Shopping for a Boat

Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? At least close to 400, the length of this post.

Andrea ChilcoteToday I saw a cartoon drawing on LinkedIn that stopped me in my tracks. In one box, labeled “your plan,” there was a bicyclist starting up a moderate incline, with a checkered flag at the top. A box below it was labeled “reality.” Along the road there was a pile of boulders, a washed out hole with a precarious bridge covering it, a deep body of water requiring a boat, and the requisite stormy skies. The checkered flag was missing.

Not being a pessimist, at first it was tempting to scoff. But the depiction got me thinking about an idea I’ve been kicking around lately with anyone who will listen. We need a new way of looking at change – in organizations and in our lives.

For many years, change gurus have been helping people manage through it by defining change as “transition.” The idea is that that change is a process not an event, and that there is a common psychological path we follow as we move though ending the old, shifting into neutral, then eventually embracing new beginnings.

My insight is that it seems that today there are no real new beginnings, at least not in the traditional sense. Rarely do things “stabilize” as we settle in. In the organizations I work with, change is usually a prelude to more change. It’s certainly true in families – births, deaths, unions and divorces are just events that precipitate more disruption in the status quo.

So maybe we need a shift in our thinking. Maybe the second cartoon drawing need not represent a series of inevitable negative events, but rather a “reality” that honestly depicts the truth of a complex and dynamic world. We can choose to view changes as obstacles, or we can choose to put one foot in front of the other and even enjoy the experience. Build a bridge, buy a boat. It’s my opinion that those who learn to do this with open hearts and minds vs. fear and resentment are the ones who possess the resilience essential for life as we know it.

Maybe the change gurus will come up with a new model for coping. Meanwhile, I’m shopping for a boat.

“…the measure of success is how we cope with the disappointment…”

—Evelyn Greenslade, character in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!


Andrea Chilcoteby Andrea Chilcote

I’m embarking on a dangerous project. I am seeking the source of confidence in successful people’s lives, and in doing so I am breaking open a puzzle that I began to try to solve some ten years ago. My question then was (and still is now) – what is the interchange between confidence, commitment and results? Which comes first, a commitment so ardent to some outcome that, when achieved, builds my confidence for the next? Or does a smooth, confident knowing that what I intend must come to be by virtue of sheer consciousness, precede all other states of being? I’m betting on the latter.

It’s a dangerous mission because even Wikipedia seems to warn of the fine line confidence walks:

Confidence is generally described as a state of being certain either that a hypothesis or prediction is correct or that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective. Self-confidence is having confidence in oneself. Arrogance or hubris in this comparison, is having unmerited confidence—believing something or someone is capable or correct when they are not. Overconfidence or presumptuousness is excessive belief in someone (or something) succeeding, without any regard for failure. Confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy as those without it may fail or not try because they lack it and those with it may succeed because they have it rather than because of an innate ability.

Consider your current heart’s desire, the one that’s real. On a scale of 1 to 10, how committed are you? Now, using the same scale, how confident are you?

If your commitment is 10 and your confidence is, say, 7, then I’ll suggest you have a 70% chance of success. If on the other hand, your confidence is a 10 (really a 10), I’m betting on you.

Right now, it’s all educated hypothesis. From my own experiences and my observation of others, I know that a deep, clear, settled knowing (confidence) can move mountains. Yesterday I met a woman who rejected her doctor’s conventional advice and risked her life in order to be true to what she knew, confidently, was the best course of treatment for a grave disease. Now, ten years later and fully healed, she knows it was her confidence in the right decision for her that enabled the result, vs. some “fight” or struggle for victory.

Stay tuned for the stories. And join me if you wish, as I embark on this journey of discovery.

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!

My 2013 Trip Around the Sun

Andrea Chilcote, birthday, trip around the sunHave you completed your “trip around the sun” lately? Join Andrea, as she reflects on her 2013 birthday:

This Tuesday, I received the following birthday greeting from my friend Carol, an avid Jimmy Buffet fan:

“My favorite story teller and philosopher Jimmy Buffett calls birthdays “trips around the sun,” and during each year’s trip you accumulate souvenirs along the way. Souvenirs are those precious memorable moments that you want to keep with you. So my friend, what souvenirs have you collected?”

Well, that message stopped me in my tracks in the early morning. The day had begun with sweet cards and gifts, followed by a hike with friends at 6am. By 7, when Carol’s Facebook message arrived, it was already an ordinary day filled with work commitments and travel.

Surely there were countless memorable moments-but my cluttered mind couldn’t recall them. I managed to retrieve one that Carol and I shared last summer in Omaha, a dinner with another friend. It made the list because I remembered feeling so connected to, supported and accepted by those two women that evening.

