Success and Value, An Equation

Corporations, non-profits, businesses and start-ups share a success model based on achievements. Each organization has its unique thumbprint written into a mandate or mission statement. Most have these posted on their websites as hallmarks of thoughtful, good business practice. Attention is being paid to the ‘why’ a company exists and typically in the case of non-profits, the ‘who’ they are attempting to serve. The statements are based on Values.

Over time, and as growth occurs, these achievements are measured. Goals are set for employees, financial benchmarks increase, companies buoyed by success look for innovative ways to meet their potential. And this is where it gets interesting.

As a contract employee with many years of freelance consulting and producing,  I have been privy to a wide scope of high level board room conversations. As incredibly diverse as these projects have been, one constant is true – the leadership in these rooms sets the tone. (There are many fantastic articles and books about leadership that prove across cultures specific leadership styles remain consistent. No need to re-visit in this article. Brene Brown’s  Dare to Lead is quite literally, the manifesto.) Stay with me here…

It is the culture of success in the board room that defines the ultimate success of the company. Obvious, yes? What isn’t so clear is how the measurement of success can easily slip away from the early achievement goals based on Values. Being in the room or part of the conversations of so many different types of organizations has offered me a front row seat with a balcony perspective. Leading my own projects has provided the ‘in the trenches’ experience of keeping a team on the path to reaching  goals while holding onto the mission -which is the true heart of the work. It’s not easy. Especially when there are so many ‘constituents’ to please! Murky messaging occurs when the heart of the work is forgotten and success outcomes shift. Here is today’s big realization:

We value the measurements of our success. When really, for true success we should be measuring our values.

Boom.

Mic drop. (Hello, is thing on? Anyone still with me?)

In our pursuit of success – as companies and as individuals – have we put all our eggs in the ‘measurement basket’? When did measuring our values stop being important? Companies need to continue to keep the values at the forefront of decision making asking questions such as ‘is this new direction inline with our company values?’ That initial foundation of ‘value built success‘ unfortunately gives way to numbers driven, employee stressed, higher and higher achievement expectations that chase outcomes based on numbers metrics.

Let me put this another way: a new company initially looks for clients who mirror their values, we look for like-minded clients who share certain affinities. They are the low hanging fruit so to speak, of potential contracts. As the company succeeds and expansion continues, the measurement of success is increasingly about productivity, achievement and growth. The story that can be told by the accumulated data – the numbers –  takes center stage; percentages based on dollars and bank figures; graphs, charts and spreadsheets become the benchmark.  And this is the easiest way to recognize a shift in company culture. The story changes. The story is no longer about the ‘why’ and ‘who’.

Growth, achievement, output, all absolutely need to be the goals of running a successful corporation. Success is awesome and important. It just seems to me, that when we put more emphasis on the measurements – the data – we lose sight of greater potential. Give me a room full of people dedicated to the Values of the organization and the achievements will blow the limits off of any growth chart! Focus on the Measurements, and the value system is askew. That same room of awesome people will have to use that same extraordinary collective energy, to push numbers. Ugh. Trust me, focus on the Values and the numbers will follow.

I just need to say it one more time. About Success.

To achieve true success we need to continually Measure our Values. Otherwise, we end up Valuing the Measurements – which is not a long term strategy for success.  It’s people, people! Keep our eye on the Values and growth will follow. Along with happiness.  And a whole slew of other healthy outcomes.

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Letting Go, with Oprah, Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith & Tomato Soup

On my early morning walk today I listened to the SuperSoul Conversation Podcast in which Oprah and Agape International Spiritual Center Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith explore manisfesting the life of your dreams. This is such a popular topic now as new age and spiritual awakening guides determine that if we can just get out of our own way, we can then be open to the possibilities and potentials of our souls.

Is it really that simple? According to Dr. Beckwith, it is about having intentions that align with our personal purpose.  In requesting a tangible explanation  about his assumptions, Oprah, fittingly, brings it back to soup. Tomato soup actually. She was working in her garden and thinking about how she would love a bowl of fresh tomato soup. She let that thought go, and shortly after, her neighbor appeared with a pot of tomato soup! How many times have we thought about someone and they called or we ran into them unexpectedly? While these are fun examples of intuition and serendipity, Dr. Beckwith explains that stating intentions isn’t about asking for things, but about being open to the discovery and acceptance of our personal purpose.

So, with that to mull over on this gorgeous Sunday morning, I am re-visiting one of my favorite ‘fresh from the garden’ soup recipes. Tomato, of course!

Here’s to another slurpy spoonful of SuperSoul Sunday Conversations! Link to the podcast is below the tomato soup recipe.

