An Encouragement Will Be Delivered To You Today

An encouragement will be delivered to you today.

One that you need. One that will make a difference. One that will give you a fresh sense of hope, or peace, or meaning, or something else that will make a quiet impression on you.

It will be a gift.

It may be a smile, or a wave, or a bird landing close by you. It may be a momentary breeze, or the smell of something in the air that reminds you of a special place, or time, or person in your life.

It may be the opportunity to extend a kindness to someone, and seeing them receive it with a look in their eyes that will let you know that it mattered to them.

It may be the small gift of a small moment.

And when you receive that small gift of that small moment, you may realize that small moments of blessing have been fluttering through your day, all day long, everywhere you are.

You will be encouraged with those small gifts in small moments because you are worth it, and each of them will speak, or smile, or pass by as a small reminder of that unstoppable truth about you.

Somehow you will know, at some level inside of you, that each of them is for you.

An encouragement will be delivered to you today.

It will be a gift.

And you are worth it.


Two lists you should look at every morning

Two lists you should look at every morning

I get a lot out of Peter Bregman’s work – his Harvard Business Review posts are always excellent, and this is one of his best. A copy of his book, 18 Minutes, recently arrived, and I am looking forward it!

Margin, Part 3: Iz gives Tina some time to breathe

Tina took a deep breath, and leaned back from the table.

She smiled. Smiling felt very good. She felt good, too. Realizing that made her smile even more. It felt nice to not have to force it, and it felt nice to have had someone like Iz listen to her story of what she had been going through, too.

Iz laughed, and said, “It looks like you found some of what you were looking for a little while ago when you were standing in line at the counter!”

“What?” Tina asked, laughing a little as she thought about it. “My mind? I can’t believe I did that! Saying it out loud – so out loud! “Where did I lose it?” Then all of those people starting looking around for it, trying not to step on it? Whatever it is.”

“Margin,” Iz said. “It’s called margin. And you just found some, right here.”

Tina looked a little puzzled. “What? Margin? Where?” They both laughed as she looked all around and under the table in a pretty good imitation of the puzzled people who were in line with her.

Iz extended her hand toward Tina, and held her thumb and index finger about an inch apart. “Space,” she said. “Margin is just a little space. Like when you took that deep breath a few moments ago.”

Tina nodded for her to go on.

“When your breathing is rushed,” Iz continued, “its almost like not breathing at all. With no rest between breaths, no margin, just breathing in and out as fast as you can, you feel like you can’t catch your breath, like you’re going to pass out. And sometimes people do.”

“We need margin in between the things in our lives. Sometimes even a small amount is enough, just like the small amount of margin that we have when we’re breathing easily and peacefully.”

“When we are breathing without margin between breaths, we are hyperventilating. That can get very uncomfortable, very fast.”

“If you realized you were hyperventilating what would you do, Tina?”

Tina answered quickly and instinctively. “I would tell myself to slow down, and breathe a little more deeply and slowly. I would do that until I started to feel OK again.”

“Perfect!” Iz responded. “And I’m guessing that as soon as you started to breathe with a natural, relaxed rhythm again, you would keep doing it.”

Tina nodded.

“So you’re telling me that you wouldn’t use hyperventilating as a technique to squeeze in absolutely as much breathing as you possibly could cram into a day?” Iz asked, with a slight tilt of her head, smiling.

“No!” Tina replied. She had a pretty good idea that this breathing thing was going somewhere. She just wasn’t sure where yet.

“Good,” said Iz, leaning in. “Because that’s the same reason that cramming as much stuff as we can into a day – overfilling it with as many appointments, phone calls, emails, meetings, going to the gym, driving between all of it, and a whole lot of other important things – without any margin in between isn’t a good plan, either.”

“Hyperventilating our breathing, and hyperfilling our days: both have the same effect. They keep us exhausted.”

“I’m definitely getting what Iz is saying,” Tina thought as she nodded her head affirmatively. “Now, can I really do it?”

Iz stretched her arms over her head, brought them back down to the table, and smiled at Tina.

“I have to get back to work now,” she said. “Thanks for trusting me and telling me about what’s been going on inside.  It has been an honor for me, and I believe that you’re at the beginning of creating some real margin in your life, too. Try it out, just a little, and then let’s get back together again next week. I want to hear how things went for you!”

“Wait,” Tina said, tapping her watch. “You still have five minutes left on your 30 minute break! Why are you going back now?”

Iz just tilted her head and looked back at Tina.

“Wha . . . ?” Tina started to say, then went on: “OK. I got it. At least I think I’ve got it. Margin, right? But you’re only 15 feet away! Why five minutes? I know you’re not that slow!”

Smiling as she gathered up their coffee mugs and stood up from the table, Iz responded, “Sure, its only 15 feet. That five minutes gives me a little space and time to transition back to work without rushing back. Part of the fun for me working here is when we get a rush of people, even an extended rush, and all of us respond together and serve everyone in a way that still amazes me. That’s also why its important to have this margin in between. Its kind of like stretching a little before its time to run again.”

