Leadership

Coronavirus, leadership, and The Stockdale Paradox

On March 12,2020 my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with breakfast at a local pancake house and a matinee showing of the movie, Birds of Prey, complete with buttered popcorn and Icee.

We knew about Coronavirus, of course, but the virus was still mostly somewhere else, not here. After all, there were only a few cases in San Antonio.

But we wondered if that would change.

It did.

Schools were on Spring Break that week and we soon learned the break would be extended another week. We wondered if the situation could get as bad for us as it was in Italy at the time. (For more on this, read How COVID-19 went from global to personal.)

I never imagined it could be as bad here as it was there, where the enitre country was shut down in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus and the death rates climbed every day.

Of course, it did spread here.

San Antonio shut down and only essential businesses were open. People stayed home. Schools closed and switched to online learning.

Everything stopped. For me, that meant no hugging the family, not even kids and grandkids, no more group workouts, going out to dinner, bunco, book club. Nothing in person, only virtual.

Still, I was sure it would all be over by June.

Okay! Let’s open back up!

I felt relieved when the orders were lifted and businesses opened back up at 25% capacity several weeks later in Mid-May.

Perfect! Right in time for Memorial Day, Graduations, Summer, Father’s Day, and Independence Day. 

Of course, the virus was still around, but I was like most people who just wanted to get back to normal.

A headline summed up the general feeling pretty well, “Coronavirus is not over, but people are over Coronavirus.” 

As a result of that “being over it” attitude, case numbers spiked sharply. Now, COVID cases are filling hospitals.

It makes me wonder: When will things get back to normal?

June came and went and things only got worse. Now, we’re in July and things aren’t looking so good.  

August? Probably not. September maybe?

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nierenberg said the other day, The virus is not going away. The best we can do is learn how to live with it. Wear a mask, keep your social distance, wash your hands. If you’re sick, stay home. (I’ve paraphrased his message from my memory.)

Okay, fine. If that’s what I have to do, I’ll do it.

I guess.

This is what I don’t understand.

If staying at least 6-feet away from people, staying home, wearing a mask when I go out, and washing my hands constantly can help my family and me stay safe, why don’t I want to do it? I mean, I do it, but I hate every minute of it.

I realized I need a mindset shift to help me better cope with this whole quarantine-COVID situation. Even though I accept the reality of it all, I can’t quite accept that this is our “new normal.” I’m resisting accepting that possibility because I want it all to go away in the worst way.

A few days ago, I told my husband about my internal struggle. He listened and said, Tell me more about that struggle.

I explained, When I think about it, it’s like, I wish it were different. I mean, this sucks. Are we going to have to wear masks at Thanksgiving and Christmas? I want us to be past this.

He said, What you’ve just described is The Stockdale Paradox. That’s covered in the book, Good to Great.

He recently read it as a recommended book about leadership. So…what does my bad attitude about quarantine-COVID have to do with leadership?

Attitude and leadership

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses something called The Stockdale Paradox.

“The name refers to Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was the highest-ranking United States military officer in the “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner-of-war camp during the height of the Vietnam War. Tortured over twenty times during his eight-year imprisonment from 1965 to 1973, Stockdale lived out the war without any prisoner’s rights, no set release date, and no certainty as to whether he would even survive to see his family again.” 

Collins, Jim. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. New York, NY, Harper Collins Business, 2001.

When the author met Stockdale, he asked how he had dealt with his circumstances when he “did not know the end of the story?” (That is, whether he would survive and make it home)

Stockdale’s response:

“I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Stockdale said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Coronavirus and the Stockdale Paradox

1. Have faith that you will prevail in the end. 

Believe that we’ll get through this. The virus will eventually be contained. It may be a long time from now and things may be different by the time that happens, but we will get through this. 

2. Have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of the current reality, whatever they might be. 

I would not have thought of my mindset as discipline, but it’s basically having the kind of attitude that says, Well, this is where I am. This is what’s happening. And this is what I can do about it. And then doing that thing. 

Brutal reality

So what is the reality of our current situation? In Texas, where I live, the reality is that more people are getting sick every day and there’s no end in sight. 

