Episode 4:
The Power of No

   By Pon Angara & Patty Cooper    bc_headshot_patty

bc_bubble_pattyPon, I don’t know about you, but it’s very difficult for me to say no to people and opportunities especially now that I’ve started working for myself. I don’t want to upset anyone. I don’t want to miss out. I was approached by one of my former clients about a project that sounded like a good fit. It would be a 10-week assignment for a very high-profile event. Everything seemed to line up. I was going to be working with a client that I really enjoyed. I knew some of the people on the team. I jumped on a couple of conference calls to learn more about the details. Things were coming together and then I received the quote for the project. It was so low. I was in shock. My heart sank. My stomach churned. I felt heat start to creep through my nervous system. The room started to spin. I didn’t know what to do.

bc_bubble_ponPatty, I’ve had that same overwhelming sensation that seemed to stop the flow of blood in my veins and turned my brain cells to mush. Every time it happened was a moment of internal conflict. It was a sure sign that I was about to make a hard decision, enter into an uncomfortable situation, initiate a crucial conversation, or all of the above. What happened next?

bc_bubble_pattyI took a deep breath and asked myself a series of questions. What are my options? Can I go back and negotiate? Could I stand up and ask for what I’m worth? Yikes! All of it was yikes. Along with not liking to say no, I don’t often stand up for myself when it comes to asking for what I’m worth financially. This offer was just the opportunity I needed to learn that and to negotiate a better rate. I talked it through with my friends in the industry. They coached me through what to say and also brought up some points that hadn’t occurred to me. Like was this rate a 7-day rate or a 6-day rate? What were the other responsibilities that I could be assigned that were not in the scope of work? I’m so grateful for my friends. Including you, Pon! You’ve really helped me to figure out what my consultant rates should be.

bc_bubble_ponGlad I could help, Patty! Sometimes seeing the situation in dollars, numbers or some other exact measure helps to better define the problem. It becomes easier to compare your options and you feel more confident about your final decision. Having too many unknowns causes higher levels of mental and emotional stress. Managing stress is one of my priorities for this year and I’ve committed to joining a meditation group at least once a week. Stress will come at you from anywhere, at any time, and is almost entirely unavoidable. The only way to counter stress is by managing it. How did you manage this particular stress?

bc_bubble_pattyBefore my call, I did a short meditation to regulate my breath. I put my somatic practices in place to ground myself. I called my client and made my case. I drew a line in the sand at the rate I would accept. After 24 hours, they came back with the same offer. I asked myself another set of questions. If I say no, will I lose the client for good? Should I just suck it up and take the job? Am I making a mistake? Do I deserve what I’m worth? What will I do for work? I felt my shoulders tense, my stomach tighten. I wasn’t breathing. I realized my limiting thinking was making my body collapse. Then my questioning began to change. What if by saying no, I can say yes to something I really want to do? What if by saying no, I am actually creating space for new possibilities? What if by saying no, I am honoring myself and telling the world that I will not sacrifice my worth?

bc_bubble_ponRecalling our conversation in “Episode 2: What kind of instigator are you?” we explored the two sides of what it means to be an instigator: taking the initiative to either START or STOP. By saying no, you’re able to prevent your train from derailing. By saying no, you’re able to avoid a distraction from stealing your time and energy that would be better invested in a project that truly aligns with your passion and brings you joy. I realize this is easier said than done. I acknowledge that this is a process and a struggle that involves many deep internal dialogues with yourself. How did you handle that?

bc_bubble_pattyAfter a lot of reflection, I realized I was in the driver’s seat and have choices. I sent a very professional email thanking them for the opportunity and declining the offer. I felt a sense of relief after I pressed send. There is still some anxiety, but I did it. I said no. I’m really proud that I stood up for myself.

bc_bubble_ponI, too, am very proud of you, Patty! You got through this challenge characterized primarily by you in conflict with yourself, which at times can be the most difficult.

bc_bubble_pattyI wonder if I would have had the same issues about all of this if I was a guy. Would it be easier for me to say no if I wasn’t a person of color?

bc_bubble_ponWe each have stories that define who we are and influence our decisions, therefore directing our actions. The beauty of your internal narrative is that you are its protagonist and author, both at the same time. You can write and rewrite your story. You can direct yourself and how you move through your plot. What defines you, Patty? Is it by being not a guy? Or a person of color? Or is it something else? Or is it many things? How will you forge meaning from this experience to help build your identity?

bc_bubble_pattyThe meaning I have forged from this experience is that I have the power to choose regardless of my gender or cultural background. I can START or STOP at any time. I don’t have control over what the other party thinks or does. This experience made me think about our instigator quest of actively creating our lives. I learned this week that consciously creating my path means there will be times when I will have to say no. I’ll keep you posted with the next yes opportunity.

