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Montana Adventure

September 4, 2016

Amanda and I are currently on a trip through Montana and Wyoming.  These are some of my favorite pictures so far!


IMG_2397 IMG_2278 IMG_2253 IMG_2233 IMG_2229

Energy Management, Productivity, Time Management, Uncategorized

How to create more time in your day

June 29, 2014

So what gets in the way of spending time on things that raise our energy? A few months ago I wrote a post about embracing minimalism related to a recent move and what “stuff” I reduced in my life.  This is something I am also applying to other areas of my life.  It made me think about what I need to do less of to create more space.  Or what habits I needed to form to keep things in order with less clutter.

Here are some new things I am trying that are making a huge difference:

I reduced the number initiatives I was trying to do at work.  I have a tendency to try and do everything and sometimes it can sacrifice quality.  Now I am being rigorous about focusing on clients, companies and the type of work that I really enjoy.

I was able to hire a part-time assistant to help outsource things like scheduling appointments.

I also got a cleaning lady.  At first, I was like is this really necessary? I mean I do have a labrador that thinks he can just drop his hair all over the floor…And this hair never seems to stop growing :). But I decided that if it takes two professional people 2 hours to clean my place twice a month than it would probably take me at least double that.  So it is worth it to spend a little extra to free up what I equate to 10-12 hrs a month. Sometimes you can look at what you can give up to make something like this work. For example with AppleTV, Netflix, etc. I don’t have the need for cable.

I strive to keep my email Inbox at zero. It doesn’t always get there but I file things away after I read them or put articles/videos into a file if I can’t read them right away. I realized that I had several “read later” and “task folders” on top of my task system which made things loose and created confusion.

I started using the dishwasher less. I came across another blog called Zen Habits that inspired me to put everything away after I use it. I used to just run the dishwasher when it was full. Then all the dishes would sit for days because I didn’t want to unload it. So now I just use a few things and then wash and put them away immediately. No more piles of dishes drying.

With all the extra clothes I used to have, I didn’t do laundry for several weeks sometimes and would have 3-4 loads pile up. Then my clean clothes would pile up or the dryer would be come my dresser :). Now when I use a few towels to clean Brooks I wash them right away. I do a small load every week and it is so much easier. With less clothes, it forces me to stay on top of things more.

I am someone who really enjoys the mornings, so I stopped wasting time on the internet at night and am getting to bed earlier.  A few days a week I am getting to bed at 9:30pm, so I can get up at 4:30am.  The first few hours of my day are the quietest, and I am by far the most productive during that time.

For me what seems to work is to keep looking at where my time goes and determine what is satisfying and what is less satisfying.  I try to either outsource, ask for help, organize or stop doing the things that wear me out to help create time for what I really want to do. It is a constant work in progress.

So as you start your week, what is one thing you can try doing or stop doing that may create more time for yourself? Have some fun with it and let me know how it goes.

Leadership, Uncategorized

Leading, Lifting and Inspiring: A Message to Educators

May 18, 2014

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week in Charlotte. Below is a message I wrote to all the teachers and principals I have worked with this past year.

In high school, I was going through a pretty tough time and was thinking about dropping out of a special program I was in.  I will never forget the day that changed it all for me.  I was in history class and making a joke about a question in front of the class.  My teacher, John Burton, looked at me with a puzzled stare.  I was once again not taking his class seriously, and Mr. Burton wasn’t going to let that happen.  He let me know I had more potential in me that I wasn’t seeing.  He took a stand for me.

I was inspired that day to get to work and in the process I developed a real love of history.  It was the first subject I really excelled at in high school.  I ended up staying in the program because of his inspiration.  I am not sure where I would be without him.

As educators, each of you have created thousands of stories like this for your students.  You get up each day even when you are tired, and bring love and care to your students.  You inspire kids to do amazing things and allow them to create their own life.  You lift kids out of difficult circumstances and disrupt generations of poverty.  Because of you, our community and our world is a better place.

