2018 themes

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December has been an opportunity to recognize Advent, prepare for Christmas…trying to keep the main things the main things…and try to get everyone well. It was humbling, and a reminder that all of the things I think I need to do aren’t really necessities. It’s New Year’s Eve now, and I’m finally almost 100% and ready to reflect on the year. Business reflection is serving as a foundation for new-year planning and goal setting but personal reflection is the cornerstone for all the facets of life: emotional, mental, physical, relational, and spiritual. Some of it is uncomfortable, but it is always beneficial.

When the year began, I hadn’t yet started the practice of picking a word as a theme for the year, but 2018 exposed me to this via multiple people I respect. If I’d heard it before, it hadn’t resonated enough to stick. My being was ready to receive it and act, and the main word that emerged was: meditation. I heard it over and over in 2017. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like a missing link to my personal and spiritual disciplines. Balancing work from home, full-time parenting, nonprofit volunteer work, etc. isn’t easy, and I knew I needed more centering to do it well and make it all sustainable. Despite the calling, I had difficulty getting started that year, but thankfully a parenting course I ventured into in early 2018 included daily meditations (Peaceful Parenting by Laura Markham - I highly recommend it!). It took me awhile to get in the groove, but the act of visualizing how I wanted to be really did help me choose connection over correction more often which then made it more likely to happen again and so on, just like she said it would. While it was a word/theme for 2018, it has changed my life and is now a permanent part of me. I try to start each day with it, and notice when I don’t make the time.

The second word of the year emerged as I became an entrepreneur again: sow. This clarity came as we met a long-time goal of creating a garden in order to grow some of our own food. The garden in many ways was a symbol of starting ALTA and learning to meditate and so much of life. Get the soil ready. Sow. Water. Wait. Water. Wait. Learn. Wait. Harvest (a portion of what was planted). Clear. Evaluate. Repeat. The growing cycle amazed me. Some of the garden seemed to sprout overnight while others didn’t for weeks and then only started producing at the end of the season. What a testimony to intentional effort, environmental blessings and patience. Some things needed more sun and space. Other plants needed less of one or both. I’m happy to say we did get to eat some of what we planted and see fruit of coaching, too.

What about you? What are some themes that emerged in 2018 for you?

Strategic planning time!

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Entrepreneurs are passionate about what we do or we wouldn’t have taken all the risks of “hanging a shingle.” Many times, we like what we do so much we’d do it all the time, which brings two great opportunities: 1) intentionally setting aside time to look at and work on the business from the 10,000 foot view and 2) setting parameters so that the other important priorities in life don’t get what’s leftover. The latter is one of my favorite subjects, so I’ll be posting about life balance ever so often. Since 2019 is upon us, today is about stepping out of the inner workings of your passion project to work on your passion project. Those two little words make a world of difference. In is the detailed actions contributing to the plan. On is the analogy and strategy guiding the plan.

One of my favorite frameworks is Stop - Start - Continue. I learned this several years ago from a colleague at Lipscomb University. I have since used it in a variety of formats: to gather feedback from students, in nonprofit strategic planning and with individual coaching clients. I have found it simple, versatile and effective when acted upon.

  1. Ask yourself what you want to STOP doing. Questions to consider: What costs more than it benefits? What is draining too much energy? What is contributing to mission drift? We do this first because you need to free up time and space for the next three.

  2. Now, what do you want to START doing? Questions to consider: What have you been putting off until…? What is life giving that you aren’t getting to? If resources were unlimited, what would you pursue? What do you dream about but don’t feel ready for?

  3. Then, what do you want to CONTINUE? Questions to consider: Where are you most effective? When are you in “flow?” What type of projects are providing the highest return on investment?

  4. The model hasn’t felt totally right until just recently. I now add, what do you want to change? Consider asking: What were your big wins and learns of a time period (quarter or year) to nail down some things that are worth keeping if only tweaked a bit.