 

Pon Angara is the Principal at Barkada Circle®, using story to help nonprofit organizations manifest their missions and build their community of support.

Patty Cooper is a Storyteller, Certified Newfield Ontological Coach and Consultant.

Episode 3: I’m awesome! Now, what?

diablog_2019FEB_Episode3

   By Pon Angara & Patty Cooper    bc_headshot_patty

bc_bubble_ponPatty, the recent passing of Karl Lagerfeld made me think about what kind of instigator he was. Always creating. Always looking forward to what’s possible. If I were to make an intelligent guess, I would say Mr. Lagerfeld achieved personal and professional success by performing at his peak until his last days.

bc_bubble_pattyI read he was working until the very end. He was such a creative force. Seven years ago, I was lucky enough to visit the Fendi Palazzo in Rome. We got a tour of the Atelier where I saw his sketches for upcoming seasons, as well as, his desk. It was a mess – stacked high with books, illustrations, notes and doodles, that made me really happy because it looked like my desk! They say the sign of genius is a messy desk.

bc_bubble_ponOh, how I wish I could let the mess on my desk take its natural course. But running my own business has forced me to organize and prioritize everything. I have to manage my calendar and make lists and file folders. Then, as they say, when in Rome… I imagine Mr. Lagerfeld’s desk was a treasure trove of spectacular possibilities that go beyond fashion.

bc_bubble_pattyI think he was really good at working with the core DNA of the brands he helmed by looking to the past and reinterpreting those codes for what’s happening now and for the future. Chanel has to look like Chanel after all!

bc_bubble_ponSpeaking of designing for the future, I recently read StrengthsFinder 2.0 by The Gallup Organization based on the 34 talent themes identified by Don Clifton, father of strengths psychology. I’m willing to bet that if Mr. Lagerfeld had taken the strengths assessment survey, his signature themes report would have described him as a dreamer who had visions of what could be – someone who possessed the Futuristic talent theme. I took the assessment survey and after reviewing my signature themes report, I felt reassured.The results aligned with what I perceived to be the talents that have led to my successes. On the flip side, the report also raised a few questions in my head around the themes that didn’t show up as my strengths.

bc_bubble_pattyI took the assessment survey too! Like you, I wasn’t surprised by my top five results. I’m curious to see how the other 34 stack up. Which strength is my least strength? Do I categorize those at the bottom as weaknesses? Do I give them any attention or do I chalk it up to that’s just not who I am?

bc_bubble_ponI’ve asked those same questions myself! I realize that giving attention to my strengths vs. weaknesses will have to be a process where the pendulum will be constantly swinging between one and the other. I must nurture my strengths AND address my weaknesses in ways that won’t diminish my self-confidence. Maybe this is what collaboration is about ⎯seeking the talents of others who possess the strengths I lack, so together we become greater than the sum of us.

bc_bubble_pattyI like the StrengthsFinder’s philosophy of nurturing and strengthening our strengths. It’s important to know what we do well. I always say we often don’t give ourselves credit for things that come naturally to us. When things are easy, we think that everyone can do them because we can. It’s not true, our strengths make us unique. I did bristle a bit when I read the quote in the book, ‘You cannot be anything you want to be – but you can be a lot more of who you already are.’ I get that we should focus on building up what we’ve got, but this quote went in opposition to one of my top strengths which is the Learner. I love learning new things.

bc_bubble_ponI’m with you there, Patty! That quote didn’t sit well with me either. I’ve always believed that we have to get out of our comfort zone in order to grow and reach our full potential. Largely, that involves learning to stretch our minds and gain new perspectives. Patty, what else makes you unique?

bc_bubble_pattyI cheer for the underdog who can do something and become something that seemed impossible. It’s inspiring! Realistically at this point in my life, I’m probably not going to be an astronaut, too much math and who wants to eat freeze dried food, but I want the option to dream that I can be and push myself in that direction if I choose to even if it seems like a waste of time to someone else. What is your number one strength, Pon?