Stockdale says “faith that you will prevail” is not to be confused with being optimistic. He says the “optimists” in the POW camp are the ones that didn’t make it.

“They were the ones who said, ‘We’ll be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

That’s me!

I always thought it was good to be optimistic, but according to the Stockdale Paradox, having faith that you can get through even the most difficult circumstances is not the same as optimism, where a person avoids or denies reality, kind of like they wish things were different and hope it all goes away. (Exactly like I was doing!) 

Leadership is personal

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t takes an in-depth look at why some companies make it through difficulties and other don’t.

What it boils down to is leadership. A strong leader has the “discipline to confront the most brutal facts” of their reality. Ignoring or wishing away brutal facts doesn’t change them. Neither does irrational optimism when you’re in a storm.

As much as I want to be optimistic in relation to Coronavirus, I now understand the difference between being optimistic and facing the facts of the current situation. 

This isn’t about politics or predicting the future or hoping for the best. It’s about dealing with the undesired reality of the current situation. And it’s about taking the couragous path of leadership, even if it’s only for my own attitude.

Although you never know how your actions and thoughts can affect the people around you.

Mindset changes everything even if it changes nothing

My attitude now? Wanting and wishing things were different doesn’t make them different. I have to deal with COVID-19’s brutal reality.

I’ll focus on what I can control (wash hands, wear mask, social distance, etc.) and not worry about what’s out of my control (what other people do).

And keep the faith that we will prevail and thrive in the end.

It’s strange, but I feel better prepared to live with quarantine-COVID now.

How are you handling the current situation? What struggles have you faced and what are your thoughts about The Stockdale Paradox and leadership? Feel free to leave your notes in the comments below.

Journal and pens

Ever thought of journaling? It’s a great time to start.

I love journaling. Journaling’s my favorite.

It is!

I started journaling in 10th grade and have been doing it off and on since then. I’ve had times of great journaling consistency and times of inconsistency.

But lately, with a few strategies I’ll share with you today, I’m on a journaling roll and believe in its value now more than ever.

My Journal(s)

I’m particular about my journals (I keep a few). For example, I have an simple, plain, black, leather-style notebook that I keep notes about my writing projects and other work-related things.

But my personal journal is different. I like a personal journal that stores little surprises for me, like quotes or drawings, that help me focus and reflect. I’ll give you an example.

My recent journal

My most recent journal has pink flowers and gold flowers on the cover. I picked it out in a rush and wasn’t crazy about the pink flowers or the title on the cover, “Always Be Kind.” (I know. So cynical.) While I believe it’s important to be kind in principle, I wasn’t sure I wanted the daily reminder. Sometimes I journal when I’m angry and not feeling so kind.

But it also has quotes, which I really like and it’s been one of my favorite journals ever.

The quotes are about being kind, like this one,

“I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay…small acts of kindness and love.” JRR Tolkien.

What a great nugget of truth.

Some people like to journal electronically, like in a journal app. I prefer writing longhand in a notebook. It feels more intimate to me. My handwriting is unique, like my fingerprint. 

What’s the purpose of journaling?

Journaling is great for:

  • mind dumps
  • clarifying what’s on your mind
  • chronicaling a journey
  • writing practice
  • venting

Mind Dump

Sometimes when I’m feeling conflicted about something or struggling with an issue, journaling helps me clarify my feelings about it. That sounds strange to say because who doesn’t know what they think about things? But many times, I don’t. I’m a very “Living in the gray” kind of person. Things are rarely absolutely black and white.

Sometimes I can have an opinion about something but something about that opinion still doesn’t feel right. Although, to be truthful, I rarely write about current events or issues. I mostly write about me, my thoughts, my feelings, and my impressions about what’s happening in the world. 

Vent

I don’t expect my journals to be read by anyone else, except maybe when I’m dead. They’re for me. 100%. That frees me up. I don’t have to hold back or think about what I can say without hurting someone else’s feelings.

I think maybe I’ll write a disclaimer at the front of every journal, something like: Please understand that I write in the heat of the moment. If I vented about you, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It means I was angry, frustrated, or annoyed with life in general and maybe you in particular.

