Thoughts On Identity

roadSome years back I wrote an essay called Learning The Language. The piece reflected on my experiences living abroad, learning to navigate a foreign country and culture with a somewhat limited grasp on the language.

The essay wasn’t so much about learning to speak a foreign language, as it was about learning who I was (and who I was not) in the context of that new environment but also in the context of the world and my life.

I was in my twenties, recently graduated from college, recently married. I was trying to find my place in the world, as if my identity were a destination. But now I know that identity is not a destination, but rather a journey.

Identity is fluid, not finite. And that is very good news! It means we can change our minds, make different choices, and consciously move in the direction we want to go next.

In this age of accelerated change, our roles are continually shifting, sometimes without our permission, other times by choice. How much will the world change in a person’s lifetime if she lives to be 90 or 100? Quite a lot. So, in a sense, we will always be Learning the Language.

Three Artists

Since she was very small my granddaughter Evalyn enjoyed painting with me in my studio. Over the years I’ve seen her creations evolve from messy blobs of black and red watercolors to quite sophisticated sketches and designs.

One day when she was maybe four, I took her to visit a friend of mine at his art gallery. I introduced them, “This is my friend Stan. Stan is an artist.”

Evalyn gasped. “I’m an artist too! And so is grandma!” she exclaimed. The label artist was something that connected the three of us, a shared identity. Oh, the wisdom of children!

Continue reading “Thoughts On Identity”

Listen up!

Do people interrupt you mid-sentence? Or start to answer your question before you’ve finished asking it? Do they talk over you? Are you the one who interrupts?

Good communication requires active listening. And active listening means engaging.

There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak. – Simon Sinek

Four Ways to “Up” your Listening Skills

  • Be curious. The word curiosity comes from the Latin “cura”, meaning to care. So it’s not only the desire to learn, it is also about caring. Neuroscience research has shown that curiosity stimulates learning and enhances memory.
  • Leave space for not knowing. The more expertise we gain in our field, the less likely we are to open ourselves to new perspectives. Even when you think you know the answer, make space for new learning. This lets the speaker know that it is safe to share ideas, and it opens the way to discovery and innovation.
  • Suspend the need to be right. Most exchanges are not win-lose propositions. Be open to contrary opinions. Finding even the smallest piece of common ground can pave the way to fruitful conversations in the future.
  • Adopt a beginner’s mindset. Be an explorer. In every conversation there is the possibility for new discovery. Favor asking over telling. Use phrases like: How would that work? I don’t know, what to you think? Tell me more.

Continue reading “Listen up!”

Thoughts On Courage

A few days ago I sat in a theatre and watched in awe as my thirteen-year-old granddaughter performed her first competition dance solo.

There on the stage where I have witnessed the magic of David Copperfield and listened to award-winning pianist Emanuel Ax – there on that same stage was my graceful young granddaughter. As I watched I thought, this is courage.

Evalyn dancing

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately, and the relationship between courage and fear.

Courage is not the lack of fear. Fear is a necessary part of being human. You can feel fear and act courageously at the same time. In fact, they go hand in hand.

So what does courage look like? Maybe it’s different for everyone.

Danger Zone

I frequently travel alone. I like the freedom of not feeling responsible for someone else’s good time. Traveling alone allows me to ignore the clock. I eat when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, socialize if I’m so inclined, or explore on my own.

In March I went to my favorite beach near the town of Zihuatanejo, on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Guerrero.

You may remember that Zihuatanejo is the village in the movie The Shawshank Redemption where Morgan Freeman meets up with his friend after they get out of prison. One has escaped, the other has been paroled. I’m not sure which I relate to more, but it sure feels like freedom when I’m on that beach. Continue reading “Thoughts On Courage”

Simple Abundance – 3 Stories and 3 Suggestions


Story #1 – Five pesos and a lifetime of abundance

My aunt Carmela once gave me a five-peso coin that had been blessed by our parish priest. She told me to keep it always so that I “would never be without money”.

That was over 30 years ago. Five pesos was not much money even back then. It may have bought a half-kilo of tortillas. On today’s economy that particular coin won’t buy anything. It was retired from circulation years ago.

But that doesn’t mean the coin is worthless. For me it represents: intention, abundance, and gratitude. Its value is in the story and my aunt’s desire for my prosperity.

How do we measure prosperity anyway? Certainly not by the coins in our pockets. Is having money the same as having a life of abundance? How much money is enough?

Story #2 – An American, a Mexican, and an Israeli walk into a bank

The year was 1982. The Mexican economy was in trouble. The country had more international debt than it could cover.

On Friday, September 3, after the banks had closed, President Lopez Portillo announced the nationalization of the banks. Going forward the government controlled all banking regulations. Continue reading “Simple Abundance – 3 Stories and 3 Suggestions”