As a leader, I encourage you to go through this exercise periodically to make sure you are spending your effort on the things that will get you to your preferred vision. Getting some feedback from your team or personal board of directors will help give you the power of community. Typically, the more diverse the perspectives gathered, the better the analysis. Just make sure you are enlisting people who are growth minded.

Dress like you want to be addressed

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When I lived in China, I was often amazed and curious by a somewhat common visual on the streets: a street sweeper dressed not in sturdy work clothes but a sport coat, pants and dress shoes. The clothes were covered in dust and stains, and I found myself wondering about and even judging the choice. I saw the clothes as being “ruined” by the dust and grime of the traffic.

20 years and many a lesson learned on mindset later, I wish I could go shake these street sweepers hands and ask them to tea. I admire their choice to not let their position define them and see them as embodying the “dress the way you want to be addressed” and “dress for the job you want not the job you have” proverbs. I now know, there is also a lot of data showing connection between dress and performance (one example here). And, whether we like it or not, dress is a huge contributor to the first impressions we create (hence a 20-year memory of a street sweeper I didn’t even talk to!). It can also add to or detract from the message and value you have.

Dress may not be the trump card, but I encourage you to see it as a first step to the reality you desire. If you want to up level your career or be taken more seriously in your current role, if you are working from home and dress for comfort but are increasingly less motivated, if you are working toward a personal goal or mindset shift, dress for success in that context. I’d love to hear what happens when you give it a try.

Beauty everywhere

I welcome another guest post from Jordan today. He shares about his vocational search and the tools he’s using to guide his path.

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“I see beauty everywhere:”

The evolving journey of my brand and story

by Jordan Walker

“Your brand isn’t just about you. It’s about how you show up for other people and serve them.”
Ashley Northington


“Tell these stories
to let the world know
who you are,
what you do,
& why you do it.”
David Hutchens, Leadership Story Deck

Recently, I had the privilege of attending a workshop led by Ashley Northington, Director of Denor Brands, during which she took the group through a series of exercises to help us unearth the values and language of our authentic brand/story. Through this process, we began with writing sentences, then one sentence, and finally six words to capture “our story” as professionals and as people. In the midst of that, my one-sentence story/personal manifested as, “I see beauty everywhere and want to connect with others by doing the same.”

Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure if I meant that I want to build relationships by seeing the beauty inherent in others and sharing that with them, or helping them see beauty in their own right, or both. Probably the last one and more, but, if this process of discernment and engaging in conversations with amazing thought leaders has taught me anything…baby steps seems to be more than just conventional wisdom, especially since I have no right to call something beautiful on someone else’s behalf; art and creation is a dialogue, not a monologue.

With those baby steps in mind, I can’t help but look at the toolbox I always reach for when I begin doing something that requires a bit of my soul to bring forth…inspiring quotes by writers I love, music that captures the spirit of what I’m feeling, art that stills me in the midst of chaos of everyday life. In short, beauty.

It sounds trite in a way, but the inspiration of others inspires me. Perhaps it’s the witness of discipline bringing forth something new, something beautiful: “To love means to open ourselves to the negative as well as the positive - to grief, sorrow, and disappointment as well as to joy, fulfillment, and an intensity of consciousness we did not know was possible before” (Rollo May). And, in that vein, this work of self-discovery is a process, a conscientious cultivation, a commitment to the questions (“Live the questions…,” as Rilke exhorts), and to believe, in spite of and because of everything, that something will come from all that is being asked of us. Again, something beautiful.

I would be lying if I said I don’t struggle with depression and discouragement, a sense of apathy when I allow myself the false entitlement of being owed something. I don’t believe we’re owed anything, but we are given everything. It’s just a matter of living out the process and creating ourselves with all the raw goods—stardust and earth and the Ruach of God.