Purpose?

Journals can be like a “Dear Diary” or can be a chronicle of a trip or journey toward a goal. I’ve kept a gratitude journal in which I wrote specifically who and what I felt grateful for and why.

I keep a notebook of writing ideas, story issues, plot points, and blog ideas.

If you’ve ever thought about journaling but have never gotten past the first page, here are some tips I recommend to get you started. 

Decide how long you will write.

Start by setting your timer for a designated time. Work with what you have. If you only can set aside 5 minutes a day, then 5 minutes it will be. It may not sound like much, but 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes. You may be surprised at how quickly you fill the pages by writing just a short time several days a week.

Also, decide how often you will write.

3-5 times a week may be good to start and set the days you’ll journal, like Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays. Or you can shoot to journal every day for 5 or 10 minutes. No worries if you miss a day. Pick it up the next day.

Remember, it’s for you.

I used to write for hours when I was feeling down or angry and I’d look back on those journals and actually feel bad for that angry, discouraged girl. It may have helped at the time, but I can’t say for sure.

I definitely vent and mind dump all over my journal, but I also use the space to gain perspective for a more positive outlook on whatever’s on my mind.

What do I do with it?

Keep it if you want, but you don’t have to. Put it in a time capsule, in a lockbox, will it to be buried with you. 

But you might be surprised at how interesting your experiences may be to some one in the future. We are, after all, living through a historic event.

I just finished reading Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. Great book and one of the most compelling things about it are the personal accounts of the harrowing Antartic journey as written in a log book, or journal. The details fill in the blanks of their incredible story of survival.

Here’s one historian’s view on the value of journals: Historian: Why We Should All Be Keeping Coronavirus Journals

If you’ve ever thought about keeping a journal, now is a great time to start.

And remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Find the way that suits you best and then keep it going!

Read more about keeping a gratitude journal on the blog: Make every day better with an attitude of gratitude

Do you journal? What’s been your experience with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter of journaling in the comments.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo publshed on rubymontalov.com

It’s the in-between stuff that can kick your butt

Starting a project is hard. Finishing is hard. But it’s the in-between stuff that can kick your butt. That’s what I’m going through right now as I’m writing the sequel to my first novel, A Song for Jessica.

But the struggle to get to “The End” isn’t unique to writing.

Think of a remodeling project.

I love those home improvement commercials that start by showing the outdated, dull room, then the guy/woman/couple decide it’s time for a change.

Next scene, they’re at the store picking out their new products for the remodel. The guy/woman/couple smile, the sales clerk smiles (they actually find someone to help them!).

Next scene, the remodel happens. They tape a door frame and stir the paint. Simple and clean.

And then the very next scene, the work’s all done! The guy/woman/couple straighten a picture they’ve just hung on the wall as a finishing touch.

Now they stand back and admire their work. It’s beautiful and perfect.

If only it were that easy.

What they don’t show is the back and forth “disussion” about design, colors, materials, and cost. “Discussion” about the best way to do it, the unexpected kinks in the plan, then what to have for dinner because there’s dust and/or paint everywhere, and that goes on for days or weeks and maybe the project is never totally finished.

The struggle is real.

Getting to “The End” of a project can be exhausting and frustrating, but it’s do-able.

It helps to:

  • Be patient. Expect your project to take time and effort. You have to want it bad enough to believe the time and effort will be worth it in the end. (Remember the remodeling scenario.)
  • Pace yourself. If it’s a long road to the finish, slow and steady is more likely to get you there, especially if it feels like the work is an unpleasant grind. I was working on revisions to a first draft I finished months before and every time I worked on it I wanted to give it up, just abandon the project. But one page at a time, that’s the only way to do it. Slow progress is still progress, right?
  • Be open to getting help if you can. It’s hard to trust another person with a project that’s your baby, but the right person can make a big difference in the end result. Another set of eyes, an extra hand can be the boost you need.
  • Set up an accountability partner who can give you a gentle push to the end. It’s like having someone cheering you on to the finish line.
  • Set a schedule–break down what needs to be done and pace it out to an end date. For me, it’s a way to help visualize the end of the project. But be flexible. Remember, stuff happens and some days you’ll be more productive than others.