Your commitment to making a difference is profound.  And is just downright inspirational.  I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you do.  But most importantly for the person are and what you bring to work everyday.  I appreciate YOU.  Have a great weekend.

Energy Management, Leadership, Presence of Mind, Productivity, Uncategorized

Embracing Minimalism

March 30, 2014

I had stuff everywhere. Every shelf was full, closet was packed, furniture in every corner and I found six travel toothpastes. If there was a bit of white space on the wall, I put something up on it. In the course of a recent move, I realized I had way too much stuff and way too much clutter.

I didn’t really notice this until I was inspired after reading a fantastic blog about Minimalism. Two guys named Joshua Fields and Ryan Nicodemus tell the story about getting rid of unneeded possessions and demoralizing jobs to free up space for a more meaningful, fulfilling life. The posts on this blog are like brain candy, and I couldn’t read enough of them.

The minimalist movement is fascinating to me with some people living with less than 100 things. Not sure I will go that far, but the concept of reducing the number of things in life that weigh us down has produced some amazing results for me.

What is kind of funny is that I moved from 700 sq ft to 880 sq ft, however I probably got rid of a 1/3-1/2 of my stuff. Here are some of the things I did to experiment:

1.  I reduced the amount of furniture in my living space to keep things more open with less clutter.

2.  I gave away over half of my clothes and shoes away to Goodwill. I only kept 10 button ups instead of 20. I realized I mainly only really wore about 5-6 pairs of pants, so I got rid of a bunch. I just have my favorite shoes and clothes now. I only keep one suit and two sport coats out and put the rest in storage to see if I really needed them. I realized that someone else could probably use a lot of the stuff I wasn’t wearing as much.


3.  I gave about half of my kitchen stuff away. I only kept the things out I use all the time. I realized I had four wine openers, 8 serving platters, etc. all of which I barely used. One of the concepts I love that Joshua and Ryan talk about is the 20/20 rule. Don’t hold on to anything that you don’t regularly use that you can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes.

4.  I only put my favorite things up on the walls. I resisted the urge to fill up all the space.

5.  I went from probably 50 spices in the kitchen to 11. I had spices I hadn’t used in years and it was distracting when I only really use a few of them. If I need them for a recipe, I will just go get them again.

6.  I am now almost entireless paperless with my files and use Evernote and Box for all my files. This allows my office to essentially be anywhere I sit with my laptop, so I don’t need a separate office/desk area now.

Here is what I am noticing so far about embracing my own version of minimalism:

I feel like I have more time for myself.  This is my first blog post since November.

The clean physical space creates a sense of freedom, and I feel more creative and energized when I work from home.

I am spending less money because I am not worried about buying anything that isn’t essential. Now I spend my money on things that really add value or I enjoy.

I spend less time looking for things or organizing.

I am spending more time with good friends and doing my favorite things like doing a Madabolic workout or hitting up Atherton Mill Market and Luna’s Living Kitchen.  It was actually a friend of mind at Madabolic who first posted the article on Minimalism that inspired me. I generally just feel lighter and happier.

I definitely laugh at myself more about some of what I used to hold on to. I no longer keep trinkets from conferences :).

I have been applying these ideas to other areas of my life and plan to share those in the near future. Until then, I didn’t want to clutter up this post :).

So as you look around at your space and the things you own, what could you let go of? What is getting in the way of more freedom, productivity and being able to spend time on the things that matter to you?

So my challenge for you this week is to see where you can embrace your own version of minimalism. Experiment with works for you and see what you notice.

Energy Management, Exercise, Gym, Leadership, Presence of Mind, Productivity, Uncategorized

Is exercise the access to greater performance?

November 3, 2013

A few months ago, I noticed I was starting to slack on some of my workouts. I had been running but not really putting the time in for some of my workouts at the gym. I would try to squeeze in 10 minutes here and 20 minutes there and always validated reasons to cut it short. Did I really have time for a whole hour????

