage on the stage. Guide and support, don’t direct and tell. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but with practice, you’ll find you are much more comfortable gently nudging your kids back onto their path as opposed to paving the way for them.

The conversation about what comes after high school (or college) shouldn’t be about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. The conversation should focus on what you know of yourself and how that self fits in to today’s world. This takes guidance, patience and regular conversations to create greater self-awareness and self-discovery, two pieces of getting to know and understand the real you. Once you have this insight into yourself, when you learn how to tune out the world and all its demands, you will feel empowered to make better and more intentional decisions that fit you.

After all, like Buckminster Fuller once said, “What is it on this planet that needs doing that I know how to do that won’t get done if I don’t do it?”

Take Action
Start today. Pay attention to how you are helping your high school or college students prepare to make good life choices. Ask a lot of questions. Be available to discuss their responses. Be open and remind yourself that they are living their lives, not yours. Help them discover who they are so they can live it wisely and intentionally.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Help College Grads Succeed in Your Organization

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The Lessons You Find in Movies: Tangled

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at Tangled. This is one of my favorite Disney movies. I love this version of the Rapunzel tale (I grew up watching a VERY bizarre version of the story). The music combined with the great characters and the comic relief make for a very entertaining movie.

But just like every other movie I’ve been watching with my boys, there are big life lessons the movie can share with us.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: The good guys can sometimes do bad things. – Flynn Rider is introduced at the start of the movie as the charismatic and funny one of three thieves who steals the missing princess’ crown.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, good guys do bad things. It doesn’t make them a bad guy, per se. It just might mean they veered off the path they were supposed to follow in life; they might be a little lost.

The Communication: This was a surprisingly important and really big discussion point for my boys who are big on superheroes fighting the bad guys. To them, the world is still just black and white. Good and bad. Right and wrong. Good always triumphs over evil. There’s no gray area to them yet, no extenuating circumstances that make explaining why something happened the way it did a bit easier to comprehend.

So, when I explained that Flynn Rider is actually a good guy who does bad things? Mind. Blown. We talked about how there are levels of “bad things.” Something like hitting or punching your brother is a “bad thing,” but it doesn’t make you a bad person. Something like stealing is a bad thing, and it can, perhaps incorrectly, label you as a bad person.

This also opens up the conversation to talk about how you perceive yourself and others. The labels you assign to yourself and to others carry a lot of weight, whether intended or not. So how do you identify yourself? And how does the world see you? The reality is often somewhere in the middle. (This can absolutely lead to an even larger discussion about what labels do to us and to others.)

Lesson 2: Always be kind. – Despite everything, Rapunzel is always kind and honest and generous to whomever she meets. In her first adventure outside the tower, she is brought to a tavern where all the “bad guys” are hanging out and in a twist Flynn never expected, she engages them all in a song where they each share their hidden dreams and wishes.  

The Takeaway: Being kind goes a long way. Not only does it invite kindness toward you (hello, karma), but it can also create amazing friendships. An added bonus? You often feel really good after you’ve been kind to others.

The Communication: The world can be a hard and challenging place, and some people might not know how to deal with the difficulties life shares. It’s a known fact and for that reason, there have been a number of efforts to encourage the world to be kind. Things like #bekind and #passiton and #givingTuesday are all intentional events that encourage people to think of others first.

So, think about what you could do today to be kind to your family, your friends, your neighbors, a stranger. How could you improve on something today to make the sun shine a little brighter for them so they feel recognized, valued and appreciated?

Lesson 3: Be strong enough to stand up for what is right. – In one of the final scenes of the movie, Rapunzel stands up to the witch, telling her that she will no longer bend to her wishes.

The Takeaway: Sometimes, standing up to what you believe in is hard, takes courage and may go against popular opinion. But, it’s important to identify your core values and beliefs to be able to stay true to them in a world that will frequently challenge them.

The Communication: It will always be difficult to be the one who stands out from the crowd, especially when it’s against popular opinion. But this is why it’s so important to know and be committed to your values and beliefs and to identify your guardrails. Your guardrails keep you moving on your road in a way that fits and matters to you. They also help you notice when you are being swayed to do something you’re not comfortable with or be someone you’re not. Talk about your guardrails and help others identify theirs. Life is so much easier to navigate when you know what your road looks like.

