Becoming the Change

by Andrea Chilcote

One week in June I declared my mind a negativity-free zone. And given that it started in an airport, with a trip on an airplane, It worked out pretty well and I strive to continue the process.

What I am about to say feels a bit obvious as I type. Our thoughts and feelings lead to words and deeds, which carry an energy. Our actions then (and of course the thoughts that precede the actions) influence the energy around us. Ergo, if our own state of being is uplifting, positive and hopeful, we will attract similar conditions, making it very easy to respond in kind.

What if maintaining your own high frequency was all it would take? It is all that’s needed. We know this, right?

Throughout my life, I have tried to follow this principle: “She who has the knowledge has the responsibility.” So if I am to be true to this lesson, I must seek to put forth and consume only that which contributes to something constructive, vs. destroys. Oh, that doesn’t mean I approach a very difficult world in a Pollyannaish way. Quite the contrary. During that June week, I prayed and shed tears for seemingly senseless tragedies occurring in my midst. But I do not wish to contribute to senseless pain, and therefore I’m working, however imperfectly, to eliminate any hurtful attitudes and behavior from the choices I make.

Violence. I recall leading a dialogue skills course in the 90’s in which there was a model for a continuum of behavior from “silence”- the traditional “flight” behavior, – to “violence,” the traditional “fight” behavior. I never liked using the word violence in association with everyday conversation. It seemed excessive and exaggerated. Now, many years later, I understand it as expressed. Small acts of violence such as insensitive or spiteful remarks contribute to the overload of such, because they simply attract more of what we don’t want.

This attraction principle works another way, too. Think about the word “inspiration.” Inspiration requires one to “be the change they wish to see” or “be the person they wish to be in relationship with,” and its grand reward is that it requires another to see something attractive that they wish to follow.

What if real freedom was the ability to choose the frequency at which we resonate in the world each day? What if?

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.– Mahatma Gandhi

It’s How You Play the Game

by Andrea Chilcote

On a lark, I entered an amateur photo contest, Howling Dog Alaska’s shout out for fun pics of dogs wearing their awesome gear. To my surprise, my photo was chosen as a top 15 finalist. The winners were to be selected through online voting. “Okay,” I thought, “this might be fun.” I posted the link on my Facebook page and emailed a few friends asking them to vote for my shot. I was only mildly engaged and soon it was off my mind.

Until my husband, Arthur, got involved.

Arthur is a retired sales executive and race car driver. I tend to forget about his competitive nature, as it’s not something that shows up in our day-to-day relationship. Competition has a place, and our marriage is not one of those places. So in telling Arthur about the contest, I didn’t realize I had unleashed a force.

He went to work immediately, calling and emailing friends, asking them to vote. So far so good. Then I learned he was asking my friends (who love him and smiled when sharing this) to ask their friends and family members to vote. This was a little over the top in my opinion, but no harm done.

As days went on, three top contenders emerged. My photo was one of them. Arthur became relentless, checking standings and appealing to mere acquaintances for votes.

Puzzled and little concerned, I asked him why this contest was so important to him. With a huge grin, he replied: “Because I like to win.”

To win means to succeed or triumph – a constructive thing for sure. Yet, in my life and in my work, I have seen misplaced competition destroy relationships, teams and businesses. There’s a team exercise I lead in which the object is to work together to achieve an outcome. Almost without exception, members of the group work against one another, competing vs. collaborating with other team members. In doing so, they inevitably lose the game.

Winning and competitiveness are highly misunderstood. Even the dictionary’s definition of “competitive” seems pejorative: “Inclined toward wanting to achieve more than others.” Competition’s synonyms include words such as “rivalry,” “opposition” and “war.” Ugh.

I view real competitiveness, the kind that my husband demonstrates, as a drive to win – not a drive to destroy someone or something else. I asked him what he gets out of winning – what it does for his psyche, if you will. He told me he gets a tremendous amount of satisfaction knowing he has done all he can, knowing he’s done his best.

Yesterday, as the race heated up and the end drew near, I decided to test that. I said to Arthur, “Let’s suppose one of the other contenders owns a small business, of, say 50 employees. And let’s pretend that on the last day of the contest, she asks all her employees to vote, rendering you out of the running. What then?”