What this might mean for my brand and vocational journey, I don’t quite know yet, and I’m trying to be okay with that. Such lessons have been the gifts of partnering in conversation with sages like Linda (my Professional Development Coach), David Hutchens (and his Leadership Story Deck) & now, Ashley. They have all been gifts beyond measure to my journey, and I’m grateful. I see beauty in them and have no words for the affirmations of beauty within myself that they have helped me see. (Thank you all…)

"There's only one thing in life, and that's the continual renewal of inspiration."

—Diana Vreeland

Peace,

Jordan

I am a Nashville-based nonprofit professional with experience across Human Services, Community Engagement, Hospitality, Development & Marketing. In tandem with this employment experience, I also hold a B.S. in Human & Organizational Development (with a concentration in Health & Human Services) & a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University. 

I bring the drive to take initiative, to solve problems collectively & efficiently, to continue pursuing lifelong learning, to embrace challenge & growth as an employee & person, to tell the story of organizations & stakeholders in honor of the Hero's Journey that lives in both of these narratives & to align myself with work that is both practically addressing social issues, as well as honoring the process of community formation in the process.

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanwalker89/

Giving thanks

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Several years ago my sister gave several of us a journal with a copy of the Joy Dare prompts from Ann Voskamp, because she had been blessed by the practice. At the time, this gift felt like a gauntlet instead. Though it sounded like something beneficial for the season I was in, I had not been journaling. My Enneagram 1 perfectionistic tendencies would have to wrestle with the days I forgot, which ended up being part of the blessing. I had been a hard year/several years, and I’m glad she had shared the practice. The gratitude of the Joy Dare helped me focus on the positives all around, and the residual blessings of the discipline were many: more contentment, more observation, and a new set of lenses for the day to day. The more we are grateful, the stronger our gratitude filter becomes, making it easier to see the good even when it is hiding or a challenge to find.

What are you thankful for this season? How do you make gratitude a regular part of life?

Perspective

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When I was living in China, I had the pleasure of serving and gathering with other foreign teachers who were there to be ambassadors for good. Though there are many wonderful elements of the Chinese culture - hospitality, food, sites - being in a culture so different from home can be a challenge. At the beginning of each year, the returning teachers would hold a type of cultural and professional orientation to pass down tips and tricks for adapting and thriving. One year in particular, I remember a colleague challenging us to be fascinated instead of frustrated. That charge has echoed in my head and proven useful many times over the years. It has proven useful most any time I’m out of my comfort zone and in the discouraged phase: re-entry to my home culture, learning an organization’s culture at a new job, adapting to married life and motherhood, to name a few of the big ones. Fascination over frustration is really a choice to choose a positive perspective that can lead to discovery and understanding instead of frustration that keeps one bogged down in what’s different or going poorly. In reality, I don’t always remember to use this set of lenses. When I do, it helps me put myself in someone else’s shoes, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the insight gained.

What is or can be fascinating you these days? What benefits are you seeing from this positive perspective?

Courage and community

Pleased to welcome another guest blog from Jordan today who is sharing with us about his vocational search process and the coaching process. It is an absolute pleasure to walk alongside him and cheer him on. He brings a lot to the table and demonstrates that well in the preparation he did for a recent job interview.

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Who are you not to be?

A Reflection on Courage & Community

by Jordan Walker

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God...” —Marianne Williamson

As I look back over my sessions with Linda, I think the prompt that stands out the most is when she asked me about limiting myself by only applying for jobs that I already knew how to do/already had been doing. That set off a chain of events, which resulted in a complete overhaul of my professional assets and how I wanted to start putting myself out there in the job search. I remember her saying (I believe in the same conversation), “As your coach, I believe you have unlimited potential.” In tandem with reframing this whole experience as “a journey, not a destination” (Linda, again), Linda’s greatest gift to me has been her unconditional positive regard for both me and my journey and, as I see it, nurturing me into exploring a more holistic and compassionate way of being with myself. For that, I am eternally grateful.