However, this all changed when I joined a gym called Elite Wellness with a trainer named Jason Boudrie who puts together some amazing group interval workouts. After the workouts, I immediately noticed I was more focused and my energy levels were through the roof into the afternoon.

On one particular day when I did a really tough workout, one of my colleagues said my some of my work was the best she had seen in several months. I could tell my heart rate was up more than ever during Jason’s workouts. And lately, I have I started doing some fantastic group interval classes at Madabolic. Not only is it a great workout, but I leave feeling refreshed by the sense of community and comraderie.

What I have noticed over the past few months is that I am able to get difficult tasks done quicker and with better outcomes than usual. My concentration levels and general sense of well-being and aliveness have been great.

box jumps

What I experienced is that making my exercise a priority is the access to greater performance. A noted Harvard Medical School professor and brain science expert named Dr. John Ratey outlined these ideas in a fascinating book called “Spark.” Dr Ratey’s research showed that “the real reason we feel so good when we get our blood pumping (through exercise) is that it makes the brain function at its best…building muscles and conditioning the heart and lungs are essentially side effects…the point of exercise is to build and condition the brain.” This has some interesting implications for leaders that want to tap into greater creativity and innovation in themselves and others.

Dr. Ratey’s research also showed how organizations can produce powerful results when their culture is built around wellness. A school district in Naperville, IL started educating students on a healthy lifestyle versus just getting them to play sports. At some schools they started using heart rate monitors to make sure students did some hard physical activity before their most difficult class. This was all designed to make sure the brain was ready for their most challenging tasks of the day. In 1999, Naperville district students scored first in the world in science on the Trends in Mathematical and Science Study (TIMSS) and 6th in Math.  By comparison, the rest of U.S. students ranked 18th and 19th respectively.

Unfortunately, many times our exercise is the first thing we drop when life gets busy or we just try to “fit in a few minutes” like I was doing. What could this be costing us with the performance of our organizations and our overall well-being? I know I feel like a new person every time I leave a great workout. It isn’t always easy to commit an hour to exercise, but the results are too strong for me to ignore. As Dr. Ratey points out, exercise is huge catalyst for greater performance and can also take us to the next level with our happiness, satisfaction and energy. Instead of trying to fit in exercise, what if our lives and organizations were built around when we exercise?


This was also posted on the blog for The Center for Intentional Leadership


Leadership, Presence of Mind, Uncategorized

What Exhilarating Hills Do We Pass Up?

June 2, 2013

“This is crazy, I can’t expect to do this…this isn’t for me.” I muttered this a couple weeks ago as I looked over another giant hill on my mountain bike and decided not to ride down it.  As I held down my brakes, my mind was convinced that there is a certain type of hill I am able to ride down and this clearly was not one of them.


( This is just the path and I promise the hill was much steeper then this 🙂 )

As I walked down the hill I took a moment to reflect and had a brief flash of insight. I had really just created a story about what was and was not possible – out of thin air. I realized that the belief that I couldn’t make it down that steep hill was completely made up.So I decided to test it. I decided to go down another hill just like it (and several more) and the ride was one of the most exhilarating I can remember. When I was done, I spent a little time thinking about what I would have missed if I had given in to the voice in my head.  Luckily, on that day I was able to pause and see that I was getting in my own way.  So without pausing from time to time, how do you and I know what is really possible for ourselves especially in our personal and professional life? If things are good for you now, what would make them great? What exhilarating hills are you passing up and not realizing it?

We will be exploring these ideas and more at our next course at The Center for Intentional Leadership on June 24-25. Contact me at if you want more information.  Enjoy your week.

Diversity, Leadership, Uncategorized

The Human Spirit at Work

April 21, 2013

I received an incredible email this past week that showed me the power of the human spirit. I have been doing some work at a local high school to help student leaders create change and bring unity to the student body. Below is an email I got from one of them about the actions she is taking to cause this to happen.  Sometimes it just takes intentional actions like this to create a ripple effect of compassion. I was completely blown away by #2 and names are changed to keep their information confidential.

