Posted by: donnakarlin | November 24, 2007

The ‘Bests’ Part of Blogging

OK so there’s more than one best part however I’m going to lump them all into one multi-faceted ‘best’… which makes it plural, right?  For those of you who know me, you’ll know it’s commonplace for me to make up words when the existing ones don’t fit the bill and for those of you who don’t know me….well now you know!

The first best is virtually meeting a community of like minded people who I would never have had a conversation with, whether through comments on a blog, email, phone or, sometimes when I’m really lucky, in person.

It also connects me to people in ways that has had a profound effect on my life, my work and my overall perspectives. 

A few years ago a client of mine asked if she might share my blog with a dear friend of hers in Indonesia.  I was honoured she would want to share it with others and told her as much.  We’ve had the most amazing email conversations ever since.  Will I ever meet this man and his family?  Who knows?  What I do know is he has touched my life in a way that goes beyond the impersonal internet.

This same client introduced me to a woman who she worked with years ago.  This woman lives in Austria and we have been in touch ever since.  A wonderful part of this story is last year about this time she flew to Ottawa so we could meet.  We had dinner, talked face to face and made a connection that will stand the test of time.

Another of the bests is finding out about people’s amazing lives, their work, life-long passions as they share their comments and insights with me through this blog and the few others I write. On Perspectives, I can write pretty much what I want as it’s my blog.  On Fast Company Experts, the topic is Leadership and even then, through comments, sharing of websites and links I find out about people who I wish lived just around the corner so we could meet and get lost in conversation.

One of these people who connected with me and who does amazing work is Sanford Shapiro from The Bend Learning Center.  The Bend Learning Center helps children with learning differences understand and reach their potential.  How much better does it get than that?  When we teach people how to learn we open their worlds up to something beyond their wildest imagination because there are infinite possibilities available to them. 

Even as adults, we learn something new every day, especially when we pay attention to the fact we don’t know all their is to know even if we are experts in various fields and professions.  Even if we do learn something new, are we more apt to integrate it into our worlds or less as we get older?

We expect kids to learn at a certain rate and depth.  What about us as adults?  Even those without any learning difficulties, how many let a year go by without ever picking up a book?

How much are we missing because life is just too busy?  So my challenge for this week is, what book are you going to start reading with the intention of finishing it?

A contemplative…
Donna Karlin

Posted by: susanrmeyer | November 17, 2007

Insanity or Joy?

While sorting through some photos, I came across evidence of my Christmas Madness. At the time, this partial display of one season’s baking was a source of great pride and joy. Today I’m happiest admiring the photo!


Posted by: susanrmeyer | November 16, 2007

The 55 Days of Christmas – Again? Twelve Survival Tips!

This is an update of something I wrote last year – and just as timely today!

Did you notice the Christmas decorations going up on Halloween? Did a chill run down your spine? The holiday season seems to be getting longer and longer and shorter. Yes, shorter.

Look at the expectations this season puts on you. Fifty five days are nowhere near enough to achieve Countessa MarthaGiadaNigelaPaula FoodNetwork Star perfection. I’m not sure I’m even up to Real Simple standards.

So much to do! Are your cards out? Did you shop ’til you dropped on Black Friday? Did you make wonderful decorations out of recycled paper products and acorns?

Have you picked the absolutely perfect gift for everyone on your list? Are you absolutely sure that everyone is on that list? Do you have biodegradable color-coordinated wrapping paper, tags, and ribbon? Can you tie a perfect bow?

When will you be having your holiday party? What will you serve? What will you wear to everyone else’s event?

Do you know what to tip your hairdresser? What’s the politically correct holiday greeting? So many questions, so little time!

Holiday madness really set in last year when I visited a friend for Thanksgiving. She had decided that she didn’t feel up to cooking, so she ordered from her local supermarket. And then began to obsess. It wouldn’t taste good. There wouldn’t be enough. Turkey, cranberry sauce, whole wheat rolls, roasted butternut squash, mashed potatoes and a pumpkin pie clearly was not enough for five people. We added extra side dishes – home made cranberry sauce, candied chestnuts, fruit stuffing, baked onions, candied sweets, baked sweets, peas with fresh mushrooms and three more pies. Oh – and at the last minute she ran back for a turkey breast – just in case. Everything tasted great, and we all had a good time, but it really made me think about how easy it is to get caught up in holiday excess. So – how will you have a peaceful holiday season? Here are a few simple suggestions.