In our most recent coaching hour, I requested that she specifically help me in preparing for an upcoming interview. This ranged from exploring the best way to approach my skill set to how I speak and answer questions to how to let my own distinctive qualities shine through. At the close of the call, she told me, “I hear excitement and hope in your voice about this. That’s a significant difference from when we first spoke, and you said you felt as though you were just spinning your wheels.” Such an affirmation meant a lot to me as well, and I feel more prepared for this interview than any one before it.

“…Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone…” —Marianne Williamson

I also feel a need to thank David Hutchens , a speaker and author who has built a curriculum around Leadership and Creativity which has raised interest nationally and globally. David and I connected through my current role, and he generously agreed to meet with me to discuss his work and just offer some wisdom. I spoke to him about the personal and professional work I was doing and also discussed the upcoming interview; the next time I saw him, he gave a set of his Leadership Story Deck: a powerful tool that includes prompts and insights about ways to elaborate on one’s personal story and give concrete examples for the behavioral interview questions that have become standard in most interviews. I brought the deck with me to my session with Linda, and we unpacked the cards David specifically recommended for me, with Number 18 being my favorite—the content for this one focuses on one’s natural gifts and how that translates into professional skills.

Counting both David & Linda as those cheering me on from the stands, among the many other amazing souls that Higher Powers who have led me this far brought onto my “team,” I feel a depth of gratitude and a foundation of support for which I wouldn’t have even thought to ask for not that long ago.

Community is a gift—even if it’s a hard gift for an introvert to unwrap. It’s essential, and it helps awaken the courage that we all need to ask for more when we have been afraid to do so up to that point. I think, too, about Rollo May’s book The Courage to Create, a psychoanalytic study and meditations on the Creative Process; even as I near finishing it, I know it will be one of those works that has changed me on a fundamental level. As such, I intend to take his understanding of courage with me, not only into this interview but beyond…“Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundations that underlies and gives reality to all other virtue and personal values.”

The preceding text was written in anticipation of my interview. I’ll also be including a post-game wrap below…

I just completed my interview and overall have a sense of peace about the experience. From my own perspective, everything seemed to flow well. Nerves were to be expected, but I felt present and open to the conversation that happened. From there, I am just releasing the outcome, because I have to. Holding on so tightly hasn’t ever helped me get anywhere.

But again, I’m just grateful to know whatever happens I have a great team of people who are magnanimous enough to support me. That’s really all that matters. That, and the courage to keep going.

“…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  —Marianne Williamson

—Jordan

I am a Nashville-based nonprofit professional with experience across Human Services, Community Engagement, Hospitality, Development & Marketing. In tandem with this employment experience, I also hold a B.S. in Human & Organizational Development (with a concentration in Health & Human Services) & a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University. 

I bring the drive to take initiative, to solve problems collectively & efficiently, to continue pursuing lifelong learning, to embrace challenge & growth as an employee & person, to tell the story of organizations & stakeholders in honor of the Hero's Journey that lives in both of these narratives & to align myself with work that is both practically addressing social issues, as well as honoring the process of community formation in the process.

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanwalker89/

Humility

I am pleased to share another guest blog from Jordan today who is shining his light on growth as it is nurtured by his keen self-awareness, the Spirit’s nudges and the coaching process.

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Becoming humble and real

by Jordan Walker

“What humility does for one is it reminds us that there are people before me. I have already been paid for. And what I need to do is prepare myself so that I can pay for someone else who has yet to come but who may be here and needs me.” —Maya Angelou

“Because your heart was penitent and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words…and you have humbled yourself before me, and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you…” —2 Chronicles 34:27

“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” —Thomas Merton

“I think that there is a very close connection between humility and patience. Humility involves having the capacity to take a more confrontational stance, having the capacity to retaliate if you wish, yet deliberately deciding not to do so.” —His Holiness, The Dalai Lama

Of all the topics that I imagined might have come up during my session with Linda today, humility was admittedly a bit of a surprise—although not really upon some reflection. In the broader context, we were discussing my recent bout of discouragement and dispassion for the continuing job search and how I’ve been having a hard time maintaining resilience. Even Linda herself said that she could tell I was less optimistic than in previous sessions, yet, there was a positive turn in the sense of greater awareness around an on-going issue that I have carried.