If you’re struggling to get the “The End” of a project, you’re not alone. It’s not easy.

But don’t let that stop you from getting started, whatever it is you want to do.

For more tips on Why it’s so hard to finish what you start and what you can do about it, click here.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Changing paths and dreaming dreams

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
Quote by C.S.Lewis Photo by Ruby Montalvo


It’s funny to reflect on how you got where you are, the choices you made and paths you chose to get you to the exact moment you’re in.

And the memories are mental snapshots of those pivotal moments. That’s how it works for me.

It’s tempting to say sometimes, “If only I would’ve done _________________ (fill in the blank), then _______________ (fill in the blank) woudn’t have happened and I’d be ______________. (fill in the blank).”

But there’s no going back. You can only go forward.

And sometimes you have to change paths

When I first decided to retire early from public education, I set out to share what I’d learned about good nutrition and exercise through my menopausal experience. My goal was to help women stay strong and healthy as they age.

That’s when I started blogging.

In the process of writing and talking to people about health and nutrition, I realized they often knew how to stay healthy and lose weight, but they struggled doing it. They needed encouragement and motivation.

That’s where Mindset Monday came in.

I liked talking about nutrition and exercise, just like I liked teaching and being a librarian, but then my goals changed.

One day I decided to listen to something deep inside me that had been gnawing at me for a while.

I’d taken this early retirement, why don’t I do the one thing I know I’ve always wanted to do… write a book? “If not now, when?” I asked myself.

So I changed paths again and started writing. Even though I had no clue what I was getting into when I started, I finished my 1st draft of my 1st novel on March 15, 2017. After lots of self-doubt, tears, and multiple revisions, I published on May 31, 2018.

Through it all I kept blogging, writing Mindset Monday almost every week. I decided to focus on the encouraging messages I needed to hear…You can do it. Keep going. You have to start somewhere. Strive for progress not perfection. 

I’ve heard from many people about how they needed that boost my blogpost gave them and that’s perfect. That’s the best outcome I could hope for.

But now, my writing goals have changed.

Maybe because now I know I can write a novel, I want to keep writing novels. I want to write short stories and maybe even a screenplay.

And I have a lot of works in progress.

After a lot of learning and missteps, I’m in the process of recording the Audiobook version of A Song for Jessica. I hope to publish by the end of this year.

I have 2 manuscripts (1st drafts) I’m revising. One is the sequel to A Song for Jessica, working title is Allie 2 (I know…creative title) which I hope to publish early 2019, and the other is a project turned out to be a YA, urban fantasy novel that I started November 2017 for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I’m not sure if or when I’ll publish.

I’ve had the extreme good fortune to have 3 Book Signing Events so far and I hope to do more soon. I love talking to people about reading and books and it’s a huge thrill to introduce my work to “strangers”.


I’ve discovered that I’m a real Book Nerd. When I was at Barnes and Noble this past weekend it took tremendous self-control to stay at my table instead of browsing the shelves and peeking at book jackets. Hats off to my husband for keeping me in check!


Looking forward

All that to say … this will be my final installment of Mindset Monday.

I’ll continue blogging about what I’m doing, what I’m learning, and share encouraging messages, but it may not be every week and it won’t be as Mindset Monday. The website may take on a new look and shape. It’s always a Work In Progress.

And I’ll send a newsletter update once or twice a month instead of once a week, so if you haven’t already done so, sign up now for email updates and get my ebook, A Year of Mindset Monday, free while it’s still available.

Thanks for all your support and encouragement and for taking the time to read. If it weren’t for you reading my work I really would be just talking to myself : )

Until next time… wishing you courage, strength, and happiness.

~ Ruby

photo by rubymontalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

The uncertainty of life and preparing for the inevitable

I’m trying something new and including an audio version of the post here:


Life is so uncertain. I know this, but don’t always remember.

