Suriving and Thriving Together

By Anne Harbison

The Best Lesson From 2020

Uncategorized Jul 05, 2020

Are you an accidental learner? Unconsciously adopting an accent or gestures of another country once returning home? Finding yourself using idiosyncrasies of your parents that you swore you'd never do? As the Progressive Insurance commercial says, "we can't keep you from becoming your parents," but we can guide you to some smarter, more purposeful choices. Here's your chance to sign up for a new curriculum.

If you have kids, know kids or have ever been a kid, you know that they "do as you do" not as you say. From the earliest age we are unconsciously - but voraciously - learning. Not because we "set our minds to it" but because our minds simply set us on the path of imitation and internalization.

I've been thinking about what I've unconsciously internalized over the past months. Despite writing about hope, I catch myself becoming more cynical on different topics. I know my friends are my lifeline, but I have settled into a solitary routine...

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Highways and Byways

leader journey May 12, 2020

What if your most challenging task became quick, easy and fun?

When I was a doctoral student, I labored for years to finish my dissertation.  I thrived during the coursework and teaching, but sitting alone with research notes and a blank computer screen became the bane of my existence for several years. I was frustrated, drained, and quickly losing confidence in myself. In fact, at one point, I decided it may just be time to call it quits, even though I had invested five years of my life in the process.

Then I decided to join a creative writing group.  Instead of academics and researchers, I was surrounded by playwrights, poets, and authors of children’s books.  I decided to try the same techniques that those artists use as a way to get through my academic writers block.  Getting out of a more structured, university environment and into a creative and free-spirited one was what I needed to reframe the challenge that had dogged me for...

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Everything I've Learned About Communication in Three Bullet Points

leader journey May 12, 2020

I’m a communications junkie. I majored in Speech Comm in college, competed in National Collegiate Forensics, played preacher instead of house as a kid. I make my living coaching, teaching, facilitating, advising, moderating, interviewing, keynoting. Plop me down in almost any setting, audience, or topic and I can probably make it work. Writing, not so much (more on that in the next blog).  But speaking – that’s my sweet spot.

“Have an attention-getter, a thesis, three points, evidence and stories” may be the synthesis of Speech 101, but my advice is to forget the mechanics. If you think about communication as creating a meaningful exchange you can ditch a lot of the “presentation how-to’s” and get to the heart of what really matters.

•  Focus on what they need to hear, not what you have to say (for anyone, anytime, anywhere)

This is the difference between a death by PowerPoint data download (i.e. what I...

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The Danger of All or Nothing

surviving and thriving May 01, 2020

Remember Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Maybe you’ve had one or two of those lately. Some (bad hair) days are truly atrocious, but often we use “catastrophe” language as a dramatic default.

I could just kill her…
That was literally the worst thing that could have happen…
Never in a million years did I see that coming…
I would die if that happened to me…
She’ll never recover... 

And those were simply reactions to when Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt broke up. Seriously, I have said ridiculous, exaggerated statements over articles in Entertainment Weekly. For you, it may be when the sports star misses the tie-breaking shot, your favoriteTV series is canceled, some juicy gossip gets unleashed, a friendship betrayed.  Of course, it’s hyperbole. But still, words and mind-sets matter.

Yesterday I shared my victory story of embracing Joy and Sorrow (literally). I hope you let both the simplicity and the...

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The Magic of Both / And

Uncategorized Apr 27, 2020

Last spring my 17-year old daughter, Hanna Rose, and I ran in the Disney Princess 10K.  So much was special about the trip – running in tutus and tiaras, fulfilling a dream of hers, having a mother-daughter senior year experience. We were also raising money for the Ronald McDonald House where we stayed when Ben died; the place where Hanna Rose had her 14th birthday the next day. To take something that represented the worst nightmare of our lives and turn it literally into a victory run is one of the most powerful experiences of my life.

But here is another side of the victory run story…and maybe the most profound moment for me of the entire weekend. 

At every mile marker they would have a Disney character cheering you on, and tons of runners would stop to take pictures. I passed the mile 1 and 2 characters because I knew if I stopped I would have a hard time getting back into the groove. And then, at the 3 mile mark (half way through the race), the characters...

