Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lessons from London

I have spent time in London twice this year. The first time was slightly intimidating. But the good kind, that makes you pay attention and figure it out quickly. So it ended up being exciting and wonderful and filled my head and heart and spirit with joy. The second time I knew my way around, knew where I wanted to go, and truly took the time to travel like I lived there.

A good trip will change you in some way, integrate itself into your way of being. And London has done that for me. Here's how.

It is bold and understated at the same time. I love this. Let me explain this using the way they dress. Everything is in beautiful neutral colors, but nothing faded. Think saturated greys and navies and blacks and chocolates. But in all of that neutral you are going to see some sort of detail that makes it special, maybe pin stripes or interesting seams or fabulous buttons. And the women? They are not afraid of adding in something you would never think of! Red tights! Camel colored boots! A hat with a bow! I want to be regal and sophisticated, but not afraid to add something bold and unexpected. In how I dress, but also in how I do lots of things.

It is diverse. I love the many different aspects of this city. You can sit in an old, noble church like St. Pauls and listen to a witty, humorous priest give his sermon. You can have a meat pie and beer in a pub, listening to raucous locals try to guess your accent and then walk a block to see Phantom of the Opera in one of the most famous theatres in the world. You can see where the Queen lives, admiring the guards in the funny hats and then hop in a cab and eat the best Indian food in Europe. And it seemed to me, at least in London, there is no discrimination. People are different and that is not celebrated, but its more like its not noticed. Like it doesn't even matter. Hello! THAT is equality.

It is surprising. I am often described as intimidating when you first meet me. But you will soon find that I am actually quite warm, interested in you, funny, and quick to laugh. I just take a little bit to warm up to people. I think London is a little bit like that. There is a sophistication to this town that is obvious within the first few minutes of stepping off a train. And if you stay on the surface, never taking the chance to get to know more, it will just stay impenetreble and elitist. But that's not it's nature at all! Just give it some time to show you what it's all about and you fit right in.

This is my kind of place. As I continue to visit other destinations in Europe, I think London will still be the place I think I could live. It suits me some how. I don't know that my life will take me in a direction that living there is possible, but I'll always love to visit and hope to do it even more. With wide eyes and an open spirit...

St. Paul's Catherdral and the Millennium Bridge
Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern Museum

Veeraswamy Indian Restaurant

Traditional British Pub

...QueenB Says

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

City of Lights

Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography.  Rome is feminine.  So is Odessa.  London is a teenager, an urchin, and this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens.  Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman. - John Berger

Dear Paris,

The only problem was that I didn't get to spend enough time enjoying you. You had so much more to show and I had so much more to do. But, what I did enjoy was perfection. Your famous sights were well deserving of their reputations.

From the Eiffel Tower...

To Notre Dame...

And the views from bridges on the Seine...

I couldn't have enjoyed your shops and boutiques any more... unless I had more money to spend of course!

Shakespeare & Co. had the ghosts of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway wandering around helping me choose the right books.

Your specialty and antique shops were exhilarating.

And the clothes! Oh my...

Tailored shirts at Coton Doux. Jewelry at Lotta Djossou. Boutiques hidden in the side streets of Arrondissement 3 and 4. And the vintage stores I just had to see. I mean, really! Look at the 1950's purse I got from Free P Star for only 20 euros:

But my favorite part was the food! The amazing cassoulet at an unnamed bistro near the Eiffel Tower. The coffee was the best I've ever had, every time. You know that wine goes with everything. The pastry shops on every corner with your macarons:

The best, by far, was Le Basilic. A memorable late dinner at a true French restaurant. A beautiful host greeted us at the door. He showed us to our table and brought us wine. I will forever be searching for anything as wonderful as the foie gras with onions. And cap it off with a flaming dessert!

But dear, sophisticated, elegant Paris, don't you worry. I will be back. And can't wait to see what else we will do and see and eat!

Love, your loyal admirer...


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shut Your Damn Laptop

I recently gave a short talk in front of about 150 people in my company. The goal was for those of us that went through a 6 month leadership training to tell the rest of the company what we learned and about our "breakthroughs", or things on which we hope to help lead change.

As you know, I am a planner, so I wrote my speech out ahead of time and practiced it in front of the mirror. I always do that. It doesn't ease my nervousness, but it does mask it so others don't notice it so much.

Well, I thought I'd share my speech. Many of you will see some of the concepts I've learned and blogged about mentioned. Here goes:

The title of my breakthrough is "Shut Your Damn Laptop".

To be honest with you, I was not very inspired or excited coming into today and in fact, I didn't even have a story to tell until early this morning. But in preparation, I decided to think about what it is that I got out of this training, what are the things that I will take with me for the rest of my life. And there are 3 main concepts that stick out.

First, is the concept of other-centered listening. You have seen what happens when you actually listen intently and with interest to another person. The energy and enthusiasm goes up drastically. I will be a better listener.

Second, is the concept of planning and follow through. I need to send an agenda if I'm running a meeting, or know what the agenda is if I'm not. I need to come prepared with what I'm supposed to. I need to take notes and commit to action items. And I need to follow through on those commitments. Building better processes and communication for this planning and follow through is something I commit to doing.

Last, and this was the biggest one for me, is the concept of generative coachability. You may be coached by a person, or attend a training and be coached by the instructor, or in some cases you may BE the coach. Well, generative coachability is the ability to coach yourself. To figure out what it is that you can get out of everything you do. This is how I want to live my life. I want to learn something from everything I read, everything I watch, everything I do and participate in to make me a better, smarter, more well-rounded person.