When I heard the shocking news of the sudden passing of a healthy, well-loved man in the prime of his life, I immediately thought of his family and friends and the shock and grief they must be feeling at losing him so unexpectedly.

And it reminded me of an important truth:

There’s no guarantee of another day, of another year.

I, too, will die one day. Hopefully later than sooner, but who knows?

Preparing for the inevitable.

Years ago my dad was diagnosed with bone cancer. At the time, I was a single mom doing my best to manage a household and raise two young children while working full-time. Those days were physically and emotionally taxing.

I lived next door to The Murray’s, a retired couple and would chat with Mr. Murray about the weather, the kids, and the goings-on in the neighborhood.

One day I was in the front yard talking to Mr. Murray and somehow and for some reason I told him that my dad had just been diagnosed with bone cancer.

Mr. Murray listened and said, “Well, prepare yourself.”

His response surprised me and got my attention. My dad and I had issues (I’ve written about some of them here), but I always thought my dad was one of those people who would always survive. He’d survived seizures and comas and I thought he’d survive this too. I wasn’t ready.

I’d lost my 27 year-old sister two years before. Though she was ill, her death was sudden and unexpected. I had not been prepared to lose her, to live with the fact that when I said good-bye to her on a cold, clear Christmas night in 1994 that that would be the last time I saw her alive.

But this was different. My dad had bone cancer. This would inevitably kill him. And I was not prepared.

I took Mr. Murray’s advice to heart and mentally and emotionally prepared myself for my dad’s death. It made a big difference in our relationship.

Life and death.

None of this is meant to be morbid or depressing. Really!

I don’t obsess about death, but I am cognizant of the one thing I know for sure: I will die. Some day.

Hopefully not for a long time. If I live to life expectancy, I figure I have about 25 years left.

I consider that ample time to prepare myself. (As it gets closer I may change my mind about how prepared I can be for my own death.)

But for me all this talk about death is not really about death. It’s about life. Time in this life is a finite resource.

It makes me think of my life and what I’ve done and what I still want to do.

I don’t want to obsess about the ticking clock, but I do want to keep it in mind so I remember I’m on a deadline.

We all are, even if we don’t want to think about it.

“Someday” never comes

Read Waiting for “someday” puts dreams out of reach

So if there’s some idea burned in your soul or some passion you hope to pursue someday, there’s no time like the present to get on it.

Right now is all any of us have. Life is uncertain and nothing is guaranteed.

Get over yourself, your fear, your insecurities, your excuses. It can be scary to venture out and do something you’ve never done. But don’t wait for the perfect time when you’re 100% ready.

There’s no time like now to move in the direction of your dreams.


photo courtesy of pixabay published on rubymontalvo.com

How to ignore naysayers and other well-meaning people

Are you up to the challenge of ignoring naysayers and other well-meaning people?

Here’s the scenario. You’re finally ready to face your fears and move in the direction of your dreams. It’s time. No more screwing around. You have a plan and a goal and you know there’ll be challenges, but you’re ready.

You’re so excited that you tell a friend (or relative or teacher) about your goals and dreams. And with just one discouraging word or look or question from them, you walk away full of doubt.

When you decide to follow your dreams there will be challenges, maybe the most difficult is ignoring people who mean well but who really just seem like they’re trying to keep you with all the other crabs in the bucket. (The story goes that several crabs in a bucket keep them all in because if one of them tries to get out, the others will pull him back in.)

But crabs will be crabs.

Be ready for people to be honest without any sugarcoating when they tell you what they don’t understand or see in your vision. “How much will that cost? How can you do that? Is that going to work?” they might say.

And the truth is you don’t really know how it’s going to work. You don’t have all the answers, but you’re determined to figure it out. They may say, “I’m just being honest,” when they tell you they don’t think you should do it without realizing it’s not just what they say but how they say it that can be the most discouraging.

When you’re not 100% sure of yourself and your abilities it’s hard to ignore even the slightest opposition.

But that person who bashed your dreams may be oblivious to his or her power and may not have meant to discourage you. It may not be personal. It’s not that they dislike you and they might even feel like they’re giving you “tough love.”