I realized recalling these “souvenirs” would occupy many spare moments the rest of the week. I made it a point to refrain from prioritizing or qualifying them, and that was quite freeing. Thank you, Carol.

Here’s an excerpt from my souvenir journal:

  • Finding a giant heart rock in the middle of the trail on a crisp snowy morning hike with Kairos in Sedona on Christmas Day…
  • Hearing the news that Susan’s dog Bennie had turned the corner and would make it against all odds…
  • Spending a glorious morning with Sara and the dogs on idyllic “Cow Beach”…
  • Spotting a stunning rainbow in the Rocky Mountains, the likes of which I had never seen…
  • Having a 24-hour date with my husband, Arthur in San Diego – just the two of us…

There are more. And yes, there were even “bigger” blessings than some of these. But I noticed some common characteristics in my list. They each involved people or canines I care about, and most involved the grand outdoors.

You don’t have to wait for your birthday to have a look at your souvenirs. Take them out and admire them. The memories-sights, sounds, smells and feelings-can rejuvenate you on a busy day.

This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a blogger. Enjoy it!

Making a Difference (2014)

Are you making a difference in this very moment?

by Andrea Chilcote

Andrea Chilcote, Making A Difference, This Very MomentMy colleague, author Randy Hain, suggested I do an exercise. He told me to write my clients’ names on a piece of paper (I added close friends), and circle them. Then, I was to write what each one cares most about next to their circled name. Randy predicted that I would see themes.

Did I ever.

Almost without exception, everyone I listed wants to make a difference in the lives of others. How they do it varies greatly. I work with leaders who, regardless their actual job, come to work each day because they’re making a difference in the lives of those they lead. Many, including those in senior executive positions, care most about the impact they are making on the lives of their children, members of their community or even the end-user of the product or service their organization produces. One, a CEO of a thriving non-profit, says that while she’s passionate about the work of her own organization, she does what she does every day to positively affect the non-profit sector overall, because of the enormous impact it has on the lives of those in her community.

There’s a reason why this commonality exists. Making a difference is a fundamental human drive.

Recently I learned of the death of a family friend. He was the owner of an independent grocery store in the small city  in which I grew up. His obituary said the city would have been a  different place without his compassion and the help he offered to his fellow citizens. He offered credit before it was the norm, and he helped many start small businesses. This man knew his purpose, and it was very different on the surface (selling bread and green beans) than in its depth (improving lives). He made a difference, though I’m not sure he would have known he was doing so at any given time. He just followed his heart.

And that is the point of my post today.

As you go about your full lives, it is easy to lose touch with your sense of purpose. It is easy to forget the impact of a small gesture, brief glance or word of encouragement. But even as you lose touch, the energy of it lives on. Every single positive thought or action affords many reactions. In this very moment, as you read this post, you are making a difference. Your – our – power and influence is humbling.

Let the awareness of your impact fuel your future actions. We all need one another.


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!


Harmony, California, Andrea Chilcote

What if you could go on vacation in your mind, even just for a moment? And what if that resulted in a more harmonious day? I just tried it, and I hope you will too, after you read the post I wrote on vacation last summer.

by Andrea Chilcote

I’m on vacation this week, a vacation that I anticipated and now savor. I am graced by rest, beauty and pleasant activities.

When my pace slows enough, I’m able to hold a perspective which seems inaccessible on the usual busy days of life. Oh, even on vacation I feel moments of stress, due to anything from a minor work request to misplacing the rental car keys. But the difference is that on vacation, I almost always observe it and decide if it’s worth the emotional energy. Even when it is, there are energetic bookends of peace that keep stress in its proper place.

There’s a very small town near where we are in California, called Harmony. We’ve visited there three times this week, as it’s the home of one of our favorite wineries. We picnic on their lawns with our dogs, enjoying cool breezes, gorgeous scenery and the scent of lavender growing in the gardens. (And yes, good wine, of course). Early this week, I decided that “harmony” was my intended state of being.

As I began to write this post, I assessed my performance in that harmonious state. At first, I felt a touch of self-judgment, as I knew I have not been what I previously defined as “harmonious,” 24-7.

Then I googled the word. Amazingly, harmony results from the balance between tense and relaxed moments. You musicians know this of course. But for me, and for the rest of you, this information is powerful. Harmony exists when there is wholeness and acceptance of the human experience.

There’s no doubt that I will again lose my car keys, as well as experience many other so-called stressful moments. My intention is to bring harmony home with me and weather them to the sound of beautiful music. How about you?


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

You’re the Only Self You’ve Got

by Andrea Chilcote

You're the Only Self You've Got

“How are you?” My Pilates instructor, Dana, asked. “I’m angry with my body,” I replied.