Take Action
I love Tangled. It’s a fun, entertaining movie and the music is terrific. But the life lessons it inconspicuously shares are powerful. At the end of the day, being true to who you are is ultimately what helps you identify, and consistently and wisely move forward in, the direction of your life. And the ability to be kind, regardless of what life shares with you, will always benefit both you and others, and will take you far.

How are you staying true to yourself and remembering to be kind with your family, friends and others in good times? In challenging times? In the time of COVID-19 quarantine?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading more Lessons in Movies

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The Lessons You Find in Movies: Shazam!

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at Shazam! This obviously isn’t a movie for young kids, but the purpose of these posts is not to focus on just the conversations you can have with kids, but the conversations you can have with anyone of any age. These posts hope to encourage you to see and hear beyond the obvious and learn how to communicate it, expand your thinking and engage with others.

Ok, so, let’s chat about Shazam.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: Know your powers. – Just like any other superhero movie, one of the most exciting parts is seeing the superhero discover and use their superhero powers. In Shazam, we see lead character Billy Batson as Shazam, trying to figure out what his superpowers are and how they work.

The Takeaway: You’ll never discover your “superpowers” (aka your talents, strengths and unique abilities) unless you’re willing to explore what they could be and how they could be used.

The Communication: If you ask any kid what their superpower would be, you would get a slew of preferences. “Flying! No, x-ray power! No, super fast speed! No… um, super strength! Um, wait…”

But if you ask an adult? I’m willing to bet you won’t get many ideas, if you get one at all.

This is because in the adult world, we get stuck in doing what we always do instead of making time to discover, develop and live what our unique “superpowers” are. We get stuck in the monotony of our schedules, frequently overlooking our unique abilities because we just don’t have the time.

Take the time now. What is it you are truly remarkable at? What do others applaud you for?

When you know this, ask yourself how you can use your superpowers to make things better. Try it. What are you noticing and how could you start to bring your superpowers into more of your days?

Lesson 2: Don’t put off til tomorrow what you can do today. – Shazam (the original) kept denying passing on his powers to anyone he essentially interviewed for the role, saying no one was worthy or pure or heart to take on his job. He waited so long that he wasn’t strong enough to do his one role: keep the seven deadly sins trapped, ensuring they didn’t escape and unleash their destruction on the world.

The Takeaway: There’s an old saying, “don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” Sometimes, waiting to take care of a big task can create more problems for you in the end. But sometimes, it’s not just procrastination. Sometimes, you can create an idea in your head so spectacular it’s hard to see it as anything else. And this can create a block or obstacle for you, one that you’ll need help overcoming.

The Communication: Building a picture in your mind about what you want a situation, event or even life in general to be can be inspiring. But left unmanaged or unchecked, it can mean you lose touch with reality. You have heard the phrase “paralysis through analysis.” Sometimes getting started instead of waiting until the perfect moment will deliver you greater results than you imagine.

So, consider how you could change that goal, or the end-result image, to be more attainable. Try this: chunk it. Break it into smaller, more manageable pieces. This is by no means a discussion about limiting your dreams or to stop you from imaging being better in every aspect of your life. This is to encourage you to set small, achievable mini-goals to help you stay focused and motivated on your course. This is what it looks like to be self-managed and keep your ideas and ideals in check.

Lesson 3: “Family” is entirely up to you. – Throughout the entire movie, the lead character – Billy Batson – is on the search for his biological mother. A constant foster run-away, he finds himself moved from foster home to foster home until he lands in a group home with an unlikely cast of characters. The final scene reveals the importance of family, in the way he decides it should look.

The Takeaway: Each of us has the ability to add value to those in our lives by caring deeply, valuing others and bringing our best to what we do, whether we call them family or not.

The Communication: How do you define family? Is it the biological family you were born into? Is it a close-knit group of friends who would do anything for each other? Is it a combination of the two? Regardless of how you define family, the real value is this: you are there for each other. You are all there to recognize and celebrate each other’s unique strengths. You’re also there to help each other navigate blocks and challenges life shares. This is what families do; they walk through life with each other, guiding, supporting and helping each other grow into their best and most “super” selves.