Continuing to take myself aback, at one point in our session I answered Linda’s prompt about this issue of pride that I’d sensed coming up again in my life, particularly in terms of not wanting to ask a Higher Power (or anyone outside of myself) for continuing help or renewal in soldiering on, by quoting a verse I hadn’t thought about in years: “Humble yourselves before [God], and [God] will exalt you” (James 4:10).

This powerful statement eventually led me down the rabbit trail of collected thought regarding humility that I included before I started writing. I was also curious about the roots of the word itself; according to a quick Google search, the origins of the term aren’t terribly disarming, but one phrase stood out to me. In the context of Church Latin, the word humilis “literally (means) ‘on the ground,’” with a root word humus that means “earth.”

At various stages of our session, I referred to a sense of not being “grounded” or “anchored” in my questing, and now, I can see this unwillingness to simply be on the ground, a created creature close to the earth while reaching for the stars, has been a greater thorn in my side than I’d realized. The Merton quote above also feels quite pointed in this context. I think I’m afraid to be real—to really feel, touch, taste, smell, speak and hear. Life has felt safer in the confines of my imagination, a refuge for many children of unstable homes.

Quotes running amuck again, I can’t help but think of Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” 

While I listen to a recording of the book as I type this, it seems no coincidence that the rabbit being described as “quite earthy” after growing in use and connection with the boy who loved him concurrently. What gives me pause is the same question as the rabbit’s: “Does it hurt?”

I think it does, and for the last several years, hurt has been a familiar feeling, just as I also discussed the coping mechanisms needed for the tender-hearted with Linda today as well. A good deal of job searching is about rejection, and if I’m being fair, I’ve had my armor up as general practice, questing withstanding. I don’t take feedback well. I push back against authority. I am loath to ask for help. It’s just the vulnerability thing, and when that rears its head, “Petulance” is my first, middle and last name.

Having said all this, I don’t know what the answers to all the questions that came up today might even be close to being, as Linda said, “I’m hearing ‘journey’ here, not ‘destination.’” But feeling into the hurt and the process of becoming real seems to be the “lesson” I was trying to noodle out as the cause, or one of the causes, behind why my experiences have worked out the way they have this last bit.

And, so I pray and hope this journey—along with all the journeys it’s a part of—will do just that, make real and make me beautiful. In tandem with this, I would become more and more of the earth, humble and vulnerable to the processes of relationship and discovery. It’s hard, but it’s honest.

I’d rather have something honest and real, than false and affected.

Peace,

Jordan

---

I am a Nashville-based nonprofit professional with experience across Human Services, Community Engagement, Hospitality, Development & Marketing. In tandem with this employment experience, I also hold a B.S. in Human & Organizational Development (with a concentration in Health & Human Services) & a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University. 

I bring the drive to take initiative, to solve problems collectively & efficiently, to continue pursuing lifelong learning, to embrace challenge & growth as an employee & person, to tell the story of organizations & stakeholders in honor of the Hero's Journey that lives in both of these narratives & to align myself with work that is both practically addressing social issues, as well as honoring the process of community formation in the process.

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanwalker89/

Why not?

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Shanon, the friend I mentioned in “Do it afraid,” inspired me and others in many ways. He was caring, intelligent, and contagiously passionate. He enjoyed the moment immensely yet operated with the big picture in mind. When the opportunity arose, he chose the road less taken and left a stable, successful career for life-giving mission work overseas. As he prepared to go, he said something that still serves as a guide, “Instead of looking for reasons not to, I think we should be asking why not? It’s time to stop navel gazing.”