GO TEAM!

Tomato Soupfor you or your neighbor to make! – Non-Dairy, Vegan

 

Ingredients

Fresh Tomatoes – vine ripened, any variety will do! – cut in half. I usually use at least 6.

Garlic – 2 cloves chopped (or more if you love garlic)

Salt, Pepper

Sugar – white sugar, just a touch, but not absolutely necessary

White Onion – 1, sliced

Celery – 4 stalks or more, cut in chunks

Vegetable Broth – 1 carton, more or less

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) – as much as you need

There are two secrets to the success of this recipe – using fresh ingredients and then roasting the vegetables first!

Making the Soup

Step 1. Roast the tomatoes (sliced in half) the chopped celery, onion, and garlic, drizzled with EVOO, at a 425 degree oven, for 30 minutes.

Step 2. Let the vegetables cool slightly and, if you aren’t keen on the look/texture of tomato skins, remove some of them. They will separate easily from the tomato. I happen to like the char taste and in a later step, the skins are dealt with!

Step 3. Heat some EVOO in the bottom of a pot, over medium heat.

Step 4. Add the roasted vegetables with the juices from the roasting pan to the soup pot, along with just enough vegetable broth to cover. Salt and Pepper to taste, plus a light dusting of sugar if you choose.

Step 5. Heat until it boils. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. (The longer it simmers, the more delish it is!)

Step 6. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, then either put it in the blender or use your hand held blender/emusifier, and puree the soup. This will give it a lovely creamy texture, without adding dairy.

Step 7. Return to the pot, add more vegetable broth if it is too thick. At this point, you can also add dairy or almond milk/cream if you want a creamier, richer tasting version. Heat to delicious tasting temperature.

Step 8. Ladle a good portion of the soup into a container, and walk it over to your neighbor. You never know, you might be the answer to their prayers!

 

 

The Promise

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Promises are sweet. As I have grown I have learned to be more judicious with the promises I dole out. Living has shown that promises aren’t to be given out on whims and fancies. A true promise is heartfully rendered. A thoughtful quiet proclamation that connects us deeply with each other. And because I now understand this, I don’t have that many to share. They require attention, a gentle upkeep – they are responsibilities and so take time. I also now truly and better value the promises that are given in return, holding very close the gesture and the promise giver. I believe and trust better, in myself first and then in those whose promises I choose to accept.

Quiet promises given and received.

The Promise, by Aaron Copland, is a composition that captures the true nature of a promise offered, the gentlest ripple resting on an epic undercurrent of repercussions. A statement of a people and country but also a personal gesture.  Given from one to another. Simple and sweet. Lyrics by Horace Everett.

The Promise of Living,

the promise of giving,

the promise of ending

 is labor

and sharing

and loving!

Private Studio Expansion!

November through to February  my studio is opening spaces for private creative conversations! If you are beginning a musical work, in the middle of a story, not sure how to end a script, or are looking for some guidance with your artistic work in progress, there is nothing like a ‘comrade in arms’ to champion your work while providing meaningful support.

The writers’ workshops held this past October were extremely well received with requests for private tutoring. While I have offered these on a limited basis in the past, I am so excited to have the space for expansion over these next four months. And what better time to cocoon with a creative project then through the winter!

Private tutorials are held on Skype or Google Chat. These one hour sessions focus on your specific work and strategize moving your projects forward.  It can be detailed editing or general discussion – often it is both. Writers, musicians, creative explorers are welcome!

Message me for details and we can discuss your work further.

Creativity Lives Here!

Arms wide open singing 'AHHHH' in my most operatic mezzo-soprano voice!

Arms wide open singing ‘AHHHH’ in my most operatic mezzo-soprano voice!

SUPERHERO PROJECT!

kidsHome grown superheroes are those whose actions improve the life of one person, the community, the world. While not likely hit by lightening, bitten by a spider or hurled to earth from a far distant galaxy, the home grown superhero has some other motivation to act with consideration of others. They inspire, nurture and build a better place for the rest of us. Our Super Powers manifest in the most extraordinary ways! If you know someone whose small gesture made a huge difference or whose idea or invention made you happy then we want to know about it! What is YOUR Super Power? Please add your story, photo, link as a comment here or on our Facebook page. We want to celebrate the homegrown superheroes!

Finding ADA in the Rockies!