Now, these 3 things have something to do with my breakthrough. A few weeks ago I was in a meeting. It was a brainstorming meeting where we were to come up with new ideas around our upcoming outbound marketing campaign. There were about a dozen people in the room, and if I said 6 people were participating that would be stretching it. The others were staring at a blank sheet of paper, or out the window, or frantically typing on their laptops. And it bugged me. And you know what I did about it? Nothing.
I continued participating and we actually came up with some good ideas, but I didn't do anything about what bothered me. And THAT bothered me too. I thought about it all day and that night, and when I came in the next morning I talked with a few people that I really respect their opinions about it. In telling them how it bothered me and that I wished I would have said something I realized a few things. 1. I did have the authority to say something. 2. I should have said something. and 3. I will say something from now on.

Now, I don't want this to turn into, "Oh no, I'm going to a meeting with Betsy. I better pay attention and not bring my laptop". But I have to wonder. What would have happened if everyone in that room was engaged and participating? What could we have come up with? And what would happen if every meeting here was like that? What would it be like?

Well, I stand for better communication. And since meetings are a huge way we communicate around here, I stand for better communication in meetings. And I will stand up for that when I need to.

But, that is not all. If you are ever in a meeting with me and I am not fully engaged and participating, I give everyone in this room permission to say to me, "Betsy, shut your damn laptop!".
It went over well and I am glad that I stood up and spoke (it was optional). Maybe public speaking is not so bad and I will give even bigger things a try (yes, Emma, I'm talking about Ignite). Maybe...

...QueenB Says

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eat Whatever You Want

Have you heard about this professor who only ate junk food for 2 months? He lost 27 pounds!

A quick summary: He ate twinkies and brownies and chips, but also a daily vitamin, protein shakes, and a few carrots and he limited his food intake to around 1800 calories a day. Over the course of his diet he lost weight and lowered his cholesterol. His reasons for this diet are documented in the article.

Here are my thoughts:

1.  Like I've said before, it is all about math. Figure out how many calories you need and eat 500 a day fewer. (To lose a pound you must have a 3500 calorie deficit. To lose a pound a week, which is healthy, divide by 7 and you get 500).  It doesn't matter WHAT you eat!

2.  However, there is enough evidence out there that you should eat a more healthy diet... duh. If you need your body to work correctly (workout, repair itself, stay well), then you should eat to support that.

3.  I am pretty sure this will NOT become a fad diet, or at least I hope not. But I want to call out a problem with most fad diets (low carb, Atkins, The Zone, paleo, caveman diet); they are all based on high calorie, high fat food. If your goal is to lost weight? You have to really, really watch the total calories. If your goal is to lose fat? Then nuts and red meat are going to make that harder. Eat whatever you want, just know that the diet you are following is a fad and doesn't matter in the long run.

4.  You do not have to cut out food you love to lose weight. Again, you do not have to cut out food you love to lose weight. Quit doing that! If you love a brownie or a big bowl of pasta? Eat it. Just compensate for it somewhere else.

5.  You have to plan to keep up any form of diet. This dude even planned his days, and it was buying in bulk on the first day because all of his "food" would last though a nuclear war. It takes making a list, planning your meals, preparing food the day before or on Sunday for the week, transporting your food to work with you, and researching what you are putting in your body. I'm important enough to myself to do this... and you should be too.

Now, these are just my opinions. I've formed them by using the ideas myself, reading a lot of books and articles about diet, and by observing others. Take 'em or leave 'em. But most importantly, this post is not intended to encourage or advocate a Twinkie diet! Unless, of course, that would make you happy...

...QueenB Says

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Giving Myself a Break

This is a 2 part post, first part written pre-break and second part written post-break. Here goes...

Part 1
I am heading to London and Paris for 12 days. I am beyond thrilled, of course for the vacation part of it and for the work part of it as well! I've decided to give myself 12 days off from the gym. It's been years since I have taken off that many days in a row. Here's my rationale:

- I will give my body a rest.
- I will overcome a plateau in my fitness.
- I will bring a yoga DVD and do it a few times to keep my muscles working. But, let's be honest, that is not really working out.
- I will be walking about 5-7 miles a day, a little more than double a usual day.
- Mostly? I just don't want to waste the bag space for workout shoes and clothes.

So here are the very mixed feelings I'm having about this right now: I'm definitely thinking about what I'll be eating and drinking and how will that math work if I'm not burning 800 - 1000 calories. I'm focusing on the extra hour a day that I will have to experience something new. I'm reminding myself that I won't lose the muscle and fitness that I've built up in this short of a time. I'm wondering how much the endorphins I get from exercise impact my mood. I'm trying really hard not to beat myself up about this and trying to see it as a great opportunity to let a few expectations go.

So how did it go?

Part 2
I'm back. I didn't work out, I didn't do yoga, and I needed every bit of that bag space. After 12 days of no exercise I'm on the second week of my normal schedule. Here's what my body is feeling:

- I'm sore, but in a good way.
- My hips and shoulders... and pretty much the rest of me... is feeling pretty good. Better than before.
- I didn't gain any weight. My clothes fit exactly the same.
- I didn't lose my "habit" of working out after 12 days off.

How did I feel about not working out? I didn't miss it one bit. I didn't feel guilty about eating whatever I wanted. There was no stress about it at all. Until I got back...

I've been in the gym everyday since. Not to punish myself, but because I truly do love it. I love it as part of my routine and I love how it makes me feel and I love how it makes me look.

So my experiment was a success and a failure. I mean, I did it, sticking to my no working out while in London rule. But, there were no real ah-ha moments. Unless it's proving to myself that I can be balanced and not so regimented... if I want to be.

...QueenB Says