1. Just like Santa, make a list and check it twice. While you’re checking, do a little reality check (otherwise known as editing). Are you buying gifts for too many people? Are you planning on spending an unrealistic amount on each? Have you burdened yourself with impossible-to-find items? (No, my cousin will NOT get that antique fruit bowl this year either.)

2. Only accept invitations that make you happy. If that means none, go for it! An unbreakable prior engagement is always a valid excuse. No one needs to know that the engagement may be with your couch.

3. Wear comfortable clothes. Always. Don’t let tight shoes or a dubious neckline spoil your fun.

4. Shop in comfortable shoes. Carry your wallet someplace easy for you to reach but hard for anyone else to get at. Don’t burden yourself down with too many packages.

5. Buy on line. Presents, dinner, cards, reservations – all just a click away.

6. If you must send packages, remember that the Postal Service will now pick up packages at your home.

7. Don’t bake unless you would go into a serious depression if deprived of the experience. If you do bake, set limits. I will never again have more containers of cookies than can fit on a fully extended kitchen table.

8. This one is for next year. Pick up interesting gifts throughout the year. If you travel, this is a great way to have truly unique gifts. Just don’t forget where you put them. Last year I gave several lovely objects I’d bought in Sicily three years ago. I’d put them in a safe place. At least they eventually surfaced.

9. Simplicity is very classy. Repeat that twenty times, then start cutting back on your plans.

10. Gift cards are a wonderful thing. Want to give the perfect gift? Not only are gift cards perfect, but you can fit them in your carry-on luggage.

11. Travel light. Carry your pills, jewelry and one-ounce containers for the liquids you need. Wear something comfortable and a bit classy so that if your luggage is lost you’re reasonably prepared.

12. Block out time on your calendar to do absolutely nothing but take care of yourself – whether that means go to a movie, meditate, get a massage, or just take a nap. Pace yourself.

Above all, have fun. Giggle with your friends. Marvel at your favorite tree. I plan to sing too many carols and Christmas song much too loudly. I invite you to sing along!

Posted by: susanrmeyer | November 12, 2007

OnGrowing Challenge – My Own Red Shoes

In keeping with the juggling challenge, one of the things I really need help and support on is focus. Years ago, I read Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves (Ballantine Books, 1992).  She talks about passion using the fairy tale The Red Shoes as a basis for arguing that women should not be punished for seeking their red shoes with every ounce of their energy and passion.

For me, though, the issue was – and still is – sticking to my own passion – my own red shoes. Sometimes, it seems that everyone else’s dream becomes mine. Every new idea is wonderful. Every project deserves my support and attention. It’s rare that a call for support or assistance gets gently turned down. A friend described this phenomenon, upon watching three female companions distracted by every new store window, as “a bunch of chickens going after the sparklies.”

I have red shoes in my office to remind me to focus. And still …. Avoidance? Fear of success? Scanner behavior? I don’t know. I’m working to keep my list short, to set my intention every morning, to keep my commitments to my own work. I invite reminders, gentle and otherwise. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve already tagged most of my support team, so the list here is very short:

Loretta Donovan:

Ann Fry:

Posted by: donnakarlin | November 10, 2007

OnGrowing Weekly Challenge

Donna S. and I have decided to create an OnGrowing Weekly Challenge to hear how people deal, cope, thrive and grow in their lives.

I maintain that the gap between where you are and where you want to be is filled by what you choose to do in the time available to you; every conversation, thought, choice and decision.

We can either blame someone else for our shortfallings, our level of success, our happiness or anything else you can think of but bottom line is, when we give the power of our destiny in whatever realm to someone else, we are choosing to give up control of our lives.

I truly believe that.

My challenge to you is, who are you giving your personal power away to and how are you going to take it back?” Tag 5 people to join us in this challenge. We can either choose our future or let someone else do it for us. Which would you prefer?