They mean well and are just trying to give it to you straight. (I know I’ve been that well-meaning parent and I cringe thinking about how “honest” I was.)

So how do you get past it? What can you do to make sure you don’t give up on your dreams because someone says you can’t do it?

Here are a few things to consider to get you past the naysayers and other well-meaning people (Including yourself!).

Have courage. You may know the story of the young Joan of Arc who was ready to lead a revolution and said, “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.” You may not feel that level of courage and commitment, but you have to be able to have courage to press on when others say you can’t or shouldn’t. 

Take heart. You’re not alone. Every successful person who’s done what you want to do has faced the same type of challenges and doubt. Seek out people who have overcome the kinds of challenges you’re facing. Their insights may help you.

Remember the seed was planted in you. I truly believe that the thing you want to do, your goal or aspiration, is not “of you.” It’s a spiritual thing that calls you to take action toward it. You may end up someplace totally unexpected that would have never happened if you hadn’t taken that first step. You may not even be able to explain why you want to do it. Somehow that makes it easier to ignore people who say you can’t do it. 

Show up and work. One of the things about following your dream is that it takes a lot of work. It’s easy to say what you’re going to do and a whole different thing to do it. Track your progress so when it seems like you’re getting nowhere and the naysayers were right, you can look at how far you’ve come even if you still have a long way to go.

Don’t expect people to be as excited as you are. There may be nothing worse than sharing the thrill of a victory (even a small one) and getting no response. Not even crickets. Or worse, instead of no response they say something negative. Don’t let it get you down. You know what you’ve done and what you’ve learned from it. Sometimes that has to be enough.

Don’t overthink it. Your work won’t be for everyone. Don’t waste your energy trying to bring people around to believing in your dream. They may not understand what you’re trying to do. It’s okay. Stay focused, set your goals, and work one day at a time.

Stay strong while you’re moving in the direction of your dreams. Be prepared to ignore people who say you can’t or shouldn’t. They may love you and mean well, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them decide your path.

Read more about overcoming obstacles, read What are you waiting for?

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

What are you waiting for?

Have you ever wanted to do something, but haven’t done it because it’s just never been the right time?

So that “something” becomes one of those gnawing passions that doesn’t go away, that thing you feel like you should be doing, but for some reason, you’re not; something you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t.

Maybe it’s running a marathon, getting your degree, starting a charity or foundation, starting a blog, writing poetry, painting, doing yoga, learning to juggle, performing as a clown, or traveling the world.

If someone were to ask you, “Why do you want to do that?” you may have a hard time answering.

There may not be a clear or straightforward explanation for wanting to do this thing you want to do. All you know is that somewhere along the way a seed was planted in your soul that made you think, “I want to do that.”

But “Life got in the way,” as they say.

When we say “Life got in the way,” it makes it seem as if there’s a straight path to something ahead and along the way you live life, maybe get married, have kids, buy a house, etc.

We wait to:

  • have kids grow up
  • have more money
  • pay off the car
  • lose weight
  • get a better job
  • get a promotion
  • have more time
  • get more training
  • be more mentally prepared
  • have better conditions

But “Life” goes on. And all those moving parts and people in your life sometimes move and act in ways you don’t expect, further delaying your chance to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

Even in the unlikely scenario that “Life” goes exactly as you’d expected and the day finally comes when you can finally do what you’ve always wanted to do, will you be ready? Will you be okay with starting at the beginning? Or will you feel like it’s too late for you now?

What are you waiting for?

Don’t wait for condiitons to be perfect and don’t expect it all to go smoothly. When you take on your dream you will encounter struggles, some external, many internal.

As I’ve been out promoting my book I’ve met people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

My response to them: Do it. Now. You absolutely can. Start writing.

Obstacles in your path

I used to get cranky because something always came up that stopped me from what I wanted to do, but I hadn’t realized that my biggest obstacles were the ones that came from me: fear, Resistance, lack of confidence (to name a few).

There will always be obstacles in your path.

The question is: will you step over them, go around them, ask for help in getting past them, or will you let them block your way? Will you continue to use those “reasons” for keeping you from doing that thing you’ve always wanted to do?