Take Action
Shazam was an enjoyable movie. Some great laughs. A lot of tough love and lessons learned. But in the end, it really showcased the importance of discovering, developing, owning and living your true self – and allowing others to do the same. This could mean avoiding unrealistic expectations and instead identifying achievable and tangible goals. It could also mean that we’re defining who we call family. This reminds each of us that we can choose who we want to surround ourselves with and, as a result of that intention decision, we can be supported and celebrated to be the best version of ourselves.

So, the really big, important question: if you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading more Lessons in Movies

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The Lessons You Find in Movies: WALL-E

In today’s lessons from movies, we’re taking a look at WALL-E. I have maybe seen the movie in its entirety 2 or 3 times, and that’s including the time I just watched it with my boys. But I admit that recently watching it again, I was surprised how much of the movie I vividly remembered. This was particularly surprising when I realized it was released in 2008 (what?!) and despite being nearly 12 years old, the lessons it shares are incredibly accurate for our world today.

Here are the three lessons that resonated with me the most.

Lesson 1: The Earth needs a break. As explained on the WALL-E Wikipedia page, “In the 29th century, rampant consumerism and environmental neglect have turned Earth into a garbage-strewn wasteland.” Sound familiar?

The Takeaway: As humans, we are notoriously bad at recognizing our impact on those around us. Whether it’s other people, places or things, our impact is so much more far reaching than we could possibly imagine.

The Communication: This is a great discussion point for your kids – especially with Earth Day just a few weeks ago – to highlight the importance of taking care of our environment. We talked about the impact we have on the environment on The Leading Edge not long ago as it relates to COVID-19, and since then, we’ve seen a continued number of stories and pictures emerge as the Earth seems to be healing from our harsh way of living. Understanding how to recognize your impact on others – whether people, places or things – can make a big difference in the words you choose when you’re expressing frustration with another. The cars you choose to drive. The intentional decision to recycle or throw something away. The effort you make in the relationships with those around you. Be aware of yourself enough to recognize when something you may do or say could negatively impact those or the world around you.

Lesson 2: Reliance on technology – In the movie, after everyone was evacuated from Earth, they become lazy and helpless, unable to do the most basic things due to their increasing reliance on machines to do it for them.

The Takeaway: Technology is amazing. It can do so many wonderful things and has allowed for incredible advances, like the ability for so many of us to work from home during this pandemic. But if it’s not managed, if technology is leaned on too much, it becomes a crutch we can’t walk without.

The Communication: Though technology can let us do so many wonderful things, using it too much can actually cause more harm than good. Remember the wisdom of the ancient philosophers, “Nothing too much.” Watching TV too much or playing too many video games can damage your eyes and impact your brain. Using a laptop or tablet from your favorite place in the house may be appealing for a while, but soon you’ll start to notice parts of your body getting tight and uncomfortable, most likely because you’re not sitting correctly. Like everything, technology is great when managed but can create challenges and unhealthy behaviors when left unmanaged. Learning how to use technology as a supporting item, and not relying on it for survival, is a tough transition to make, but possible. Start small, like putting the phones away during dinner. Retrain your brain to think on its own instead of relying on your virtual assistant to do all your thinking for you. Manage your technology the way you manage your eating: use it well and have a treat every now and then.

Lesson 3: Stay curious. Be positive. – Despite the fact that WALL-E is the last surviving robot on Earth tasked with cleaning up the mess, he still continues to wake up and do his job every day. He takes new items he discovers that intrigue him back to his “home” and gets excited about finding new things. He’s also incredibly curious, which shows his eagerness to continue to learn new things.

The Takeaway: Life is what it is. In every challenge there is always an opportunity – or three or four. But it’s what you do with what you’re given that makes the difference.

The Communication: Consider how you can shift your mindset to see the good in whatever life has to share with you. For example, think about the current quarantine we’re in. Do you see it as being stuck at home? Or do you see it as being safe at home? Same event, different perspective. Recognize how a mindset shift to see things in a positive way can change the entire experience.

Take Action
WALL-E is about being self-aware (knowing your strengths, passions, liabilities and triggers) so you can be self-managed. This is how you ensure you’re managing your impact on the people, places and things around you. This is how you create a positive approach to life, allowing you to see the good in every moment, even when things seem particularly challenging.   

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Lessons You Find in Movies: Frozen 2

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