I realized that by trying to fix the world, dive in and help a gazillion people and organizations I wasn’t picking and choosing how I could have the biggest impact. By doing that, I was so worried by everything and everyone else that I was sacrificing myself for other causes. A friend and colleague of mine shared that to sacrifice something, (or ourselves) was to make something sacred. When she told me that I realized that I was making things sacred that just weren’t and compromising my practice, my business and my health by doing it. Now I’m making choices that are in alignment with my goals and purpose. It feels great to be able to say that!

I believe in order to be leaders in our fields we have to make choices about how to use our time, what work to do and how we do it in the best possible way that is in alignment with who we are and what we envision in our worlds.  Far too often we are talked into doing things that take our focus away from our life long goals or purpose.  For us to be strong leaders we need to learn how to make those choices.  It’s not always easy but the rewards are extraordinary.

Here are 5 people I’m choosing to join me in this (besides Donna of course):

Susan Meyer
Paul Markle
Phillip Clark
Lorraine Cohen
Michelle Randall

Looking forward…
Donna Karlin

Posted by: donnakarlin | November 7, 2007

The Non-Juggling Challenge

Friend, colleague and overall partner in crime Donna Steinhorn posed a great challenge (for herself and of course indirectly to all who read her blog) that looks at

If it’s not on my schedule, I probably won’t get to it.

Her blog can be found at and I urge you to read and take stock of where you’re at in relation to her post.

Makes me think about juggling.  Having all these balls in the air, well I know I’m going to drop a few along the way.  It’s a paradigm shift for me.  I am always doing so many things that I have to do a reality check and make sure nothing is falling through the cracks.

Recently I started clarifying what I want in my life and career and have been rethinking how I’m going to be doing a lot of my work in the future.  I’m no longer thinking locally as much of my work is global, whether through think tanks, international organizations or through my writing.  I know I cannot keep the pace up that I’m working at right now and in order to make sure my life isn’t compromised I have to make sure I draw the line between work and play.

Thing is, what I do is such a joy and so much fun that line is hard to define.

So I’m going to ask you, my friends and readers alike to challenge me as to whether or not I’m keeping that balance.  It’s not a balance based on how you define it.  I want to make that clear as I truly feel we all have different ways to define what balance means to each of us, but to make sure even in my world that I remember to slow down to the speed of life more often than not.

And for those of you who are forgetting about life and all the richness it brings, I invite you to join me and create that space for life.

With deepest respect to Donna and all of you who are in this for life

Donna Karlin

Posted by: susanrmeyer | October 3, 2007

Transformational Crafts

Fresh Arts has a wonderful idea. They sell sock monkeys. This weekend, I went to Atlantic Antic to buy one for Alejandro, who, at nine months old is transforming every day.

Volunteers and workshop participants create the monkeys out of old socks and bits of felt and trim. Each has its own unique personality and the volunteers at the booth are delighted to point out their own creations as they help you find a monkey best suited to your needs and desires. Anne was beaming when I selected her monkey (one of several that had embroidered rather than button eyes) for Alejandro.

The Fresh Arts volunteers raise money to support their Art Product Development and Marketing Program. This initiative supports at-risk youth, seniors, people with mental illness, physical disabilities, HIV and AIDS, in recovery from addiction and homeless children and adults. They guide their artists as they develop and produce hand-crafted goods and learn the marketing skills necessary to sell them in their communities.

I love this notion of practical transformation. Turning socks into cherished objects. Turning passed-over and excluded artists into entrepreneurs.

Ten Thousand Villages is another organization selling crafts that transform lives. They work with over 100 artisan groups in more than 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to bring fair trade jewelry, home decor, gifts and more to us. As one of the world’s oldest and largest fair trade organizations, they build long-term relationships with artisans that are based on mutual understanding and respect, enabling artisans to earn a fair wage and have the opportunity for a better quality of life.

With a little imagination and creativity, organizations like these are transforming the world. All it takes for us to aid in these transformational efforts is a little cash.

Where will you buy your gifts? Who else is out there we should know about?

Sock Monkeys

Posted by: susanrmeyer | September 18, 2007

Autumn Leaves


Every year, the trees shed their leaves in preparation for renewal. For many of us, this is accompanied by an profusion of color that requires continuous admiration. Every year, the trees trust that the Universe will do its part and new leaves will bud and open, creating marvelous green umbrellas.

