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.

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!

 

 

Revisiting Conversations with Susan Swan

What a summer! A move to a new country; continuing to work with extremely talented artists – writers, creators, actors, musicians; the Bach Festival continues its important planning for 2015; ADA the Opera is moving in tremendous new directions; I am connecting with new arts organizations and creative instigators in my new home; and those who know me will understand my need to share this, I am one of the newest members of the United States Library System-  Yes I am the proud holder of a library card!

In this whirlwind of new adventures I am deeply appreciative of the creative conversations that shape my life path. In 2012 Canadian author Susan Swan and I filmed a series of conversations about writing, the creative process and her book What Casanova Told Me. I often revisit these short videos that offer tasty morsels of insight into the writer’s creative process. Worth watching for all artists!

Here is a link to the videos – I hope you enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6VE0ZlHJvz3BmY9Mgxgaeg

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)

Sucking out the Marrow!

This hot hot hot July weather has insisted a slowing down of the pace of the past busy months. Leaps of Faith require rejuvenation! And I have found it with some dear old friends – namely  Emerson, Whitman and, today’s favourite, Thoreau. Truly, there is something quite meaningful about sitting in the cool shade of a tree, pondering ‘what the heck does it all mean’ and reading this excerpt, almost as if for the first time:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

This is the point, isn’t it? This is what keeps us searching, looking, testing, trying, because to leave it un-turned or untried, means that we didn’t rout all that was not life. Digging deep to find the truth, the core, ‘its’ and therefore, ‘our’ reason for living. The idea of ‘sucking out all the marrow of life’ resonates with me – I’m the kind of girl that gnaws on the bone of a particularly delicious steak or pork chop, to be sure to get every last bit of yummyness. Don’t be offended, I do the same with a salad. I love my salad. See what I mean? It’s all delicious!

From these marrow-sucking experiences we learn what we like, what we don’t, where we succeed best and what makes us the happiest. We learn to live sturdily, and  Spartan-like as Thoreau states. This resonates with my love of beautiful things – both in nature and man-made, like art in all its forms. I no longer have a lot of ‘stuff’ but what I do have seems excessive in its abundance because of its meaningfulness to me! ‘Less is truly more’ if there is meaning in the ‘less’.

Hot summer days spent in the shade of a tree or with my feet in the cooling edge of the beach seem like the most sublime way to enjoy the marrow. Especially when shared with a sturdy stalwart friend. Thanks Thoreau for once again being there. You’re the best!

Seeds of Creativity

My recent collaboration with Canadian author Susan Swan has reminded me of the importance of conversation in all stages of creativity – and frankly, in life! Susan and I sat down one snowy February afternoon, to videotape a series of scripted pod casts discussing her process as a writer; what transpired was the most delicious conversation that went ‘off book’ (as we say in this ‘business we call show’ – thank you Deb Filler for that quote!). The path we set out for ourselves, the expectations we have for how that path will unfold, the assumptions we have about where we will end up, are so much better served when tossed into the compost pile! Creativity seeded with the true intention to grow then blossom in its most natural and profound beauty should be the only expectation. Sure, this needs to be managed, with the wisdom we’ve gained from our experiences and the knowledge we bring to the choices we make along the way. But to determine early on that the end result is rooted in a fixed manner, in my experience has discounted the extraordinary possibilities that will arise. Fear of this unknown, which is also about trusting oneself, has certainly seen me holding on for dear life to a result I thought was the only positive outcome. When I released that old intention from my white knuckled grip, the most incredible things happened – experiences occured that I could not have imagined! Because what I saw down that long path, was based on a familiar conversation with myself. Talking, sharing, listening – communicating! In every aspect of my life, not just my creative pursuits, when I trust in myself and those I love; when I am brave enough to both share and listen; this is when all that I imagine for my work, my life, my future, are revealed in the most extraordinary and exhilarating ways! It never fails.  The magic of discovery is profound! Have you had a similar experience? What are your white knuckle triggers? I’d like to share in that conversation with you! And in the spirit of sharing, here is a link to the conversational pod casts with Susan Swan – 3 have been uploaded (see  Podcast #3 link below) the rest to be shared in the coming weeks. And I encourage you to visit Susan’s website at www.susanswanonline.com!