The Meaning of Leap Year

February 29, 2012

“I wish I had 24 more hours to do all that I need to do,” you say.

Welp, Leap Year affords you just that.

Only it’s not really because you wished upon a star. It’s more because the Earth goes around that star called the sun 1/4 of a day later than our Gregorian calendar allows. So, every four years we tack on a day to ensure spring comes on March 21. Otherwise, at some point we’d be looking at Labor Day before the daffodils started to bloom. And that would be confusing.

Time is embedded in geophysical reality. That is, our construct called time is based on the Earth’s movements. So the next time you’re “out of time”, remember you always have that extra 24 hours in the even years and those divisible by 400. For more information on Leap Year, check out this page.

What are you going to do with this extra day today?

Do you love trees? I sure do. What’s a forest without them? Shrubs and some grass.

Stihl’s annual Tour des Trees, a 500-mile cycling tour to benefit the Tree Fund, is coming up this August 5-11, 2012. The best thing about it? Everyone goes at their own pace – a true power of slow event!

This year the tour is all throughout the State of Oregon. What would Oregon be without trees? It’s the timber capital of the world. Or at least of the West Coast.

Photo Courtesy of Helen Steussy

I had a chat with one of the cyclists, Doreen Crenshaw, an accountant for a  commercial real estate company and avid tree lover, who generously shared her insights about the race with me.

Power of Slow: What do you hope to accomplish by your participation in this race?

Doreen: This is not actually a race.  It is a group of bike and tree enthusiasts embarking on a bicycle tour to share our love of trees and help further the cause of research and education in tree care.  There are certainly personal fitness goals to achieve but the bigger purpose is fostering an appreciation of what trees provide us all.

POS: Would you encourage people to ride their bikes more often? What affect would that have on the environment?

D: I already do.  I am on the wellness committee where I work and organize a Bike to Work Day which has led to another regular commuter besides myself and another who now bikes regularly with his family.  While motorists often are aggravated by cyclists, they should remember that a bicycle on the road is likely one less car on the road.  Surely more bikes is better than more cars!  More bikes means better health, less road maintenance, less reliance on fossil fuels, and so much more.

POS: In what ways do trees help the environment? Why is it important to plant them?

D: Trees help the environment in countless ways.  Trees really are the lungs of

Photo Courtesy of Helen Steussy

the earth.  As a fundraiser, I am often confronted by people who will tell me they would be happy to support a cure for cancer but just can’t see giving for “a tree.”   When you can’t see the forest for the trees, you don’t realize the health benefits trees provide.  Trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen.  A mature tree can absorb roughly 48 pounds of CO2 a year, in turn releases enough oxygen to sustain two human beings.  Trees provide so much but the simplest is just enjoying its shade on a hot summer day.

POS:  Besides planting trees, in what simple ways can people live ‘greener’?

D: Ride your bike to work. It’s probably easier than you think and you’ll feel great!  Get in the habit of riding your bike for any trip less than five miles.  Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.  Hang your clothes outside to dry.

POS: Do I have to be a tree specialist to participate in the ride itself?

D: Absolutely not.  I am an accountant for a commercial real estate company.  I have always loved trees though.  I remember loving the yellow poplar (tulip) and catalpa trees in my backyard growing up.  The big oak tree in my neighbor’s yard had a swing attached to it and we would climb up the fence, get on the giant tractor tire and mount the swing and spend countless summer hours there, staring up at the big limbs above as we’d glide through the air and back to the tire.  During and just after my college years, I worked at Sequoia National Park, in the “Big Trees.”  There’s always been a special love for trees.

~~

If you can’t participate in the tour itself, do your part and plant a tree this year. Visit this site for tree planting tips.

In an effort to suspend judgement here, I must admit we’re a nation of ‘doing too much’. Perhaps it’s simply in our cultural DNA to don the can-do spirit like we would a Hoodie. But Daniel Pink raises a great question about that in a recent blog post. Just because we can-do doesn’t mean we should.

There. I said it. Should. It’s a word I try to avoid, but it’s times like these that require drastic measures. It seems as if our can-do spirit has us duped.