What do you need to shed? What surprising renewals await you?

Posted by: donnakarlin | September 11, 2007

A Wonderful World

Years ago I wrote an article based on one of my favourite songs by Louis Armstrong. It came back to me yesterday, because I found myself deep in conversation about making sure we leave space in time to let the world in.  As fall approaches and the days get shorter, the leaves on the trees will start changing colour (though not just yet!) and falling to blanket the ground in fall colour. 

We seem to try to fit more in this time of year, run faster, get more started and sometimes forget there’s a world out there for us to enjoy if we just remember to pay attention.This simple song has so much meaning when he sings it. It seems to come from his soul. Gravelly voice and all, it brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. 

So today, in a quiet moment, I’ve been thinking of how blessed I am in my life and how wonderful this world really is. It’s more than the people, experiences and things I’m blessed with. It’s the subtleties…the things that are there all the time …..ones I have to remember to take notice of.  Sing along with me?

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world..

And as I sit here listening to these lyrics put to music, I’m reminded of one of those special things…music. A huge part of my life for most of it….from learning and soon after competing at the piano at the age of 4 to spreading my wings and exploring the world of percussion….to using music to touch lost souls in my work. People who’ve hidden away from the world for a long time, come to life when words of a song touch them to the core….faster than any words alone could.

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

This really is an incredible world….filled with wonder if you open your eyes and see it. From the trees, to the sky, sun or cloud-filled…it doesn’t matter. Each is beautiful on its own. To rainbows that always seem to appear when you least expect them, both real ones and as a metaphor.

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin’ hands, sayin’ “How do you do?”
They’re really saying “I love you”

This time of year I remind myself not to take anything for granted, whether a moment of time, my friends’ time or a moment to myself, just to be and let this special world of ours in….waiting for who knows what to happen next..

I hear babies cryin’, I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world

 ……………..(Lyrics by George Weiss / Bob Thiele) Oh yeah : )

—Donna Karlin

Posted by: communicationcoach | September 9, 2007

Language Learning and Life Lessons

It often happens that one piece of learning teaches us something in another domain. And so it was, one day this week, when I met with my French tutor. Three important life lessons showed up for us.

Live in the present
I was tangling my tongue and twisting my brain to conjugate some nasty verb in one of those peculiar tenses known only to French-speakers. Nothing slows a conversation down better than the future irregular subjunctive past, or whatever it was. Madame stopped me and said. “If you stay in the present, it will be simpler for you.”

She’s right – and not just for speaking French. In life, what happens when we are speculating, fantasizing or worrying about the future? Or looking backward, whether it’s to lament or wax nostalgic about the past? We’re stuck. No forward movement. No growth. No sense of control. No fun. Life is lived fully only in the present, when we occupy the space and the moment we’re in.

Go! Go! Go!
Madame also revealed that, “We don’t really need to use the future tense at all. We have the verb ‘aller‘ (to go). Don’t struggle to say, ‘I will be singing,’ which is hard to get your mouth around. Say, ‘I’m going to sing.’ ”

Without going into the details of why this is the most brilliant and liberating piece of advice ever given to me, I will simply say that this lets you put a reliable verb you know and love and can use without thinking in front of any verb in its easiest form (the infinitive). Voila, you have replaced the need for the troublesome future, altogether. Where life is concerned, if you stop fussing with the future and just GO, you’re in motion, in action and in the game.

Get rid of all the shoulds
To say, in French, that you have to do something, there is a horrible arrangement that involves a verb that translates roughly as “to must” which is followed by whatever you have to do expressed in a hideous verb tense that bears no resemblance to the verb as you know it. It is a headache waiting to happen. Madame’s prescription for this mal à la tête? “Just get rid of all the shoulds. Do it. Or don’t do it.”

In life, this whole idea of ‘should’ can totally tie us up in knots. We feel resentful, overwhelmed, and picked on. Just who says we should? Often it’s nobody. Often it’s some notion that we dreamed up when we little kids for reasons long gone – and we let it run our adult lives. Yes, let’s get rid of it.

As a coach, as a communicator and as a learner, when I ponder these three ideas – live in the present, get going, lose the shoulds – I have to say it’s good advice, in any language. Merci Madame.


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