1) I want to give a compliment to someone everyday, because its important for a person to feel great about themselves so that they are able to have a positive mind throughout the day! It builds someones confidence and its just a caring detail!

2) My second goal is to call Sammie! He is someone that I have reached out to because I felt that he had no friends! He is blind and I felt that he is missing out on having a friendship in high school! He may have people around him sometimes but I want to be a person that he can call a friend and connect with! I have been so busy that I have not had the chance to contact him! 

Absolutely amazing.  Have a great week.

Leadership, Uncategorized

Writing my own core values

April 1, 2013

So what matters most to me? Well during my recent personal retreat back in January, I came up with my own core values. I wanted to have something that guided my everyday actions similar to how organizations identify their own values.

1. Be guided by purpose

I defined my purpose as to help people embrace and expand their best and most authentic self. It helps me connect to something larger than myself. It gets me back on track when my ego or that “need to be right” feeling creeps in.

2. Love, sense and serve

This is one of the most important values. When it comes down to it for me, coming from a place of love is all I really need to do. And what I mean by sensing is pausing to really listen to what people tell me they need. Not what I think they need. And then be of service. Both to people and to my community.

3. Be a well-being 

Taking care of myself physically and mentally with exercise and nutrition is so important. My grandfather really inspired me when I watched him live such a healthy, full life. Being healthy allows me to be better for others. This also means resting and taking plenty of time to re-charge when I need to. It means being careful about over-scheduling myself and being ok saying “no.” And it means taking time to write, do things that re-create me or relax and do nothing.

4. Be the message

I know the impact I want to make will really be a reflection of my actions. Am I living in a way that everything and everyone matters? Are my actions aligning with my word? What are the messages people get from the way I live my life?

5. Learn and live in abundance

I sure know I will never have it all figured out. This is why I love reading and learning new things. And learning more about myself everyday and uncovering new blind spots. This also means living with the idea that I have everything I need. When time and resources feel scarce to me, I don’t appreciate what I have and can have the mentality of “if I only had this…” I really have everything I need both with my talents and resources. And to be abundance with them.

6. Bring full self to every moment

This means being real, authentic, passionate and just appreciating who I am. I know I am an unusual cat, but I embrace that. I may have some pretty questionable dance moves at times, but I will still carve up the dance floor. And most importantly, I won’t let moods guide my behavior. Most of the time I am not dying to go for a run at 6am on a cold morning. But when I am done, I feel incredible.

7. Take it slow and be present

This reminds me that sometimes I just need to slow down not be in such a rush. And be comfortable letting things unfold instead of forcing them or being too eager. And sometimes I can be impatient with things like my career growth, etc. So this reminds me to focus on enjoying the small moments and the journey. And to be “all-in” when I do something and not side-tracked with distractions. Which is why I am meditating more so I can practice presence and focus. What is counterintuitive is that slowing down and being present is what allows me to go fast and be more productive.

8. Everything and everyone matters

I never want people to feel “less than” because of how I act. Each person I work with and come into contact with really matters. My environment and the nature around me matters. How I take care of my condo matters. Sometime it is the little details that make the biggest difference for me.

9. Be fun and versatile

I love having some fun and making people laugh. Sometimes I laugh at my own jokes even before I start to tell them. And this reminds me that life really isn’t that serious. It is serious and it is not. And versatile means to be flexible and not have any rules that may limit my ability to enjoy life. And the versatility to have different skills/gears to serve what the situation needs.

Hope you enjoyed them. I actually let this sit for a couple months to see if they really covered every idea that was important to me. I tried to focus on 5-7 but ended up adding a few of them recently to fill in some gaps. I sure had a lot of fun writing and reflecting on these. Now you just have to keep me accountable to them :).

So what are your most important values? I would love to hear from you. Happy Easter to you and your family.