bc_bubble_ponAccording to the assessment, my top strength is Connectedness. I believe that things are linked together for a purpose. I am sensitive to how one person’s thoughts can affect others. This prompts me to pay close attention to what individuals and groups think and do. I’m often the one who helps people understand how they are linked across time, distance, race, ethnicity, religion, economic levels, languages, or cultures. I make it possible for individuals to work together and I aim to break down barriers that separate them. How about you, Patty?

bc_bubble_pattyConnectedness is definitely you, Pon! My number one strength is Empathy. I am keenly aware of people’s feelings, needs and thoughts. It allows me to see things from other perspectives and really listen. I find that people confide in me which makes me feel great. Within every strength, of course, is a shadow. Too much empathy can lead to feelings of overwhelm and burnout. I constantly have to remind myself of that to stay balanced. Balance is the key to really utilizing our strengths. The CliftonStregths survey says we’re awesome. How do we utilize our stregths to instigate and take action?

bc_bubble_ponI think we must first decide who we want to be and how we want to contribute to the world. I look at these strength themes in the same way I view super powers of comic book heroes. They are most valuable and create the best outcomes only with a clear sense of purpose. Otherwise, if applied in a wrong context, power may wreak havoc instead. My purpose gives meaning to my abilities and teaches others how they can change their lives. At TED2014, Andrew Solomon, author and professor of clinical psychology, shared his mantra: “Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world.”

Pon Angara is the Principal at Barkada Circle®, using story to help nonprofit organizations manifest their missions and build their community of support.

Patty Cooper is a Storyteller, Certified Newfield Ontological Coach and Consultant.

Resources:
Discover Your CliftonStrengths, StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup and Tom Rath
Forge meaning, build identity: Andrew Soloman Ted2014

Episode 2: What kind of instigator are you?

   By Pon Angara & Patty Cooper    bc_headshot_patty

My contract ended, Pon.  

bc_bubble_pon   I’m sorry to hear, Patty. Are you ok? Anything I can do to help?

It’s all good. The practices that I put in place at the beginning of the year to alleviate anxiety really helped me to stay grounded and allowed me to choose to end my time at the company with gratitude. In my closing conversations with leadership, we left the door open for future projects. As I drove away with the belongings from my desk, I felt energized and excited.

With this pause for possibilities, I thought about our 2019 instigating mission. Pon, you asked a really juicy question in our last conversation, “What kind of instigator are you?” It’s such a great question!

bc_bubble_ponIt’s a question we should be asking ourselves every day. There’s this internal conversation going on as I sip my morning coffee about how my actions and words define who I am today. What does this day’s accomplishments mean for myself and for the people receiving the products of my actions? What do I say to them?

That’s a great mindful practice, Pon. In ontological coaching, we focus on three areas of exploration when working with a client – the body, emotions and language to help us and the client understand how they see the world. The language we use creates the reality we live in. Words are powerful. The definitions of the words we choose are shaped by so many factors including culture, age, gender, religion, socio-economic status, etc.

bc_bubble_ponBecause of the visceral effect words have on humans, those with a specific agenda can use language to trigger emotions that motivate people to react in a certain way.

Take a word like “Wall.” It’s a really charged word right now. I can guarantee you that you will get a different response if you ask what this word means to a family who could be losing their land for said wall, or a family on the other side who is seeking refuge, or a government worker who was affected by the shutdown, or a Parisian reading the news at a cafe. “Mon dieu, why are zeez Americans so obsessed wiz a wall?” Everyone sees and experiences the world differently. No one is having the same experience.

bc_bubble_ponOur experiences, our aspirations and our worldview determine how we forge meaning into our language. Words get their power from the meaning they carry. Words get their meaning from the stories that people attach to them. In order to change what a word means to a group of people, we must first attach it to a new story. Changing the context leads to a change in their perception.

Yes, changing the context is key. Getting back to the word “instigate,” how can we effectively instigate, if we haven’t defined and envisioned what that means for ourselves. When I think of instigators, I think of super go getters. Someone who is doing and creating all the time like Karl Lagerfeld. He is the head designer for two of the most iconic fashion brands, Chanel and Fendi. He shoots all the campaigns, designs his own label, collaborates with other artists, etc. Do you know that his cat, Choupette, has her own line of accessories that makes millions a year. And I think, that’s not me. I’m no instigator. Not just because I’m not a cat, but I feel like I don’t have the energy, the gumption, the tenacity for the mountain of creative output that man and cat put out. Ok, let’s put aside my jealousy for Choupette, and that I shouldn’t be comparing myself to Karl Lagerfeld or anyone. My definition of instigating is exhausting. I need a nap and a new definition! Tell me, Pon, what does instigator mean to you?

bc_bubble_ponI’ve recently learned that the word “instigator” has two faces.