“You’d be surprised what a little lift it gives the next person who’s waiting to go on their 30 minute break, too, when they see the person that’s relieving them coming back even a little bit early. That’s one of the great things about margin. When you have enough, it turns out that you have enough to give some away, and that always feels good. My shift leaders and managers don’t seem to mind that I do that, either!”

Tina sat at their table and watched as Iz walked across the floor, around the counter and put her apron back on, tying it unhurriedly as she stepped behind the register. Tina also smiled a little as she spotted one of Iz’s coworkers taking a quick look at his watch, then saying thank you to Iz as he walked past her on his way to his 30 minute break.

“Such a small thing,” Tina thought, “and so easy to miss.”

So easy to spot, too, when you know how to recognize it. And Tina was beginning to.

Tina gathered up her things and was ready to head home. She looked up at Iz, and saw that Iz was already looking at her, and smiling.

Iz lifted up her hand and held her thumb and index finger an inch apart. Tina nodded, held up her hand with her thumb and index finger an inch apart too, then turned and walked with her usual very brisk pace to the door.

She open the door and was about to step outside when she saw someone walking across the parking lot like he had all the time in the world to do it. Surprising herself, Tina stopped and held the door open for him, even though he was still several steps away.

The man looked up and noticed her standing there, holding the door and waiting for him. He gave her a big smile as he picked up his pace a little and said, “Thank you so much! Have a wonderful night!” as he walked though the door and into the coffee shop.

“Less than 30 seconds,” she thought.

Tina realized again that she was still smiling and breathing easily, like she had since she began talking to Iz.

She let the door go, and it closed quietly behind her.

Next: Tina and her appointment calendar spend some quality time.

There is something uniquely beautiful that is ready to emerge through your life today

I am quietly letting you know that there is something uniquely beautiful that is ready to emerge through your life today. It is more powerful that anything that is threatening to hold you back, or maybe already is holding you back – difficulties at your workplace, physical challenges, painful personal situations, all manner of discouragements and setbacks that seek to overshadow and envelope you.

When that unique beautiful thing emerges from you, you will be at a point of intersection with someone who may have not seen or felt or heard beauty in a long time.

They will feel the unique beauty of a simple kindness that you extend to them, without any expectation of getting anything in return from them.

They will hear the unique beauty of your words of genuine appreciation, and they may begin to believe that they are a person who has done something worth recognizing.

They will see the unique beauty of you focusing completely on them for a few moments, in contrast to everyone else who has made them feel invisible as they looked past them, rushed by them, not even seeing them.

The invisible will feel visible.

The discouraged will experience kindness.

The labeled and those put in confining boxes will feel empowered to begin to shake off the limitations imposed on them by those who do not value them.

And a small spark of the unique beauty that is within them will begin to glow.

And that may become a beauty so unique, so undeniable, so free in its simplicity that their lives will be changed because you have let the unique beauty that is within you come out of you and rest upon those around you.

There is something uniquely beautiful that is ready to emerge through your life today.

And you, and those whose lives you intersect, will be different because of it.

Thank you for letting it emerge.

Thank you for giving it away.

Thank you for being free.



Margin, Part 2: Tina runs out

Let’s call her . . . Tina. She isn’t really real,  although everything she goes through in this post is. And maybe what’s real for Tina is real for you, too.

Tina is bright, has produced some exceptional work, some of it work that she actually dreamed she would be doing some day. And she did it, and did it well. Right up until the time she couldn’t do it anymore.

Tina has been ignoring margin.

Margin exists at the edges of things. It is the space between things that enables us to differentiate between one thing, one person, one appointment, one day and the next one.

Margin isn’t often valued because we don’t get paid for creating space. Tina gets paid for creating the stuff that fills space. Projects, appointments, meetings, emails, phone calls. The more space she can fill, the better it looks on paper and on her paycheck. And the more praise she got from management.

For a while.

Because when we value filling space, we can easy value overfilling space. If full is good, shouldn’t overfull be great?

Tina is too honest to just look busy. She wants to actually be busy, and produce, and fill, and overfill, and she does. Until whatever it is she’s been overproducing begins to spill over into other things she needs to do or even has to do.

Overproducing leads to other things that begin with “over.” Overthinking. Overtime. Overworked. Overstressed.

And then she begins to produce less remarkable stuff. It’s subtle at first. No one else really notices it, because it is still very good work, well above average. So she puts in more hours. And produces even less that is remarkable, then less that is excellent, then less that is great, then less that is even good.

Management calls Tina in and has “the talk” with her about how her work just seems to be missing something that it used to have. So she gets encouraged to work harder, concentrate harder, focus harder, commit harder . . . and she does.

Because Tina has been one of the best producers in the company, everyone thinks that the “something” that she’s missing is something that she can find inside herself again. She thinks that’s it, too. What else could it be?