Stop waiting. You can figure it out. It’s okay if it’s not perfect (in fact, it almost certainly won’t be!) but you have to start somewhere. (Read my blogpost Strive for progress not perfection for more on this point.)

Some tips to get you started:

  • Set small, incremental goals. Little by little adds up to a lot.
  • Have a cheerleader. You’ll need someone who can give you a pep talk when you’re doubting you can or should be doing what you’re doing. Even online groups or social media groups can help you through the rough patches.
  • Ignore the people who say you can’t. Or that you’re crazy or stupid or irresponsible for doing what you’re doing. You may actually agree with them on some level, but don’t let that stop you.
  • Life is a composite of what you do and how you spend your time. Keep your priorties in order even when you’re working toward fulfilling your dreams.
  • Fill as many “time leaks” as possible. It’s like when you’re trying to reduce your water or electricity usage, some sound advice is to repair all leaks. What are your “time leaks”? A little occasional mindless down-time isn’t a big deal, but pay attention and don’t let yourself get sucked into a “time waister vortex” so what you intended to last 10 minutes turns out to be two hours you’ll never get back. No bueno.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Stop waiting to do whatever it is you’ve “always wanted to do”. Get started now to make your dreams a reality. The world is waiting.

Think it’s too late for you? Check out this awesome woman who got around the obstacles in her way to finally do what she’s always wanted to do:

Why One Woman Decided To Become A Doctor At Age 59

photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

It’s important to be good to others, but don’t forget to be good to yourself too

Be good to yourself. It’s a simple concept. It means treat yourself with love, consideration, and kindness. Be understanding and forgiving towards yourself.

The concept is simple, but not always easy.

What does it mean?

“Good people” are kind, supportive, considerate, and generous. They help us feel positive about ourselves and about life.

They’re like a warm blanket on a cold night or a bowl of chicken soup to ease a scratchy throat. 

But sometimes it feels more natural to be good to a stranger than to ourselves.

We tend to beat ourselves up, focus on our weaknesses, and criticize ourselves when we’re less than perfect. 

How can we lift ourselves up instead of putting ourselves down?

Be kind. Especially through difficult times, small acts of kindness go a long way. Take a few minutes out of a busy day to meditate, listen to uplifting music, or go for a walk.

Smile. Let your smile be your signature look. It can change your disposition and open your heart to self-love.

Be grateful. There’s an old saying that goes, “I cried that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” It doesn’t change your situation, but it may help you see it in a more positive light.

Forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful gift. It can take time to “get over” mistakes and imperfections, but it starts with a choice to forgive yourself.

Every day is a chance to be better than you were yesterday, to do better than you did yesterday. Make it a point to treat yourself with love, kindness, and compassion. Be good to yourself the same way you strive to be good to those you love.

Watering day and other excuses for not getting to work

Watering day and other excuses for not getting to work

Have you ever had a project that you want to do and know you need to do, but for some reason you avoid doing it? Maybe it’s really important and you’re afraid you’ll mess it up, or you’re not 100% confident you know what you’re doing so you avoid it completely.

This is my account of one of those days written as it happened.

Today is Thursday.

The time is now 11:40 AM and I have not written a single word of my work in progress.

It’s getting late. I need to sit down and write my daily 1000 – 1500 words (first draft of new book, a sequel to A Song for Jessica). I can usually get it done in about an hour and a half, two at the most. Most days I’m done by 11 am.

But today I’ve felt distracted.

Usually, the idea of sitting down to write a scene or develop a character gets me out of bed in the morning. Seriously, I know how lucky I am that I get to to do this.

Today, instead of jumping out of bed ready to write, I lied in bed feeling sleepy until I remembered it’s my watering day (San Antonio Stage 1 water restrictions). I haven’t been very consistent about watering the grass and my yard’s looking downright dusty, so I had to get up.

Once I got the sprinkler and water height just right, I set the timer to remind me to move it to the next spot.

Put a load of laundry to wash.

Walked my dogs.

Moved the sprinkler.

