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BLOG: What's On Martha's Mind?

BLOG: What's On Martha's Mind?

Here is a list of recent blog articles.

What's With the GOP?

What's With the GOP?

7/26/2016 12:00:00 AM EDT
2 months ago

Once there was a time when Republicans felt obligated to debate issues on their merits – back in the 1970s and before.

Then along comes Ronald Reagan: “Government isn’t the solution to our problems, government IS The Problem.”

Translation: “Once people believe Government is always Bad, Republicans won’t have to debate issues on their merits any more.”

What a sweet value proposition!

Then Newt Gingrich gave the party another push away from civic sanity. He handed out a “good adjectives” list to be used in praising conservatives. And a “bad adjectives” list to be used in slandering liberals. Non-stop slander became the GOP’s new normal.

And now to complete the GOP’s degradation we have Trump.

“Make America Grate!”



Coaching and the Work You Are Here on Earth To Do

Coaching and the Work You Are Here on Earth To Do

12/10/2015 12:00:00 AM EST
10 months ago

With my executive coaching clients I like to ask the double click-through questions. It's not exactly about the next job or the management challenge or the work-life stress. It's about what's going on in the background.

  • What is your work?
  • What is important to you?
  • How does this time of your life differ from, say, ten years ago?
  • What art/music/expression seems to reach inside you tap your soul (not just your emotions.)?
  • Where do your thoughts wander when you are at rest?


People recognize the value of this but in embarrassment or awkwardness we have taken these questions and pre-packaged them a bit too much. Hence, we often hear glib talk about my passion. I hear people casually chatting this way at the coffee shop!

While I'm being a little snarky and I do prefer to downgrade the sanctimony, this is truly the conversation to have. What are the drivers in your life and are they the right ones?

I like coaching sessions, which create a considered and gated place to talk into and through these questions. Then we can get into the roll-up-the-sleeves problem solving work.

All this is a privilege for me. It's wonderful work. Hence, when I put the same question to myself, my answer is that I am driven to use my skills to help people ask the best questions of themselves.

Coaching: Working In and On Your Career

Coaching: Working In and On Your Career

12/9/2015 12:00:00 AM EST
10 months ago

An executive coaching session can go in many directions. One person is fixated with getting her resume perfectly positioned. Another is stunned by job success and suddenly not sure what is real and what is dumb luck. One person spent 90% of the conversation narrating a blow-by-blow tenure process as if academic politics would temper themselves behind his indignation.

Each person is on a unique course of bumps and straight-aways. And, the dignity and humor that can emerge is wonderful to witness.

The common thread for me in conversations with clients is the notion of being personally strategic -- making choices with the right set of perspectives. I think of it as "working in and on" yourself. While we apply our expertise, manage our bills, collaborate with colleagues, and maintain our schedules we are working in our careers -- doing the business at hand. At the same time, we need to see patterns, recognize our habits, understand the context, and hold a finger up to the winds that are blowing around us. That is to work on our careers. 

We don't make good decisions if we only think in one of the two dimensions. We must deliberately work at both: the particular and the contextual; the daily beast and the larger passion and purpose in us.

Coaching is often a rare moment of working on. It is the chance to step away and understand the point of it all. Particularly for women, but also for men, the coaching session is a breather, an hour of setting the IPhone aside, putting away the To-Do List, and asking what it all means.  

Coaching with the Help of Language

Coaching with the Help of Language

12/8/2015 12:00:00 AM EST
10 months ago

Executive coaching is a privilege. Even in the short time I have been formally coaching people, I have been graced with people's trust -- and wonderful individual stories and glimmers of humanism.

Each session is a gem. When I listen to the language people use to describe themselves or their situation, I already have more than enough material to discuss for the hour. We all reveal a great deal in our manner of talking. It takes little more than my pointing out a word, phrase, or theme to open up some angle on an issue. When I do that, we often find new colors, sparkles, and flashes of insight.

One client constantly employs geometric language:  spirals, boxes, lines. What's that about? Another uses spiritual language and struggles to fit into the resume boxes of a job search. One is constantly talking about speed, pacing, or "wicked fast," and his impatience is exhausting him.

And more. 

I believe deeply that people have much that is already available to them to solve their problems or set up better personal strategies. However, they become trapped in their self-descriptions and frameworks. Language can hint at that and makes for a fresh and even exciting set of possibilities.

Speed Writing

Speed Writing

12/2/2015 12:00:00 AM EST
10 months ago

NaNoWriMo is over. That's National Novel Writing Month during which aspiring authors get online and log their word count every day in the hopes of sprinting to 50,000 before December 1.

I tried and got to 15,000+. More importantly I sorted out the plot, which is a sequel to my first novel, In Our Midst. It involves an ensemble of characters and two parallel plot lines. Complicated.

What's it like to write so fast?

First, there is nothing like being tied to the computer. Even if the words I type don't make sense, the point is that I am sitting at the keyboard and should inspiration show up, I'm there. It doesn't help to have ideas in the shower because I can't hang on to all of them. 

Second, it clears the brain. When I write fiction there are many plots paths, metaphors, scenes, bits of dialogue floating around in my head. Getting them out is huge. When I can get them written down, I can trust the ideas aren't lost. Then I am more likely to have some calm and open space in my mind for new and often better ideas to appear. It's like meditating -- writing fast releases the busy-ness of my thoughts.

Third, it teaches me to edit, cut, and whack. Writing for volume means I am doing just that and many of the words and sentences -- hell, whole pages -- are junk. I am prepared to prune almost as soon as I write and that's a very good thing. Good writing is all about good editing.

And more. But, I'm not volume writing this blog so I'll stop here at 290 words and encourage any aspiring author to give it a try next year.  

Windy Day

Windy Day

11/20/2015 12:00:00 AM EST
11 months ago

Being Presbyterian, we enjoy one Sunday every November by dressing up in our tartans and inviting bagpipes to play. Amazing Grace. We tell the children about how the Scots - back when - secretly wore their banned tartans and once a year would defiantly bring them to church to have them blessed.

Great stuff: protest, wind, heritage. 

It seemed only fitting that this Kirkin-of-the-Tartans Sunday we also announced a "Buying Wind Together" project to encourage congregational households to sign on to wind power. I did an unashamed plug for Groundswell -- the D.C. non-profit that has negotiated group contracts so that wind is cheaper than if one buys it individually. Such organizations are helping people find a financially sensible route to clean energy.

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided.

It was a windy Sunday.

Scrap the Crap

Scrap the Crap

11/19/2015 12:00:00 AM EST
11 months ago

I have always been on the sideline in local politics. My family signs petitions, goes to rallies, writes letters. My father-in-law was in politics; my father was active and was a delegate to national party nominating conventions.

I, however, have always been shy of such activity. I hold my cards closer. I also had no time and energy for it, given the complexity of The. Rest. Of. My Life.

Yesterday, I stepped it up a bit and spoke at a little rally at the Maryland State House. It was fun -- local folks raising concerns about the Maryland state standards for clean energy. Currently the calculation includes allowing energy that comes from incinerating various waste such as chicken "litter". Sounds to me like a delicate -- or actually clunky - balance between the industrial chicken farm business and environmentalists. We have both in Maryland.

I liked the whole experience:  having some fun, using puns and ballsy slogans, laying out ideas that are not marquee short and Republicandebate simplistic. Clapping.

I recommend such effort. It's a process. It's important. And it is a terrific community of people who get off the couch and try.



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