Though he did not get to stay long due a serious illness, he continued making life about something bigger than himself. While he was receiving treatment, he met and encouraged people in all areas of his life. Because he listened so well, he heard a recurring need for clean water and started The Living Water Project. Why not? Of the many problems in the world, he recognized this one as solvable. 18 years later, the effort he started has committed $1 million to clean water projects in 23 countries!

Since that conversation in 2000, the “why not paradigm” has led me to do many things I would naturally resist because I am drawn to peace, predictability and productivity. Shanon’s example inspired me to first move across country and then the world to live out my faith. Most recently, it encouraged me to find a way to add value to people through coaching despite my SC personality.

Where is the spirit nudging you to break out of your comfort zone? Why not take one small step today?

Be kind to yourself

I’m honored today to welcome another guest blog from Jordan who is partnering with ALTA to his ALTA.

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Ambitions to the highest good

by Jordan Walker

“We think highly of achievement. He’s a fine fellow—honorable, desirable, the perfect gentleman. But ambition is considered more of a tramp than a lady, a vixen rather than a virtue. If her passion and power aren’t creatively and constructively channeled, she could turn on the one who invoked her presence…” —Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

My first career coaching session with Linda gave me a lot to sit with. Of course, there’s the getting-to-know-you (re: The King & I) phase, and I still imagine there are many things that we’ll both discover about each other and out ourselves before all is said and done. While there are numerous takeaways from the conversation—or many, mini-conversations given how much ground we covered—I think what stands out to me, particularly in being framed by the Ban Breathnach’s quote that I read recently is about my own aspirations and desires to become more.

Linda and I identified major themes in terms of what I’m both looking for in a working environment and what I need to be able to bring into said space in order for the relationship to be fulfilling: transparency, mutual appreciation/valuing, and authenticity were among the top ones. In the midst of each of those themes and others, I felt myself really owning for the first time in a while (or maybe even ever to this degree) the fact that I want to be a leader myself.

“…Just as electricity can be life enhancing or destructive, so can ambition. What ambition needs is a new press agent. The only time we ever hear about her is when she’s blamed for somebody’s downfall…” —Ban Breathnach

On some level, I think I’ve been afraid to aspire and live into “greatness” (whatever that might mean) because there have been many abuses that have either happened to me or around by those who seemingly have more comfort with ambition than perhaps is merited. I’ve also held back because I was afraid I couldn’t be more that I was (self-confidence was another major theme of this first session). And, as I was reflecting on all these things, I was thinking, too, about what Audre Lorde wrote in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” (Sister Outsider, 1984) about the disconnect between superficial lusting and objectification of our sexualities and the real, lived truth of embodying our desires and the quest for their fulfillment:

“The erotic has been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation. For this reason, we have often turned away from the exploration and consideration of the erotic as a source of power and information, confusing it with the pornographic. But pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling. The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos and components of that need…”

In a similar, but different dimension, I think traditional narratives of ambition emphasize achievement without fulfillment, and, to be blunt, I want more than that. I want to feel connected to my work through greater connection and awareness of myself. The answers about who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to be doing come from inside myself, not from a job description that I desperately try to parrot because I feel like I have to take whatever is offered me.

That being said, there’s also a heavy degree of privilege in that statement; the vast majority of the world knows the taste of limitation and desperation that I likely may never. Linda and I discussed this as well—that in my present standing, I am able to search for a new job (my present vocational focus) with a degree of calm because I can at least afford to pay my bills with what I’m doing right now. Nevertheless, that is a degree of accountability I don’t want to lose, a fire to hold my feet to and take sincere advantage of; then, in practical and pertinent terms, I want to hold my own feet to the fire of authenticity and be myself in an upcoming job interview, because trying to be someone else in others has never worked.  

Returning to Lorde’s essay: “The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, one we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.” I personally would say I’ve never known real fulfillment in my (admittedly still emerging) vocational journey. This has caused a lot of misery on both sides of the relationships and many sullen days. On some level, I think the conversations I’m now having with Linda serve as a reminder from Greater Forces guiding me: It doesn’t have to be this way. You just have to be willing to try something new (or do familiar things in a new way).

