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I dumped my human size duffle bag and shoulder bag of sundries onto a bare mattress and surveyed the room. Two single beds–closer in size to cribs than twins–and three sets of bunk beds flanked the walls. I chose a bottom bunk in the corner for sleeping and tossed my bundled sheet and pillow onto it.
 
More than 30 years since I had last been to summer camp, I was reminded last week of the significance of this experience. Routines change, surroundings change, companions change. A different world welcomes you. It’s exciting and daunting—even for a visiting teacher.
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Last September I completed a Dirty Girl Mud Run, a messy, non-competitive fundraiser that supports breast cancer research. This week I scheduled ankle surgery for the three ligaments I tore that day, which never healed. My recovery will include a second round of contraptions, appointments and pain, including a few weeks without walking and several without driving.
 
It would be easy to stew in frustration about this circumstance. How stupid to make myself vulnerable just to do something fun and charitable! What about my clients? How will [meaningful subject] get done? And how will I stay (almost) in shape?
 

Eight women sat around the conference room table, a near-perfect tapestry of races and generations. They had come to the leadership workshop out of requirement but had willingly engaged in meaningful self-examination and group sharing.
 
For several hours the colleagues discussed past challenges, new strategies and goals for improvement. They listened to and validated each other. A growth in understanding and motivation was already palpable when I introduced the concept of passion:
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I had a good week: I met a new acquaintance for coffee and developed the beginning of a friendship. A school administrator pledged her support and helped create an opportunity for me to work with her students. I invited a financial planner friend to my house so I could begin to transfer investments to her oversight. She was immediately helpful. Continue reading

More than any other day in our culture, Valentine’s Day encourages us to focus on others. We buy gifts, fill out greeting cards, procure chocolate. And then we consider what heart-filled things will come our way. A note? Flowers? Dinner?
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I recently observed a conversation in which a woman was admitting her frustration with a colleague. She vented that she “just can’t stand” the person, who she described as self important and overly talkative. I couldn’t help but wonder if he would interpret her quiet style as self important and non-participative.
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Over the past few days many of us committed to personal improvement in the coming year. A contrast to Thanksgiving, when we reflect on what is and has been, the dawning of a new calendar year pushes us to look forward. It also shifts our focus from external people and things for which we are grateful to our own shortcomings. We celebrate others despite their imperfections, yet challenge ourselves to advance toward perfection. Continue reading

One way to evaluate leaders is to look at their followers. Take this extreme example: Holland Reynolds, a skinny high school runner who became a source of inspiration for the burly football players of the New York Giants. Two years after her amazing crawl across the finish line following a collapse a few yards away, she was featured this week on ESPN’s Sunday pre-game show as a cornerstone in the Giants’ current motto: finish—the same motivational phrase that helped prepare the team to win last year’s NFL championship. Continue reading