Culture, Leadership, Uncategorized

Sharing her Passion with the Market

March 4, 2013

Below is an interview with Lynn Caldwell who is the market manager at Atherton Mill Market.  It is another one in my “Follow your Passion” series. Lynn gave a few of us bloggers in town a private market tour last fall. She is an extraordinary person that is making a huge difference in Charlotte. Hope you enjoy.


Lynn, thanks so much for talking with me for my series called “Follow your Passion.”  So tell us all a little bit more about what you do at the Atherton Market.

Hi Jon.  I do a little bit of everything at the market. I was originally engaged to vision it, and do vendor recruitment as well as manage day-to-day operations, but my role  has evolved to encompass community building around the market, consumer education, and engaging other businesses and organizations in Charlotte in partnerships and shared efforts.  I want the market to become a hub – not just for shopping and meeting tangible human needs but for creating connections between people.  I truly believe that people want to be connected to each other in real ways and because of something meaningful.  People want something to believe in, and that something ties them together.  I spend a great deal of time listening.  Sometimes it is interesting and sometimes it is not, and I’m sure the people who listen to me feel the same way.  I am grateful for them, and for those who want to share some piece of their life – their passions or their dreams or their talent – with me and the market.

lynn caldwell headshot

How did you identify this as a potential career path?  What were you doing before you started this venture and why did you make the change?

Ha – if I tried to map my career journey it would only make sense to me, but I can truly say that what I am doing now draws from everything else I’ve done.  I started on the restaurant scene in the late 80s, getting experience in the front and the back of the house.  Let’s just say I have a short attention span and also like to explore every potential role when I am part of an organization.  I left there to work for a company that does Human Resources support, and gained experience in accounting, training, and software support.  I then went to work for one of our members – Microsoft.  I was there for 9 years, both here and in Redmond.  In the Northwest I came to appreciate good coffee and farmers markets.  In my 9 years at Microsoft I did everything from support to user education to building an Office Developer community to marketing.  I left to be a Mom, though I stayed on as a contractor for the press group working from home.  I got tired of technology, and in a signature-Lynn move did a 180 and accepted an invitation to apprentice to an urban farmer running a CSA off of a half acre in Plaza Midwood.  I learned a lot, but farming was clearly not my thing.  However, in the many hours spent hoeing (there’s a joke there somewhere) and weeding, I began to hatch a plan with the farmer to start an urban tailgate market.  I fortuitously attended a seminar in Fletcher, NC where I met Nina Planck, who continues to be my “muse” in regard to markets and “real food.”  We had our first market on the little piece of green beside the Common Market in PM and that is where my market journey began.  We operated two seasons there, two in South End until the tent from hell collapsed, and then an opportunity emerged to take my passion indoors at Atherton Mill and pull all of my skills together to do this thing.


I always hear people talking about the importance of not being afraid to fail.  The idea that sometimes when you follow your passion or make a big change, there is no way of knowing how it will turn out when you start.  How did you handle those thoughts?  Did you have to take some risks along the way and was it hard to make the change knowing you were leaving a secure job?

There were many times in those first days in Plaza Midwood when I was sure people were laughing at me, not that I much cared.  Days when no vendors showed up, or worse, no customers.  I got more “nos” than affirmations when trying to establish partnerships. But I dug deep and decided to rely on my passion for writing to try and get beyond the early hurdles that sometimes felt insurmountable.  I was fortunate to have a supporting and loving partner who was gainfully employed, and willing to let me try this.

I don’t do a lot of second guessing.  I decide what I’m going to do and I find a way to do it.  It doesn’t always work, and I’m learning when to back off.  But in this case writing made the difference.  I started a blog and got on my soap box.  I got a few fans who were connected with what the market needed to grow.  And I spent a great deal of time meeting farmers, getting my head around their issues, and taking a stand for them in a very public way.  I still do a lot of that, for farmers and artisans who are creating products with integrity.  I’ve upset some apple carts, but I am not afraid of change, taking a chance, or taking risks.  Nothing worthwhile happens without that, whether it is an individual effort or a team.