For five years I’ve been dedicated to a somewhat unconventional practice for managing the issue of my back. I’ve been committed, using a combination of prescribed stretches, Pilates and other exercises that have quite literally changed my life. Before finding this process, I had poor posture, bad sitting, standing and walking habits, and always had at least some pain.

Lately I’ve been slipping. I’ve been busy, traveling a lot and not making the time I know I need to dedicate to this practice.

After stating that I was angry, I went on to complain about how little time I had and how frustrated I was that maintaining the healthy state I had achieved still took so much work. Why couldn’t I have just been born with an easy body that didn’t require so much maintenance?

I picked the wrong person to whine to, at least if I was looking for sympathy. Dana knows me well. She asked me to consider that perhaps not making time for the exercise that improves my quality of life might just be an indication that I wasn’t making the time to care for myself.

She was right, and I knew what I had to do. But I left there that day still angry with my body.

I went home with resolve to repair my current ache through diligently practicing my exercises. As I lay on the floor stretching my right hamstring, I suddenly thought, “This is silly. How could I be angry with my body?” It’s just a body, not a being with conscious intent. That would be like feeling anger at my car because it wouldn’t start.

I know I’m not my body. My body is a vehicle I manage, and it was me I was angry with; angry for not making the time to care for myself in a way that’s loving and forgiving of its physical flaws.

Still, I had judgment. Self-judgment that here I am, writing as I often do that a loving and kind relationship with ourselves is a prerequisite for the same with others, and not walking the talk.

That night, one of the huskies helped me see the lesson, and helped me take a gentler stance.

While making dinner, I accidentally stepped on Heather’s paw. She jumped, began to slightly bare her teeth, and then softened. I embraced her, and she cuddled into my arms. In the five months she’s been with us, she has been working to outgrow a fear response to pain from the abuse she suffered. I was struck by her progress as I recalled the first weeks with her. I saw it as just a residual shadow, but indicative of a long process of letting go of what appears like a reflex response. At once, I knew the same was true for me.

When life gets busy and demands for my time are heightened, I can forget to take care of myself. It’s a reflex response like Heather’s. And like hers, it’s dissipating over time. Like hers, it responds best to love and kindness.

I feel qualified to repeat the advice I’ve offered before. Care for yourself. You’re the only self you’ve got.


This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

Step Up! We All Must Lead

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.

I’m feeling very hopeful.     Step Up_Gen Y

For more than 20 years I’ve been helping organizations cultivate cultures that are more participative, respectful, and learning-focused, where dialogue, development and learning are valued over hierarchy, and, ummm … leaders’ egos. There are leagues of people like me out there – and some days I wonder, “Why, if we’re making progress, are we all still in business?”  The need is still so great despite the efforts being made.

If you’ve ever worked for a company, and if you’ve ever had a boss, you probably know what a paternalistic, controlling management style looks like. Chances are you’ve experienced it, observed it – or maybe even acted in that manner. But this style of so-called leading is not limited to companies. It’s also played out in families, communities and social venues.

Now, the universe is conspiring to help, in a few big ways.

Some new teachers have arrived on the scene, the generation of our future, Gen Y. They’re an optimistic, success focused, confident and self-reliant bunch. And guess what? They don’t respond well to command and control. Recently, I had the honor of being interviewed by Ladan Nikraven of Chief Learning Officer Magazine for their online feature, Ask a Gen Y.  I suggested that the irony is that we have been trying for many years to promote the kind of corporate cultures in which Gen Y thrives, and along they come to help us walk our talk.

Economic realities and technological capabilities have converged to enable (or force) organizations to create what we call, in my world, “matrix” structures. People live and work in locations far from customers and team members, have more than one boss, and must influence peers in the organization without any direct authority over them. All of this means they have to collaborate, share information, and build an uncommon degree of trust.

Some individuals are responding to the changes I describe by breathing a little easier, because it simply feels more authentic. Some organizations are models for the shift. In fact, a client company has adopted Robert Greenleaf‘s “servant leadership model”  as a guidepost for employee behavior. And they mean it.

Others are fighting change. But a tipping point just might have been reached.

Why is this important for you? Because we are all leaders. If you’ve given your power to some person or organization, there’s never been a better time to take it back.

Several years ago, a participant in a workshop I was conducting lamented that she would never be promoted to a leadership position because she wasn’t allowed to lead in her current role, and thus was unable to demonstrate she had the potential. Upon further discussion, it turns out she defined “leadership” as having the position authority one gains from a title – the ability to unilaterally direct others and have them comply.

While that may seem naive to some of you, how many times have you failed to lead because you weren’t officially sanctioned to do so?

Personal development guru Martha Beck writes: “Part of the transformation of human consciousness is understanding that we can lead from any social or economic position, if we access our power to direct our own thinking, make our own choices, and respond to our own sense of right and wrong.”