Patty, I too had a contract that was ended a few days ago. At the start of the project, the client gave me what seemed to be parameters and objectives. As we progressed, they began to pull me in multiple directions which gave me the sinking feeling that they, in reality, didn’t know what they wanted in the first place. We had gone well beyond the initial scope when I learned that they had been changing direction based on the opinions of others who didn’t belong to the original group of decision makers. At that point, I decided to pull the cord on the emergency brakes to avoid letting this project derail. I asked the client for a conversation to get clarity on where we were going with all this. As soon as I did that, they asked me to leave the train.

I’ve always thought of an instigator as someone who initiates. What just happened to me made me realize that as an instigator, I can take the initiative to either START something or STOP it – two sides of the same coin. Either way, I create an opportunity to pivot. In changing my direction, I see a new path ahead of me, a new destination, while taking with me some new insight from the teaching moment I’m leaving behind.

Like you, I was able to keep the door open for future collaborations and I moved on energized, but mostly relieved!

An instigator can start and stop – I love that you said that and followed your intuition. Tell me what kind of instigator have you observed yourself to be? Where does that fire come from to take charge?

bc_bubble_ponI love creating from nothing. It’s actually more than love. It’s who I am. I live and breathe it. Making the invisible, visible. Making what wasn’t, be. As a storytelling artist, I begin with what our human senses can take in and make these the building blocks of something that people can see, hear, and feel. Something that has a story they can experience, learn from and share. Something that connects people mentally, socially, physically, and on other levels.

How about you, Patty? As an instigator, who are you?

When I knew my contract was ending, I took a look at job sites like Indeed and immediately felt drained and overwhelmed. My whole body collapsed and I heard a strong internal No. Searching job sites is not how I’m going to find the next opportunity. It’s not who I am. I love talking with people and hearing their stories. I’ve always been this way. All my report cards said, “Patty is a good student, but she talks to others too much and distracts them from their work.” Hey, teach, I was networking! It’s a highly coveted soft skill!

My new definition of instigator will have a strong foundation in community and be very team oriented. I love connecting with others and connecting others. Time and time again, I find solutions, insight and possibility for collaboration in conversation. It energizes me. My body completely comes alive. I sit up taller, I lean in with interest, I can’t stop smiling. That’s the type of instigator I am and it works for me.

bc_bubble_ponI love it! You and I are both connectors, but in different ways and through different paths. Similar, but different. Definitely complementary which is why we decided to co-create this diablog. In our next conversation, I look forward to getting the scoop on your new discoveries for sparking connection, exploring collaboration, and building community.

 

Pon Angara is the Principal at Barkada Circle®, using story to help nonprofit organizations manifest their missions and build their community of support.

Patty Cooper is a Storyteller, Certified Newfield Ontological Coach and Consultant.

Resources:

Episode 1: Epilogue

diablog_lores

Got together with my dear, long-time friend, Patty Cooper, for tea at The Grind Cafe in Lincoln Square just before NYE. She was visiting family for the holidays and we wanted to catch up before she flew back to LA. Patty is a guru on emotional intelligence. She has many valuable insights on the sensitivities of human behavior and how it’s influenced by the culture that surrounds it.

As we sipped tea and shared a Bennison’s almond croissant, we discussed how 2018 was a challenging year for both of us on many levels. We expressed our common struggle with the need to feel anchored in a clearly and neatly defined purpose. A plethora of options have crossed each of our paths and we’ve somewhat been able to sort through them to determine what were opportunities vs. distractions. The aha moment was realizing that we’ve been waiting to see what showed up in front of us instead of actively creating our reality.

We came away from that conversation promising to be instigators in 2019. This will require us to be rooted in our own creativity and to trust our intuition. We also agreed that we wanted to keep the conversation going so that we could support each other and track our progress. What better way to instigate our lives and continue the dialog, than by collaborating on what we’ve named the “the diablog.”