I love hearing when people find a career that brings them real purpose.  When I came by to visit you I remember you talking about your vision for the vendors you have at the market. That it really meant a lot for you to provide a place for their businesses to succeed and thrive. Can you talk more about this idea and why it is important to you?

I admire people who inspire me with their passion and aren’t afraid of hard work.  Those are minimal requirements for any farmer or business who is bound for success.  I have also spent the last handful of years immersed in educating myself about the importance of local food and building the local economy – most consumers aren’t aware that the infrastructure of big ag is crumbling.  We need to have systems and resources in place at the local level to be ready to meet the inevitable demand.   Sourcing from local small businesses will no longer be a luxury, it will be a necessity to survive.   That is not chicken little.  That is inevitable.   We’re planning for the future.

How have you felt both personally and professionally about doing something you love since you started at Atherton Mill Market?  How did it all turn out for you now that you have been there for almost 3 years?

We’ve been open since May of 2010.  Personally it has been a rollercoaster – riding the highs of the good times and confronting the challenges.  Experiencing a great deal of frustration in figuring out the Charlotte consumer mindset and attaching to their priorities, and maybe changing them a little.  Meeting people where they are and embracing them (figuratively speaking and sometimes literally… I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with hugs).  I have grown so much as a person.  Learning to lead, guide, listen, building our tribe.  Letting the spirit of the market whisper to us what is next.  I have an idea of where we are headed, but I try to maintain enough flexibility to change as it becomes necessary.  We’ve come a long way, which is easy to forget when I’m there, in it every day.  We have a long way to go and grow, and I hope you’ll come along with us on the journey.



Any advice to readers out there contemplating a career change?

Don’t be afraid to follow your heart.  Maybe try it as a side gig first, and maybe that will be enough, but life is too short to spend the majority of it slogging along down a path that drains the life juice out of you.  Find ways to connect with people who are doing what you suspect you want to do.  Surround yourself with people who can energize you and infuse you with confidence and direction.  Don’t overthink everything.  Don’t be afraid to fail boldly.  And no whining.


So go see Lynn and her crew at the Atherton Mill Market. You can feel the energy she has created when you walk in the market. And her perspective on work and life is so refreshing. She really took a stand for what she was passionate about and then was intentional about causing the change to happen. And now she created a space for others to do the same. That is the essence of co-creating a world where one plus one is more than two. Have a great week.

Leadership, Uncategorized

A Retreat with Purpose…On Purpose

January 27, 2013

Recently I wanted some more clarity around what I am all about. I mean why do I do the work I do…what am I drawn to…what gets me up in the morning, etc. So I set out to define my own personal purpose. And it started with a personal retreat.

I work with a lot of organizations that take time to pause and go into retreat to get aligned around their purpose (mission), vision and values. Yet, I had never done this myself. So I spent an entire afternoon working on this exercise a few weeks ago. As the philosopher J. Krishnamurti once said, “It is essential sometimes to go into retreat, to stop everything that you have been doing, to stop your experiences completely and look at them anew, not keep on repeating them like machines. You would then let fresh air into your mind. Wouldn’t you?”

I got some fresh air into looking at what I am doing with my life and my career. After many iterations and lots of reworking I came up with the following purpose:

“To help people embrace and expand their best and most authentic self.”

It took a long time to get this to really feel right for me. But when I finally read this one several times, it all just clicked. I try to read and remember it every day so it guides my actions. I even noticed myself creeping away from really living this recently and the statement alone helped pull me back in. And the best part for me was that I realized my personal purpose was completely aligned with what I do at The Center for Intentional Leadership. I am in the right place.

I highly recommend writing one for yourself if you feel compelled. I did this along with coming up with my personal vision and values. I will share those in a future post as well.

So what makes you get up and the morning? What gets the blood flowing? What makes one plus one more than two for you?