Sat and stared at my blank computer screen.

Water my potted vegetable plants that aren’t doing so well.

Moved the clothes.

Talked to my daughter on the phone for at least 20 mins.

Moved the sprinkler.

Wrote a few words, then deleted them.

Got on Social media, checked emails, read some articles on book marketing, made coffee, ate watermelon.

Folded clothes.

Turned the water off and put the sprinkler away.

Sat and stared at my blank computer screen.

This is really not like me.

It’s like I’m avoiding sitting down to write as if I don’t want to do something I usually love. What’s wrong with me?

Because I’m an analytical person, it makes me wonder why I’m not doing what I know I need to do. I can think about that for another 30 minutes or hour, which will solve nothing.

So instead of writing my work in progress (my 2nd novel), which is my priority because I want to publish in December, I’m writing this blogpost about avoiding my work.

This avoidance doesn’t feel quite like procrastination. I’ve often …

(oh, hold on. Someone’s at the door.)

Okay, I’m just getting back to my desk. My niece stopped by to drop something off and we ended up talking for about 40 minutes. But that’s okay!

Focused conversation with a grown niece or nephew is a rare and special occurrence.

So, yes. It’s now nearly 12:30 and still not a word of my story written today.

I have a blogpost drafted. That’s something.

My yard’s watered. That’s something. A load of laundry’s done. That’s something. I talked to my daughter and she had a very productive day. That’s something. I got to visit with my niece. That’s something.

Those are all good and important things.

But I have work to do.

It doesn’t matter why I’m avoiding it or what I’m doing instead. What matters most, in this case, is that I’ve committed to tell a story. So tell it.

Okay. I’m ready.

Just do it.

When I finally settle in and get it done, I exceed my 1500 word goal. The scene is done and will need extensive editing, of course. But I can’t edit what’s not there, so writing the far from perfect first draft is a necessary step.

And I realized something interesting as I wrote.

The scene needed an important pivotal point in the plot that I wasn’t sure how I was going to work through. It made me wonder if that’s what I had been avoiding all morning.

But an idea developed as I worked, something I hadn’t planned. The scene may change, but it’s a starting point and that’s what I needed.

So, it’s nearly 3 PM and my work is done for the day. It wasn’t pretty, and it felt a little painful today, but it’s done.

That makes me smile.

It’s a good reminder:

A day when you’ve done your work, even when it was hard and even when you could have left it for tomorrow, is a good day.

Little by little, a little becomes a lot. ~ Tanzanian proverb
Photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

When leaving well enough alone is a good thing

It can be hard knowing when to leave well enough alone and even harder doing it.

It’s like having a tiny pimple on your nose, so small it’s almost unnoticeable. You ask people, “Do you see it?” and they have to squint and change angles until they see it. That’s how small it is.

But you know it’s there and it’s bugging the heck out of you that it’s there, so you start messing with it.

And it gets worse. Until the tiny blemish starts to ooze and it’s red and you ask your friend and she sees it right away without squinting.

The challenge

It can be challenging to know when to stop, and even more challenging to actually leave it alone.

“It’s all about finding the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone. And that’s a lifelong quest.” ~ David Sanborn, musician

It’s true of music, but also of relationships, work, and life.

I wonder if Michelangelo struggled leaving his Statue of David alone or did he think, “It’s good, but I can make it better.”

When we’re determined to keep tweaking to make something that’s already pretty good even better, we run the risk of making it worse in a couple of ways.

First, we can have the whole thing collapse. Or, as in the case of the pimple, explode.

Second, we miss out on enjoying anything else because we’re obsessing about making this thing perfect.

Third, we can’t appreciate the amazingness and beauty of what we have when we’re focused on its flaws.

David Sanborn says, “knowing when to leave well enough alone” is a “lifelong quest.” I never thought about it that way, but I see what he means.

Especially if you have a tendency to fixate on things and get obsessed with an issue. It’s hard to let it go.

Getting away from it for a while can help. Get your mind off of it, look at something else, do something else. Go for a walk or run an errand. Start a new project.

The problem or flaw may not look as serious when you look at it again.