Oscar Night: Directing & Producing the Film of Your Life

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I recently spoke at The Greater Twin Cities United Way Emerging Leaders Gathering at Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis. I titled the evening, Oscar Night: Directing and Producing the Film of Your Life.

My central question was…What story are you telling with your life and your leadership?

We explored a special Oscar category that evening, Directing & Producing the Film of Your Life, and I suggested that in this category you want to be in the role of Director & Producer.



The Director & Producer~        I lead my life with a clear sense of purpose.

The Lead Actor or Actress~     I am following the script that someone else writes and directs.

The Cinematographer~            I capture it on film – think it over in my head and mostly observe my life.

The Costume Designer~          I dress it up and make it look good.

As the Director &Producer you need to first decide what story you are telling… because, let’s get it clear,  this year’s main-stream Oscar nominated films are telling very different stories.

Deciding on the story– getting the main theme right is the development phase of film making. It is also important development for an intentional life and intentional leadership.

So ask yourself these questions…

What brings me energy?

Why do I get up in the morning?

What would be lost if I didn’t get up tomorrow, or the next day…?

Why am I doing what I’m doing?

What can I not do?

What is my reason for being alive?

Remember…get clear on your main theme, your central idea or core purpose before you start filming!

What story will you tell in 2013?

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THERE ARE FOUR MAJOR CHARACTERS THAT EXIST IN ALL THE GOOD stories; the King/Queen, the Warrior, the Jester/ Magician, and the Lover. These archetypes bring forthdifferent qualities, gifts and dilemmas.

At their best the King/Queen provides stability and steadfastness. The King or Queen has the opportunity to bring a calm presence into the middle of conflict.

The best Warrior stands up and fights for something larger than his/her self.  Warrior is the energy of resolution, the energy to bust thru the barriers in front of us.

The Jester or Magician coming from their strength brings a new perspective, flexibility, creativity, spaciousness and humor. 

The essence of the Lover attracts people, opens hearts, builds relationships and enrolls others in a vision without manipulation.

Of course we know from the old tales and stories that these characters will have to face their fears, and in this battle they will over-do some of these qualities and at other times they will shut down their natural gifts. The characters struggle but in the end they find their contribution, their role and their gifts.

We are not all that different from these stories, since stories are tales of human experience; tragedies, comedies, love stories, action stories, etc.  Stories are written or spoken to provide entertainment but have also been used as a key vehicle for learning & growth.  Stories are an opportunity for people to reflect and learn about their own lives.

There is great need in the world.  I believe we are called to bring our personal best into the story that is unfolding.  So, what is the story that you want to tell?  What leadership is needed within your workplace?  What work situations are you a key character in?  How about at home?  What about within your community?  What is your contribution?  How will you face your fears and bring your best qualities forward?

Give yourself the gift of some reflection time; begin to intentionally write your story.

                  As a Warrior

Get clear about what you are committed to that is larger than yourself.  What are your leadership resolutions?  What will you stand for, be committed to, resolute about?  What is important?  What will you fight for?   What barriers will you break down?

                  As a King or Queen

Where will you bring a sense of calm?  (How about starting with yourself?)  Kings and Queens provide stability.  Where is there a need for steadfastness or stability?  How can you plant your feet firmly, looking out over the land you love, and think about what’s best for generations to come?

                 As a Jester or Magician

What needs a new approach?  What will be invented?  Where can you bring flexibility and the energy to try something new?  What adventure is calling you?  How will you cultivate or schedule some spacious, creative, dreaming time?  Will you laugh?  Will you share some much needed lightness or humor with someone in need?

                 As a Lover

What do you want to attract?  What are you passionate about?  Have you shared that passion with others?  Are you aligned with your passions…at work, at home, in your community?  How can you be open and fully present with those around you?  How will you love?

Consistent Presence

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The banner said INSPIRATION and has this image of my Grandmother, Margaret Thone, on it. The banner was hanging from the brick walls of my church, Trinity Lutheran Church, in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Grandma died on Saturday, November 24th at 105-1/2 years old. She has inspired and taught me about the beauty of consistency – partly because of her longevity – I had 50 consistent years of Grandma’s presence. Every Christmas Eve we’d go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. (Grandpa Thone’s house, too – he built it.) We lit Christmas Eve candles at their church service and ate Swedish meatballs, potatoes and lefse together as family.

After my Grandfather’s death, I visited Grandma on Thursday evenings – we likened it to Tuesday’s with Morrie and would laugh because we enjoyed our dinners together and our talks. We both knew we had something special. We’d talk religion – “I just don’t think it would change anything for me – even if He was married.” I remember Grandma saying after the DaVinci Code came out and we ended up talking about the movie and the hot topic of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.  We’d talk politics,“Who you gonna vote for Jody?…you are going to vote, of course…right?”  We’d talk The Minnesota Twins, “Good game last night…did you watch?”  She stayed up on all the current news and we stayed current with each other.

When Grandma turned 97 we started the tradition of going to Matt’s Bar which was located in her old neighborhood near Lake Nokomis. We called ourselves Wild and Crazy Women these evenings, laughing as we walked into the bar to have Juicy-Lucy’s (a burger with cheese inside) french fries and a beer. I was thrilled to be out on the town with her!  As she turned 100 we stayed in for our wild celebration and started to bring her the Juicy-Lucy, French Fries and a mini Corona beer for her birthday celebration. My brother Jeff joined in and sometimes my kids.

After 100 years… she started to slow down. She still enjoyed our talks and walks outside to see the flowers and as she got weaker a wheel-chair ride around the block. I started to bring her tea and sometimes something special to do – like play the hand-harp or look at pictures of my garden. Grandma taught me consistency of spirit and belief. She kept on living…slower but vibrant. Last week I visited her after a night-time fall resulting in a slight fracture in her hip and lots of pain. I was able to hold her hand, her shoulder and then cradle her face gently in my hands as I now prayed for her to “let go” of her body and let her consistent spirit return home.

I saw my father’s face in her face.

I told her I loved her.

I told her it was okay to go.

I told her good-bye.

This week I celebrate my Grandmother, I celebrate Consistency of Spirit, I celebrate two Wild and Crazy Women, I celebrate life.

windows to the soul of a leader

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There are three windows to the soul of a leader. Deep coaching work will look at all three windows and cultivate an awareness of each.  Developing awareness or presence is the most important leadership quality a person can have– whether you’re leading a big company, a community organization, a family or your life. So imagine you are walking the streets of a beautiful city… you see all sorts of windows.  What do they tell you?

Some are inviting and open, if you went in you would see a lot about the person who lives there.  Some windows are closed, behind glass and curtains– but inside are people’s lives– their homes.  Some windows are simple, some are fancy, some are bright and some are faded.

The window is an opportunity to pay attention to the flow of energy, intention and connection to others.  This is also true for the windows into our deepest self.  Leaders are called to know their authentic self and contribute from that place.  So what windows do we look in?  Where do we direct our attention?

Window 1:   Language– Our thoughts, what we say quietly to ourselves, or out loud to others.

Window 2:   Emotions– What is visiting?   Fear, anger, sadness, tenderness, joy, love, hope, guilt, shame, compassion?

Window 3:   Body– Our physical being.  Can we find our center?  Are we open, balanced, flexible and strong?

Stop for a moment and look inside one of these windows for yourself.  What have you been saying to yourself or others today?  What are your thoughts?   Breathing deeper, into your heart… What emotions are visiting you today?  Breathing to your core…What is your body’s wisdom?  Where is your body tight, tense, peaceful, or light?

Open up a window today, throw back the curtains and just observe for a moment.  You may see the beauty of these windows and the life that resides inside and out.