Ada3aConsidered the founder of scientific computing, Ada Lovelace continues to inspire through what I refer to as her ‘poetry of numbers‘. The daughter of the famously troubled poet Lord Byron and mathematics loving Annabella Milbanke, Ada was raised with a strict sciences and math only education. Annabella separated from Lord Byron shortly after Ada was born, fearing his influence on their daughter would be detrimental. Ada‘s artistic nature however would not be contained as she channeled her creative impulses to mathematics. And so the world was gifted with her extraordinary vision of numbers as she dreamed of inventions and machines, conjuring methods of calculations which resulted in the Analytical Machine.

Composer Kim Sherman, Librettist Margaret Vandenburg, Director Lisa Rothe, Music Director Kimberly Grigsby, and myself as Development Producer, are deeply engaged by her story.   How do we conjure and envision as Ada did? What creative genre could most fully explore the epic mind that is Ada? So we begin: conversations, research, first drafts, edits, read throughs, second drafts, edits, workshops, more conversations. And we are deep in it. Until at last, ADA the Opera, a glorious delicious complex study of an extraordinary life, is becoming a reality. Dear Kim Sherman has left the comforts of her inspiring New York City studio for the serene setting of the Banff Centre for the Arts in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta Canada, sequestered for an entire month as she develops the  score for our ADA. The orchestration and instrumentation of a work this size is a huge undertaking as each music voice supports the other, themes weave, math and music dance on the page.  Continually searching for Ada, drawing upon her essence in the crafting of each phrase.

We will  update on ADA‘s progress as we build to our first production. The process of creating partnerships, fundraising and production development continues and we are always interested in adding to our network. So please don’t hesitate to contact us, keep checking here for ADA updates, and in the meantime, enjoy this view from Kim’s studio at Banff.

Rocky MountainsLearn more about our ADA the Opera team here:

Kim Sherman (www.kdsherman.com) Margaret Vandenburg (http://www.barnard.edu/profiles/margaret-vandenburg) Lisa Rothe (www.lisarothe.com) Kimberly Grigsby (http://www.broadwayworld.com/people/Kimberly-Grigsby/) Louise Fagan (www.louisefagan.wordpress.com)

In the Eye of the Beholder

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I was recently engaged by a  private client who we’ll call ‘Jan’. (Jana is the Goddess of Perception. Jana’s totem is the peacock, and it is said that the eyes on the peacock’s tail are Jana’s, which are like mirrors that intuit to you the right path to take…) Any-who… Jan wants assistance with ‘finding her voice’ specifically when she ‘talks about the elements of her work that are the most precious, creative, closest to her heart’.  Her concern is that when she gives a flustered, halting, small-voiced answer to questions put to her about her work, she does herself, the work and her company a disservice.  “When I talk about myself and my work, I practically lose my voice!” she lamented. Jan wants some breathing techniques, vocal exercises, posture work and how to best deliver her message. I find this  client work extremely rewarding – streamlining the message, voice work, a pinch of performance…But here’s the thing. I know this woman through reputation, being in the room as she works, watching how others respond to her presentations , and I am surprised by her perception of  herself. I see a well  respected, beloved, strong person whose performances are articulate, gracious and humble. Regardless of what I perceive Jan feels that when making  public addresses her connection to her life’s work misses the vital communication link between her heart and her voice. And since what we perceive, is, – and this is so true when we turn that gaze to ourselves – then indeed there is a bump in her creative highway. This is going to be an amazing journey!

Is it only a matter of  verbal cues and sculpted gestures that will give Jan the elusive connection between message and heart? I’ve not found it’s that easy. Our work began with ‘what is playing in my mind when I am on the stage presenting my work?’ In Jan’s case it was a voice sending old destructive messages: ‘who do you think you are? why would anyone be interested in your work? what do you have to say that is more important than anyone else?’ A compilation of criticisms from her years of forging her own unique path – messages that she intellectually could reason were spiteful and ultimately insignificant. Yet when she was in that vulnerable place on the stage ready to share her life’s work, those voices not only came back  they consumed her performance moment with a vengeance. A disconcerting rift between her inward struggle and external stage presence exists.

What do we do if our perception of ourselves prevents us from living the life we want, from achieving our goals, from living to our utmost potential? In many ways we have written our story before its begun. Whether an old insecurity, negative voice from our past or perhaps a less than stellar moment that we just can’t let go of, it is time to be much kinder to ourselves. We need to rattle the cage holding that stale opinion so that  fresh air can swirl renewed energy around us. Take a look at what we perceive to be truth, entertain the idea that perhaps the negative perception is indeed false and then dare to challenge these subjective thoughts. A talented, perceptive and creative person like Jan deserves to be fully present in her performances. Miss Piggy, yes Miss Piggy!, says if  “(it) is in the eye of the beholder it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.” Especially if that ‘beholder’ is ourselves!