With that, I close this section of the reflection in the pre-interview state. One of Linda’s great gifts during our first conversation was helping guide me through interview prep and even thinking questions I myself want to ask based on the values we identified as vital to me. So, I’ll be checking back in on this one and closing it out in a few days when I reflect on the interview as well…

“…But what if ambition is a gift of the Spirit? What if ambition is part of the authentic package, generously bestowed on us all when we were given our personal gifts? … What if we are supposed to be ambitious? What if our refusal to channel our ambitions to the highest good, the highest good of those we love and the rest of the world, is the real corruption of power?” —Ban Breathnach

Post-Interview

I can definitely say having Linda “with” me during the interview process was helpful; I could almost hear her voice reminding me, “Be confident in who you are. Be authentic. Ask the questions you have to ask.” She’s decidedly an upgrade on Jiminy Cricket, and the process went well. I’ll be on the second round of interviews after being moved forward, but I’m still so, so grateful to have more conversations with Linda ahead of me.

If I could say anything about what she’s offered so far, it’s the reminder to be as kind to yourself as you would be to anyone. There’s something to celebrate about all of us. We all bring distinctive gifts to the table. That reminder from Linda has been a bigger gift than I realized it could be.

Peace,

Jordan

 

Jordan Walker is a non-profit professional living in Nashville, TN. He holds both a B.S. in Health & Human Services and Women’s Studies and an M.Div from Vanderbilt University. His background includes Development/Fundraising, PR, Social Media, Hospitality/Community Engagement, and Website Development. Fun facts include that Jordan completed Yoga Teacher Training in 2013, learned how to cook from his Grandmother, and believes, in spite and because of it all, that many things happen because they are meant to (and vice versa).

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanwalker89/

Do it afraid

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I moved to this city almost 20 years ago and had many blessings through the logistics of getting settled. Old friends and family provided places to stay. I found work quickly through a temp agency and connections at that placement led to a career position. I also had the good fortune of meeting a man named Shanon pretty early on. He heard from a mutual friend that I was new to town and our fellowship of believers and called to invite me to a mid-week bible study. Despite such a kind gesture, I didn’t want to go. I was emotionally, mentally and physically tired from moving across the world, starting a new job and a big family issue. — Reverse culture shock is no joke. I’ll dive into that another day. — I retreated to my “shell” most evenings to refuel. As best I remember, I told him, “Thanks, but maybe another time.” Thankfully, He gave me the address anyway, and the Spirit nudged me to go. I really didn’t want to take another step out of my comfort zone, but I did want to form deep relationships. I logically knew staying in would not lead to those, and I realized invites would not keep coming if I continually refused them. In the end, I decided to do something I still have a hard time doing out of thanks for a stranger going out of his way to include me. I walked into a house full of strangers and met new people and found both a robust study of the Word and a new community.

Looking back, this positive outcome has helped me find courage and answer “yes” when I’m nervous about something. More often than not, the thing I worry about with the unknown not only doesn’t happen but instead leads to something wonderful. I now know the Spirit led me to “Do it afraid” as Paul Martinelli says.

What do you desire that requires getting out of your comfort zone? What is something you don’t feel ready to do even though it may lead to the very thing you desire? What past success can you pull from to give you the courage to do it afraid?

A vocational journey

Today I welcome a guest blog from someone I have the honor of serving in a coaching relationship. Jordan’s going to share with us from time to time about the coaching process from his perspective. Here he shares with us his thoughts prior to our first coaching conversation.

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“Live the questions”

by Jordan Walker

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

—Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

It’s probably just a terrible cliché for a young person to start a piece about the vocational journey (and those big girl/boy questions about life) with a Rilke quote, but what can you do? I’m reading LTAYP at present, and this whole “live the questions” deal seems to be some of the truer advice I’ve “received” about figuring things out—that is, if we ever really do.