Really what Daniel’s saying is there are a lot of things we want to do; but that doesn’t necessarily lead us down the road to infinite happiness. We’re still human beings with all the frailities attached to it. We like to take short cuts and feel good about it in the process.

Like diet experts, he says, personal productivity gurus have mushroomed out of the ground in the last few years because no one seems to be crying “Halt — in the name of my sanity!” He explores the most powerful one-word sentence in the English language.

No.

Say it with me now ~ “No. Nope. Uh-uh.”

But is saying ‘no’ to ourselves, our wants, our could-do-ness, really all that fun? Really it’s not. Like cheese fries over cottage cheese, we are faced with choices that may not be as fun, but are ultimately better for us.

Take unplugging for a weekend as an example. Can you really feel whole by not turning on your smartphone first thing in the morning to see what you might have missed at night? It requires a whole skill set of discipline and mindfulness that you might not possess.

As my friend recently inquired, where do we get the willpower?

That’s where support systems (and, yes, personal productivity gurus) come in. We might need to set a process in place in which external reminders grab our attention when we swerve off the path of slow.

I’m not saying you should. But you could.

Will you?

 

Life: Unplugged

February 15, 2012

If you don’t think you’re hooked on gadgets, think again. We all are. It’s unavoidable. Even if you’re the least techie person you know. It’s everywhere. Like the air you breathe.

Just yesterday life got off to a whirring start. That is, to the whirring of a dead car battery whose juice had been sucked dry by a deadbeat radio that, go figure, still had enough gumption to bring down the car’s central operating system simply because it could.

I was not amused.

So instead of taking the sporty, two-seater, I-am-free-to-zip-to-the-TV-studio-mobile, I was obliged to wait for the tow truck to plow through a zillion snowflakes to my rescue. Watching my husband tear off into the blizzard in our blue Mazda, I dialed up the emergency assistance number to see what could be done.

Admittedly, I was in the dry, warm comfort of my very own home. It could have been worse, like waiting on the side of the Autobahn, risking life and limb to get to where I needed to be.

The tow truck guy came forty-five minutes later, sporting a heavy-duty battery smaller than a briefcase.

“This’ll do the trick,” he winked. While the car revved up to an acceptable level, we did some paperwork in his truck. He took a call, chat up a storm and finally released me to drive myself to the repair shop. It felt like an eternity, knowing I had to be at the TV studio by 1 pm. Remembering to breathe the slow, I hopped into the flow of the moment, riptide and all.

“Glad the battery charged up again because there’s no way I can make it down your driveway and back again,” he winked again.

I plowed my way through the snow drift that was the common driveway (my neighbor doesn’t like to shovel). Peeling a wheelie around the corner, I zig-zagged my way to the nearby town to deinstall the rogue radio. Or, at least, I thought.

Another thirty minutes went by before the repair guy could say, “All done!” he winked too.

I could feel the skin just above my eye begin to twitch.

“So….whadya do?”

“Oh, I unplugged the radio, then plugged it in again. You’ll get a new one by Friday. It’s a common manufacturer’s error with this car model. Only they don’t replace it until you have a problem.”

So Renault (there, I said the name) leaves it up to fate as to whether you come unplugged in the middle of, well, anywhere?

For a second time that morning, I was not amused.

Our cars operate with computers. Our lives are dictated by them too. But another unplugged moment the day before had me laughing so hard I almost cried.

My Internet was winking (do you see a theme here?) on and off until it finally disengaged altogether. So I patiently called the phone company to get to the bottom of the matter. Much like the tow truck guy, the dude on the phone was extremely helpful and chatty.

“Is it plugged in?” he asked flatly.

I’m sure he could hear my eyes rolling until I said, “Oh…” The cord had jiggled loose from the router during a particularly vigorous vacuuming session, I suppose. It’s hard to nudge all those cables out of the way to clear the dust, don’t you know?

I quietly pushed the plug back into its place, thanked the phone guy and watched my computer blink back to life.