So she looks. She looks hard. The harder she looks, the more bothered, then frustrated, then scared she becomes.

How did she lose “it?”

She keeps what she’s feeling to herself. Who could she tell? The manager, who gave her “the talk?” Coworkers? She was already feeling awkward around them. Even though she wasn’t a complainer, this really hurt.

On the way home that day, she was standing in line at her favorite coffee shop. Like every day recently, she couldn’t help searching her mind for whatever it was the she was missing – and she didn’t even know what to call it.

As she told me the story later, she was two people back from the front of the line when, without realizing it until after she had already said it, she lifted up her head and said out loud, “Where did I lose it?”

The people in line in front of and in back of her were startled at first, then immediately started looking around, moving their feet to see if they were standing on anything, and then they all looked up at her.

In a much quieter voice, she smiled and said, “I’m sorry! I was just thinking out loud. There’s nothing for you to find.” After she said it, she hoped it wasn’t really true.

Tina ordered her coffee, went over to the end of the bar as the barista made it, and enjoyed watching the way that the shots of espresso flowed into the coffee cup, and how the soy milk sounded as it was steamed. She was a little surprised how the shapes in the foam on top of her drink reminded her of looking up at the clouds floating across the sky when she was a little girl. She even caught herself smiling in an unforced way for the first time that day. It felt good, too.

The next thing she heard was the barista saying, with an unmistakable smile in her voice “Tina? Is there anything else you’d like?”

Tina looked up, a little embarrassed, because she realized she had been standing there and daydreaming for a while, staring and imagining at the shapes in the foam. Then she noticed that the barista was Isabella, someone she had become friendly with over the months that she had been coming to that coffee shop. She also realized that Iz (which is what Isabella asked every one to call her) was one of the main reasons that she liked coming there.

It was a busy coffee shop – very busy – and one of the first things she noticed about Iz was the way that she seemed to be able to go with the rhythms of the busyness as they presented themselves, high-speed or uncharacteristically slow like it was now. She found herself admiring the way Iz was able to shake off even the occasional very rude comments that customers who were having a bad day and felt the need to take it on someone, even someone who was as undeserving of them as Iz was.

Tina looked up at Iz, smiling, and said, “I’m sorry. I just don’t know what’s going on with me. It seems like a while since I’ve known.”

Tina surprised herself that she said that, but before she could apologize, Iz exclaimed, “Now that sounds interesting! I’m coming up on my my 30 minute dinner break. Mind if I join you? I’d like to hear about it.”

Iz walked to the end of the counter, removed and folded her apron, asked one of the other baristas to please make her a decaf, and gestured for Tina to join her at a quiet table.

Tina joined her, thankful for someone safe to tell her story to.

It turned out to be a very helpful conversation – even more than she had hoped it would.

Next post: Tina begins to discover margin.

Margin: the undervalued source of greater effectiveness


The easiest way to recognize what it is and what its like to have it is from recognizing what it feels like to not have enough of it.

That school bus that you’re stuck behind,  stopping and starting as it picks up children as you’re coming out of your neighborhood isn’t making you late. Lack of margin is.

The annoyingly rude person driving just over the speed limit in front of you when you finally get to the freeway, isn’t making you late. Lack of margin is.

The red face you get from those people with too much time on their hands, standing in line ahead of you, asking what’s in the coffee drinks that you already know by heart, who just don’t have the common decency to come in the middle of the day instead of holding up everyone else like you, who has a real life, and things to do? Yeah. They aren’t making you late, either. Lack of margin is.

In the illusion of productivity we pack our schedules until they are overflowing.

Too often, the first thing we say to someone when we meet them is, “I’m sorry I’m late, but . . . ”

It’s. Not. Working.

The cup of coffee in the picture is a quad espresso with three Splendas with some soy milk steamed and foamed in. It was great.

Margin gave it to me. Margin and $2.90.

I had it after my ophthalmologist appointment, with my pupils dilated wide enough that I’m pretty sure I could have seen the United States flag that the Apollo crew planted on the moon. And it was daytime. I was wearing one of those plastic sheets that drop in behind your regular glasses, and make you look like an Angry Birds character. And because I had built in 20 minutes of margin into my schedule between the end of that appointment and when I had to be at the next one, I was able to talk to the barista as he artfully made my drink, sit at the counter and actually drink it without chugging it, and take a picture of it with my phone because I was thinking about writing this post.

It was pretty great, and so was the rest of the day.

In the next post, you will meet Tina, and read the first part of her story about margin. Here’s hoping you have enough margin to read it and think about it, and put some of it into play.

Today is the day

Today is the day that I connect with people in ways that bring more meaning to their lives.

Today is the day that I step into fresh opportunities of living in the moment with passion, focus and joy.

Today is the day that I will be free from another artificial limitation, and help free others from theirs.

Today is the day that I see in fresh ways that the horizon of opportunity is 360 degrees, and make a new move towards it.

Today is that day.