Fortunately/Providentially, there are coaches and nice folks like Linda Zelnik, who feel called to walk alongside other folks in my kind of predicament. The story of how we connected is somewhat circuitous; I could offer some intro about three different types of clergy walking into a bar, but that seems gauche. In reality, we “met” through her desire to support Thistle Farms, a recovery community and social enterprise that serves women survivors of trafficking, addiction and prostitution. I work there in the Development Office and, true to form, have gone through a lot of personal transformations in my time attempting to be a grown-up for the full forty hours a week.

However, I still wouldn’t say I’ve gotten to my “distant day” that Rilke proffered his pupil over a hundred years ago as a goal for the journey. In short, I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up, but other, more adult-ish, folks around me say in very comforting aphorisms that there’s time. Nevertheless, I still feel all this pressure to figure it out and know at least something—“something” being knowledge beyond the fact that I would likely get queasy if I saw the sight of blood and that helping people seems to be the only really meaningful type of work one can do, in whatever forms that takes. So, Linda has kindly agreed to take me on, after some very kind email exchanges that began with me asking what could be possible between us, as a new coaching client for the next few weeks or so.

“May I be an isle for those who yearn for land, A lamp for those who long for light…”

The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara, Śāntideva (8th Century Buddhist Monk)

With that, I wouldn’t say I expect Linda to have all the answers (but she may very well); I suppose I’m just hoping for something a little more personal and impactful than the books/videos/webinars I’ve read/watched/participated on/in the topic that, while they offer great wisdom, don’t necessarily meet you where you exactly are…because they can’t.

Of course, on some level, I wonder if I do really “know” or feel who I am supposed to be in the world and am perhaps just a little too afraid to reach for it, or even ask the question, “It is possible?” (In anticipation of working together, all I can say is best of luck to you, Linda…)

However, in all seriousness, I’m just grateful for a new conversation partner and guide. There are many rivers, and they all flow into the ocean. It’s just a matter of getting there. Thus, I imagine Linda might have come along at just this time to help me with just that question, getting there.

Peace,

Jordan


Jordan Walker is a non-profit professional living in Nashville, TN. He holds both a B.S. in Health & Human Services and Women’s Studies and an M.Div from Vanderbilt University. His background includes Development/Fundraising, PR, Social Media, Hospitality/Community Engagement, and Website Development. Fun facts include that Jordan completed Yoga Teacher Training in 2013, learned how to cook from his Grandmother, and believes, in spite and because of it all, that many things happen because they are meant to (and vice versa).

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanwalker89/

What is ALTA?

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Activating the Limitless Thinking Advantage. I believe God created you with limitless potential and has the highest of intentions for your good. Please pause with that a moment: Limitless Potential. Sometimes people and circumstances have told us otherwise, but your innate potential is endless. Just as different positions on a mountain give us different perspectives of the journey, professional coaching helps you confront limiting beliefs (if present) and activate new thinking and behaviors to help you reach your goals and beyond.

The good news is, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” (George Eliot) When you are ready, I’d be happy to partner with you.

Welcome

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Many, many moons ago, I was a blogger before blogging was a thing. I shared musings on culture and life as a lao wai, professor, language learner, runner and traveler while teaching at a university in mainland China for several years. If I’d only known people would one day make a living blogging…

On this here blog, I will be writing from a similar perspective about various topics. Because of those formative years and many others out of my comfort zone, I look at most things through the lens of learning a new culture. I hope you’ll join me, your fellow traveler and learner, as you have time. It’s a precious resource, so my goal is to add value and support your ALTA with each post.

I’ll close this inaugural entry with one of my favorite quotes. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi was a remarkable human. There’s no doubt about it. He changed his world, and ours, by doing something counter cultural. But, we don’t have to be famous to make a difference. What one thing will you do today to create the change you want to see around you?