The next time you want to throw your laptop/cell phone/tow truck guy out the window, remember this: It is amazing how much we rely on automation and when it doesn’t work, we think our lives just might end. Only they won’t. It’s after days like these that we could all use some truly unplugged time!

 

The folks at Self magazine gave me a preview of their February issue, which provides various beautiful people doing squats and lunges with thighs made of steel. It’s easy to say “Puh! That’ll never be me. I mean look at her. She’s obviously a model. And no one —  absolutely no one — has skin that glistening.”
It’s important to keep things in perspective. Like a lot of people, I workout regularly, but lately I’ve been feeling the need to change up my routine a little bit. The truth is wellness and fitness require a holistic approach. As I have said repeatedly here and elsewhere, you are what, and how, you eat. (See this great New York Times article on mindful eating). You are also comprised of all the decisions you make, large and small.

So I decided to take a closer look at what Self is trying to say. And they have a lot of good tips to help shake up said routine to bring in new wind into a dulled wellness regime.

Tip#1: Place your leftovers and other food in glass containers in the fridge. You can only eat what you see.

Tip#2: Shop and chop once ~for the whole week. Do food prep ahead of time so you don’t have to dirty your kitchen over and over again.

Tip #3: A little movement can go a long way. It’s easier to stay in shape than to get in shape. The following program will help you trim up with a slow burn. Integrate your fitness in small choices such as taking the stairs instead of the escalator. And follow the outline they provide here if it works for you (personally, I’m not ready to give up on my health instructor yet!) Every little bit counts so get up and move.

Tip#4: This one’s borrowed from the mindful eating article I read in the New Yokr Times ~ eat in silence at least once a week. You wouldn’t believe how much more enjoyable it is to unitask at the table. So unplug the electronica and just eat, for pete’s sake. You may actually notice what it is you’re putting inside!

Remember: life is a dance so shake it for all it’s worth!

Want more info? Check out Tiffani Thiessen’s Prep Once Lose All Week Diet.

 

 

Procrastination is a fear-based response, deeply rooted in our history. We feel paralyzed by our imagination. It seizes us up, locks us in its grip and leaves us feeling horrible.

Human beings are great at finding reasons as to why they can’t do things: No time. No energy. No way. All the while, as we create these excuses, we feel entrapped by the possibility of failure or worse – that someone else will see we are a failure too. IQMatrix, a web site dedicated to tapping into human potential, produced an interesting procrastination mind map, a part of which I have displayed here.

Courtesy of IQMatrix.com

As you can see, the origin of procrastination can be found in our habits, actions and fears of lack, inadequacies and false expectations of ourselves and others. It’s no wonder we talk of having no time! With a lack mentality, we firmly believe we don’t have any.

Changing your way of thinking comes after your recognize what that thinking is. Take note of how often you say you are out of time, out of luck, out of friends, money, you-name-it. Now choose one of those things and replace “no” with “more than enough”. Repeat after me: “I have more than enough time. I have more than enough fortune. I have more than enough friends. I have more than enough money…” When we shift our language, we shift our perspective. That minor nudge in the direction of abundant thinking can take on dramatic effects.

One of the root causes of procrastination is, in my mind, our unrealistic expectations. In an attempt to keep pace with the world at large, we push ourselves to the brink, demanding more and more in less and less time. We find it appealing to save time, but what are we really saving it for? To do more work? To accomplish more and more and more? To what end? What on Earth are we rushing toward?

These are tough philosophical questions worth asking ourselves. Because a lot of what drives our behavior is the unflappable belief that if we aren’t marching forward, we will somehow be left behind.

Not so.

In taking pause, we create space for the best things in life to come flooding in. If you don’t make room for them, they will float on by to the next opening instead.

Procrastination is about saying no to our potential. Move it to yes and watch what happens next. When you say yes to yourselves, yes to your abilities, yes to the possibility that you can bring to the table, you make it easier for the world to say yes to you too.

What will you say yes to today?

 

Renewable energy production has been on my mind lately. Maybe it’s because our little town is divided on wind power. Some think plunking down a huge windmill at the edge of town is a little spooky.