Folks, it is my distinct pleasure to introduce Patty Cooper.

That was a delicious croissant, Pon! I always love our meetings. At the end of 2018, I was feeling a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. One way that I anchor is through thoughtful conversation. Over tea, we talked about the need to get back to basics and the idea of becoming instigators in our own lives.

I have been very lucky that jobs have come very easily to me. I’ve always gotten work through friends and colleagues. By saying “yes” to opportunities, I’ve been on some pretty amazing adventures from New York, Europe, Chicago, Los Angeles to Russia.

I’m currently a contractor at a large entertainment company. It’s been a lot of fun with a great team and a lot of support from upper management. A year ago, the company started the process of a huge acquisition. At the end of 2018, I was told that my position might get eliminated. I immediately went into survival-panic-fear mode. I spent so many hours asking myself what am I going to do now??? And getting back nada in return. The not knowing really paralyzed me. I couldn’t sleep, I wasn’t present with friends. I was stuck in “I don’t know.”

There are two things that I’ve taken into practice since our talk that has helped me to alleviate my anxiety as I sort things out. When I am feeling discomfort or waves of anxiety in my body, I ask myself – What if this is actually a ripple of change that is coming from my future life? What if it’s an emotional vibration from the oncoming change that I just can’t see yet. My energetic field is adjusting and it feels strange and uncomfortable. As I adjust and take steps and make choices, the change will materialize.

The other idea that has helped me through this stressful time thinking whether or not I will have a role in the company is that I have told myself the decision has already been made and I am invited to participate in it. For some reason, that has almost completely alleviated my anxiety. It has allowed me to go to the office and focus on doing the same excellent work as I have been. It has also allowed space in my thinking to be open to new possibilities. I realize I have choices and I can be the one seeking out my next experience. By changing my narrative about change and the anxiety of the unknown, two friends have sent over links to jobs that might be a next great fit. I have let something go to make room for something else.

I’ll keep you posted with how it all unfolds.

Patty, I love how you’ve realized that you can actively seek out your next experience, and that making choices that are right for you is your way of accepting and riding this approaching new wave. Co-authoring the diablog couldn’t have happened at a better time. As you know, I follow Seth Godin’s blog to guide my decision making. I hang on his every word to make sense of this owning-my-own-business thing. On January 12, his post seemed to speak directly to you and me, and I quote it here.

“The instigator: In The Wizard of Oz, we meet a powerful heroine. Dorothy is resolute, focused and honest.
A generous partner, leading her friends to where they seek to go. ‘C’mon, let’s go,’ is a great sentence,
worth using more often. It doesn’t require a permit,
a badge or a degree. It’s simply the work of someone who cares enough to lead, at least right now.
And right now is enough.” – Seth Godin

In between bites of croissant, we said we wanted to be resolute, focused and honest in our conversations. In between sips of tea, we shared the same desire to lead others because we cared enough to change our world.

So c’mon, Patty! As you embrace the wave of change coming to your life, will you join me on this journey to lead others who care enough to create change?

As Dorothy said, “C’mon, let’s go.” because right now is enough. Looking forward to the next diablog, Pon.

Where Are You in the Story Cycle?

Think back to elementary school when your teacher showed your science class a diagram that explained how water took various forms in a never ending loop. The illustration below might seem familiar, but what’s wrong with it?
I think this version of the water cycle is missing one critical player — You. Human impact on the environment has evolved enough to drastically change the story of water. But that’s a whole different subject. I want to focus instead on positive transformation.

One blog post from Seth Godin talks
about demand – should you harvest or create?
According to Mr. Godin:

“You don’t need to persuade everyone that you have a great idea, you merely need to persuade one person. And then make it easy for that person to share.”

Key word: Share. How can your new evangelist do that? Only if you give them a story they can easily understand, be passionate about and spread. Only if they can easily make it their own. It’s still your story but in a different form that their audience (hopefully to become yours) can relate to. As your story continues to be retold, it reaches a different audience – like water taking the next step in the cycle and taking on a new form.

The difference between your story cycle and that of water is that it stays essentially the same: two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. On the other hand, your organization has the opportunity for real transformation with every turn in your cycle, becoming more relevant and more in sync with your growing community as their stories feed back to you and yours to them. There is one element that must be present throughout – trust. It’s what keeps the cycle going.

And it all starts with one person and your story.

Learn more about how we can help you transform your organization through story.