Finding Your “X”

Aisalynn Ballerina

I proudly watched my three year old niece, Alina, perform in her first ballet recital. She did a good job executing the steps, although at times she scampered around as if in search of something.  Later, her mother explained what caused the confusion. Apparently Alina was looking for her “X.” The teacher assigned each child a color coded X as a home base. The dancers were to return to the assigned X at designated points in the performance.

Understanding the dilemma, I could relate. It is not always easy to find your place, whether it be in the school auditorium or the world’s stage. Without a plan to guide you, life can be baffling. At times we spin our wheels trying to find the right path. In other instances, we remain happy in a comfortable situation until unexpectedly life throws you a curve ball and shifts. Suddenly we are no longer in that perfect place.

In baseball, a curve ball is a pitch thrown with a characteristic grip causing the ball to dive downward just as it reaches the plate. This pitch often finds the batter swinging at air.

Baseball through broken glass window.

Sound familiar? Do you ever feel like that prized pitch just passes you by and you go down swinging? It happens. Adversity strikes and when it does, how should we regroup? Here are some strategies. Begin by:

  • Accept that life is full of surprises. Change is imminent. No matter how diligent and proactive we are, eventually life throws us a dreaded curve ball making it necessary to change course.
  • Know that your comfort zone will continually be challenged. At times you’ll get knocked off balance or maybe find some other kid standing on your X. Acknowledge the change. It happened. You cannot un-pitch a ball.
  • Spend some analyzing how the occurrence will impact your life. It’s time to take a breath rethink and regroup.
  • Become a list maker. It helps to problem solve on paper. Take a step back and view the situation from a broad perspective. Let your creative juices flow and capture your ideas in writing.
  • Next, put down your pen or save the document on your computer and take a break. Go for a walk, hit the gym or head out to your favorite coffee shop.
  • Once you have cleared your head with another activity, return to your list. Analyze your ideas and rank them accordingly. Which strategies seem the most viable?
  • Time to call for support. Invite a mentor, coach or trusted friend to review your work. It is possible your confidant will see an angle you missed and offer up a solution that did not occur to you.
  • Decide on a strategy and create an action plan by breaking down tasks into bite size pieces. You might be setting off in a direction that seems completely foreign to you. Relax, often making a left turn is the right thing to do.
  • Practice resilience. We are wired with built in survival mechanisms. It may take some deep down digging, but in tenuous situations find the sweet spot that propels you in a new direction.
  • Remain optimistic. There is always something positive to be gained.
  • Lastly, have a little faith. Believe in yourself. When your X becomes hidden, gets usurped or is obliterated by the curve ball, do not give up.

Our tiny ballerina Alina stayed the course until she found her home base.  Although lost for a moment, she recovered. And so can you.

Sometimes You Just Feel Like a Hotdog

 Grilled hot dog

As we meandered in and out of casinos on the Las Vegas strip, I suddenly realized I was famished. About that time we were in Caesar’s Palace, so I suggested we head over to the Mesa Grill, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay. My mouth began to water when I started thinking about some of his famous Southwestern cuisine. Unfortunately, my taste buds were in for a disappointment. We were too late for lunch, and too early for dinner. Knowing my stomach would not hold out much longer, I spotted a food court and went off in search of something healthy while my husband selected an all-American vendor who served up hot dogs, hamburgers and beer.

I snagged a table as my husband approached with a burger and ice cold beer. Taking his seat, John related a story about a man in front of him placing his order. Apparently, the server identified him as the chef of a local high-end restaurant. She was delighted to have him at her food stand, but puzzled and politely inquired why he was not eating at his establishment. The chef shrugged his shoulders and replied with a smile, “Sometimes you just feel like a hot dog.”

I love that story because it smacks of simplicity. Keeping it simple is definitely a good option. We have a tendency to over complicate our lives. For example, do you break out in a cold sweat when you cannot find your phone? We do derive benefits from our high tech toys, however, we should not be “on call” 24/7 unless we work in an industry that mandates it. It is perfectly acceptable to “unplug” and withdraw from all communication modes and enjoy some tranquility.

Simplifying life is not just about buying less and managing down time. Are you a slave to your social calendar? Do you say “yes” to every invitation? Do you feel obligated to spend time with people when you’d rather be home reading a great novel? Understand this…”no” is a good word. If jazz is not your preference and the gang is off to hear some band jamming Coltrane’s work, politely opt out. If your friend, Nina Negativity, wants to bend your ear for hours about all the drama in her life, find a way to distance yourself.

And finally, if throwing gourmet dinner parties for your friends causes stress and involves spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen, simplify the menu, or suggest a pot luck. If all else fails, just serve up some hot dogs with a dollop of mustard and lots of love.

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Everything I Know I Learned from Listening to the Radio

Beach bag

I recently learned the true definition of a memoir. Manuscripts categorized in that genre must be based on a “life changing” event. The definition prompted me to search my soul. What major experience changed my life? While tripping down memory lane, I honed in on a habit that set the stage for living my “Life on the Sunny Side.”

Early in my career we moved to south Florida. Happily fleeing the brutal Michigan winters I chucked my windshield scraper and traded snow boots for flip flops, balmy ocean breezes and days dripping with bright sunshine. Jobs were plentiful in the technology sector. Our newly adopted city, Boca Raton means “mouth of the rat,” but for me life was a beach.

In addition to a home with a pool, a promising future in human resources and the Atlantic shoreline down the road, I tumbled head over heels in love with another area feature… a local radio station.  No, it wasn’t rock, cool jazz or country. In fact, the station did not play music. To my sheer delight I could tune into motivational radio 24/7. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen became my heroes before they published the “Chicken Soup” series. Brian Tracey, Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar graced my personal top ten list mesmerizing me with their wisdom. At every opportunity I listened in as my personal mentors encouraged me to work hard, take risks, and maximize my potential.

Learning to set career goals, and increase my motivation I discovered possibilities in any given situation. These pros taught me the art of time management and how to boost my productivity. My college education paled in comparison to what I derived from such positive role models.

By applying lessons learned, my career gained momentum and I scored an exciting promotion and relocation to northern California. Before I could catch my breath, I was unpacking boxes in the Golden State scanning the broadcasting waves for the Silicon Valley version of motivational radio. Sadly, such programming was severely lacking. My solution was to load my home, car and office with motivational CD’s. To this day, I continue to fill my personal air space with my old favorites and a new generation of motivational masters.

Life changing events may not always strike like a thunderbolt spinning you into another dimension. Perhaps it is not one single explosive moment that turns the tide. I am living proof that sometimes life can change by simply flipping on the radio.


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