This infographic points to the pros and cons of alternative energy generation. I was startled to find that wind power eats up habitats too. Those poor bats (see the box to the right of the water buffalo). Now I’m uncertain whether a wind mill is such a good idea…what do you think?

Courtesy of 2GreenEnergy.com

A recent Workplace Survey conducted in eleven countries by the global executive staffing firm, Robert Half International, found that your  boss can be a source of great stress. Duh? Not surprising, but the reason can often be attributed to a lack of management skills, not just to the fact that he or she may be a jerk.

Other stressors in the modern workplace include:

  • increased workload
  • too few people to handle the job
  • unpleasant work environment (colleagues and office gossip)
  • inappropriate pressure from the boss
It sounds to me as if the modern workplace could use a huge dose of slow.
First, it is no wonder that more and more people are stressed out, given the bare bones staff with which many industries are forced to operate. Then, consider placing someone ill-equipped in a position of power. Add too few resources such as time, money and personnel, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
Management skills are something everyone can learn. Just take a look at this beautiful performance leadership matrix, developed by Dan McCarthy,  Director of Executive Development Programs (EDP) at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire.

Courtesy of GreatLeadershipbyDan.com

According to Dan’s nifty model, if you’re forcing people to take action, but it has no impact on performance, that’s just plain nagging (note to self: remember the next time you insist that your kids brush their teeth RIGHT NOW, that maybe it could wait a minute). If you’re asking for action and it does impact performance, that’s managing (if, say, it’s been a while since they brushed). No action, no impact ~ you’re on vacation. No action, BIG IMPACT ~ you’re an osterich leader.
Some may have more inherent leadership talent than others, but giving people the tools to do their job will place everyone in a better position. I’m a big fan of guided training; that is, offer up pre-assessment, the training itself, then follow up with a post-training assessment. Life’s in the details. That goes for work too. For all you HR folks listening out there: follow up is everything to ensure your return on investment (ROI) hit the mark. Would you throw money at something just to say you did it? Of course not! The same goes for training. It’s worth seeing what stuck and what didn’t.
Imagine being led by someone who knows less than you? Perhaps you are a technical wizard, while your supervisor made a move across industries to land the job above you.
Now imagine how you might become an invaluable resource to that person because you know your stuff. Your boss will come to you in a pinch. Being a go-to person places you in your own position of power. You are indispensible. Chances are he or she won’t toss you under the bus (or the boss?), as long as you’re performing.
And that’s the clincher. Performance depends a great deal on your office environment. If you can’t stand the people you work with, you are more likely to experience low levels of motivation. That’s when it’s time for an assessment of your own. What are you willing to live with? What not?

Image Courtesy of Blogs.Babble.com

Groundhog Punxatawney Phil* saw his shadow yesterday. According to folklore, that’s six more weeks of winter for us. Catching a glimpse of a TV segment about the poor groundhog that those celebratory folks in that Western Pennsylvanian town unceremoniously extrapolated from his faux burrow (I mean let’s be honest. What self-respecting groundhog would live in a fake tree stump with his name on it?), I don’t think the poor guy saw much of anything yesterday. He looked bleary-eyed and a tad subdued in the gloved grip of the MC. They robbed him of his sleep, for pete’s sake. He was hi-ber-nat-ing. That’s what a lot of us do in the winter time.

And that brings me to the heart of my message today. With subzero temperatures seizing Europe this week, I am reminded of the natural rhythm of things. Winter  is a season of reflection, rest and a particular set of slow we don’t need in the summer. Our diet changes (for those of us who eat according to the seasons), our pace slows and our need for sleep increases. Being as light-sensitive as I am, I felt the need to crawl into bed at 8 p.m. whilst in Stockholm recently, because it had been dark for four hours.

Our bodies speak to us. But how often do we listen?

The cross-eyed ‘hog knew it wasn’t time to get up yet. So what if we have six more weeks of winter? It’s a good reminder that life’s pace needn’t hasten just because the clock strikes a certain hour. Time is a construct, people. Remember?

Editor’s note: For a super concise history of Groundhog Day, see TurfMutt.

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