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The Power of Holding Space

surviving and thriving Apr 24, 2020

When someone we love is in pain, we long to relieve their suffering. We have an impulse to jump in, fix the problem, cheer them up, get enraged over the injustice they’ve experienced, or offer up “everything happens for a reason” platitudes.

I can tell you as someone who has experienced deep grief that I understand, and am even grateful for these responses. The other person is vicariously experiencing the pain of my loss, and like me, feels helpless over their inability to make it go away. Like the person suffering, they want nothing more than for life to go back to what once was.

I can also tell you from experience that these responses are not ultimately helpful, even though they are well intentioned. After our son died we were showered with gracious care and support. But every now and then, the intensity of someone's attempt to make me feel better actually shut me down, and in a few cases caused resentment. Several times I felt like I was comforting...

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Navigating Layers of Loss

surviving and thriving Apr 20, 2020

There’s a saying when you’ve lost someone very close to you that the second year is worst that the first. After we lost our son, that sounded like a cruel joke. How could anything be worse than the devastating pain we were living during that year of “firsts” without Ben - the first birthday, holiday, plane ride, school pick up, hockey game, etc.?

I’m not sure that “worse” captures what I experienced, but the pain of year two (and the years since then) definitely shifted. I was in a constant state of disbelief in the first year. Even months after his death I’d be going about my day and in an instant it would hit me, as if for the first time, that he was gone. It felt like a cosmic punch in the stomach. I would actually feel dizzy over an inability to compute what had happened. I now know how common, and even necessary, that disbelieving shock is. At some level we simply cannot bear the new reality, so our minds shut down to give our...

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The Gifts of Grief

surviving and thriving Apr 17, 2020

I’ve learned a lot about grief in the past five years. Certainly through my direct experience of mourning of our son’s death, but also through being in community with others grappling with profound loss. Like many searching for solid ground after a crisis, I reached out to counselors, wisdom literature, experts in death and dying, and my community of faith. Although these external resources were vast and valuable, it is the simple insights that guided the day-to-day rebuilding of my life that I want to share with you.

The insights offer don't only apply to tragedy - they relate to navigating loss of any kind, in any type of life crisis. The best definition of grief I’ve heard is from my friend and mentor, John Ross. He explains that we grieve whenever a relationship ends and we weren’t ready to say goodbye. That may mean losing a family member, friend or pet; it could mean the ending of a friendship, romantic relationship or job. Grief can occur...

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'Not Now' Doesn't Mean 'Not Ever'

surviving and thriving Apr 13, 2020

Post-ponements, rain checks, cancelations. Our lives are full of them. A birthday celebration, or actual birth, you were not able to attend. A graduation ceremony or wedding postponed. A family vacation or work event cancelled. There is not a human on the planet whose daily routines, and major life events, have not been turned upside down.

The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos was associated with actual “clock” time - measurable, consistent segments of time passing. Chronos is the time of day planners, project management deadlines, birthdays and anniversaries recorded on our calendars. Chronos time is the number of days you’ve been home-bound. The number of days your child has been home from school. The number of days that you haven’t been to the hair stylist, gym or coffee shop.

Kairos, on the other head, referred to the meaning of any moment in time. Kairos (the Greek god of Opportunity) reflected the...

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A Race Horse Has Gotta Run

suriving and thriving Apr 10, 2020

When a part of life that has given us joy is shut down, we’re not just grieving that thing (e.g. the job, relationship, health, the ability to have coffee with friends); it’s the energy and emotion that resulted from that activity that we crave. Of course we all miss the freedom of mobility during a stay-at-home order, but I bet that we each have a very specific “miss” list based on what makes us thrive in more normal times.

Our inner talents, ambitions, and hopes have a way of finding a path when the one in front of us is shut down. I had a client who loved managing others, and when moved to a job where he didn’t have direct reports, ended up coaching little league baseball. He had a fundamental desire to invest in the growth of others; when his “day job” didn’t give him that daily opportunity, he found other avenues to direct his natural talent.

Is there a part of you that is feeling restless? That unsettled feeling...

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