His reply: “If that scenario actually happens, then I’ll be satisfied because I’ve done my best. It’s not about what the others do, Andrea, it’s about what I do.”

I was reminded of the famous (and controversial) saying attributed to sportswriter Grantland Rice: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”

How do you play the game of life? Do you view competition and winning as a negative thing, and in so doing give away your power to succeed? Or do you compete for the sake of it, using up your resources in an effort to win at any cost? Take a lesson from the photo contest. Challenge the notion that if there’s a winner, there must be a loser.

The “Gift” of Being Needed

by Andrea Chilcote

What could you accomplish for yourself or for the world if you were to call upon the generosity of friends? Your request just might be the gift they were waiting for.

I am blessed to live in a small community where neighbors help one another. The notion that “it takes a village” to accomplish tasks is often literally true for us. So when I found myself agreeing to temporarily house and re-home a rescued Siberian Husky this past weekend, I had to call in the villagers.

Young Huskies are a handful, and as a team we were able to care for, feed and exercise this needy one, while arranging for air transportation (no small feat in Arizona during the summer) to his forever home in North Carolina.

If I were to list out all the things friends and neighbors did to help, it would exceed the maximum length of this post. We had helpers from the neighborhood as well as from other states. Those closest to the action would say that the whole exercise gave them an opportunity to break from their routines, slow down, get some exercise – and laugh. A perfect way to spend the Memorial Day weekend in my opinion!

The experience made me think about all the give and take that is contained in friendship. It reminded me of the comfortable latitude we have to push up against others’ limits, while at the same time being open to an answer of “no.” Most of all, it illustrated a simple and powerful but often forgotten principle: when we give, we get.

My lesson in this? If you want or need something done, ask for help! I’ve written about this before, and probably will continue to learn this lesson until the day I die. Over the years I have relaxed my quid pro quo stance, no longer feeling the need to reciprocate an equal kindness to the precise person showing one to me. Oh, I must balance the scales and certainly give back when I get something for myself, but it’s not a one-for-one transaction. I truly believe that what we sow, we reap. Those who help me get a return on their effort, from me or some other source. It’s just the way it works.

Next time you ask for help (or even hesitate to do so), remind yourself that you’re offering the other person the opportunity to fulfill their own drive for generosity – a true win-win arrangement.

Acts From the Heart – Inspired Action

by Andrea Chilcote

I just returned from lunch with a dynamic woman who I admire greatly. She owns and manages a thriving business, juggling multiple priorities in work and life. Her secret? The relationships she builds and nurtures.

I‘m fascinated by how she makes time to do the things she does to build trusting, sometimes life-long bonds with customers, vendors and employees, (not to mention while caring for an active family and supporting philanthropic interests). She does the small yet high-impact things I think about yet often don’t follow through on. She forges personal connections by genuinely acknowledging the trials and triumphs of her colleagues’ multi-faceted lives.

Whether it’s a piece of welcome information or advice contained in an otherwise mundane email, or a greeting card celebrating a small accomplishment or sharing compassion, my friend takes inspired action. It’s inspired because she has true empathy and concern for those her business touches. It’s not a technique … it comes from the heart. If you’ve ever had the urge or feeling to offer comfort or congratulate, but either shied away or gotten too busy, take a lesson from Jane. She feels the need, then acts. Impeccably.

Here’s the real secret. This woman knows, instinctively and with absolute congruence, how to balance her desire to nurture and care for those around her with getting her own needs met. She is absolutely transparent — who you see is who you get. She passionately and candidly shares her stretch goals and desire for growth. Her approach is the very definition of win-win, and, once again, it’s not a technique. It’s who she is.

And guess what? Like begets like, and others strive to help her. Jane has an army of people committed to her business’ mission that aren’t on her payroll. And there are smaller benefits too. When the inevitable minor problems of business life occur, the “funds” in the relationship bank serve as a comforting cushion, and no one overreacts.

So many people ask for help, yet have no cushion from which to draw in the relationship bank. Others give without considering their own needs, rendering those needs unmet and success elusive. One without the other is unproductive.

It’s no longer a secret. Act from the heart. Share of yourself openly while declaring what you too want and need. You might be surprised at what follows.

And, if you would like to know more about Jane Spicer, check out her business website,