Step up. We all must lead.

History Lesson

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

Watershed-MomentWho would we be without our history? The fact is, we are our history. We can remain hostage to it, and let come what may, sometimes repeating the sins of our fathers and mothers. We can work through it, growing a lot or a little from numerous experiences and therapies, formal and informal. We can even transcend it in those watershed moments that I believe present themselves many times in every lifetime if our eyes are open. But no matter the choice or the path, what we are left with is a product of those diverse experiences, and they define who we are today.

Personally I’ve never liked history. Most museums don’t appeal to me, and I’ve never seen the point of studying obscure facts about centuries past. I know that some people get great joy from collecting antique relics or studying their ancestry, but I’ve always been a present moment kind of girl, with an eye on the future.

So when I sat down to write “my story,” for the Spirited Woman 2014 Directory, I soon began to feel like I was dragging out ancient history. It felt uncomfortable. I demonstrate a degree of vulnerability in these posts every week, but rarely do I tell the whole thing about how I got where I am today. It just doesn’t seem that compelling, and never mind trying to do it in 500 words. But it’s become important now, very important.

Here’s an example of why. Just today I made a simple choice that created undue stress for me and those around me. I made one too many commitments. If everything had worked exactly as planned, it would have been fine. But of course, life never works that way and I was forced to make another choice. What did I eliminate? The one thing on my list I personally needed most. It was the right choice for the day – not the right choice for the life.

I could shrug this off and vow to do better next time. But this history idea is gnawing at me. How can I transform this pattern of behavior?

I know the answer. It involves acknowledging the reasons I am often driven beyond what’s reasonable, to achieve that which is not necessary. The most gentle way I have of examining the root of these core traits and drivers inside myself is through writing. (While I welcome the transcendent experiences, I’m a little too tired tonight).

So I have to go now, and finish my story. I hope I can inspire you to finish yours, too.

Visit the I AM an Every Woman Visionary board on Pinterest to find “Pins of Inspiration”; where I and my colleagues, are celebrating the upcoming December 12th launch of the 2014 Spirited Woman Directory: A Collection of Stories & Resources for An Inspired Life!

A Friend is Always There

A Friend is Always There 2by Andrea Chilcote

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday and spend treasured time with family and friends, I’m remembering one of my musings about friendship. Enjoy this encore post. 

My husband Arthur and I spent last weekend with visiting friends, one of whom I had not seen for several years. The moment I embraced her at the airport, I knew that the time that had passed was a mere blip on the screen of life. We immediately took up where we had left off.

The morning after she left, I found myself thinking about another friend I had not spoken to in several months. I felt that pang of guilt, and made a mental note to call her.  Minutes later, voilà, — my cell phone rang. You know who it was.

We quickly caught up on the comings and goings of each other’s lives and settled into the familiar. When I hung up the phone, I wondered to myself why I feel such angst when I miss a special person, versus smiling at the memory — then acting.

Have you procrastinated calling or writing a friend because it’s been too long and you’re embarrassed about it? Maybe you missed acknowledging her birthday or a son’s graduation and are feeling just a little guilty.

Here’s one thing I know for sure. If it’s a real friendship, reconnecting can only bring joy. The time that passed is irrelevant. Some friends are with us consistently during periods of our lives. Others appear at just the right time to serve some simple or profound purpose.

True friendship is a free flow of give and take. If you’re called to connect and energized when considering it, act. She will be there. If the thought of doing so drains you, let it go. Either way, allow no guilt, none at all.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The Rest of the Story

by Andrea Chilcote

 Scan8Today’s post is for those of you who wrote to ask (or wondered silently), what specific “blessing” I received and only alluded to it in my post Just Ask.

In that piece, I wrote of having just completed the first experiment in Pam Grout’s bestseller, E2It was a huge success, as I received the “unexpected gift” that was a result of my clear and unattached intention. But I did not share what happened.

First, a quick explanation of why I left out that small detail.

If you read my post We Are Our History, you’ll know that despite blogging weekly about my own life lessons, there are some things I hold private – often for no reason at all. It has not been easy to tell my whole story.

But the second was a logistical one. In order to explain the enormity of what I received, you need some context. So, indulge me if you will. The whole thing began with a synchronistic occurrence five months ago when I received a call that set me on a mission in which I finally opened a door that had been beckoning me for years. It was a mission to fundamentally change our society’s behaviors and attitudes toward animals.

Awareness precedes action. It’s a gentle knock at first, then it can’t be ignored.

My awakening to the plight of animals was slow, and my admittance of the inconvenient truth even slower. Though I adopted my first shelter dog, Erik, in 1988, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the numbers of dogs in similar need. I felt as long as there were rescue groups, spay/neuter programs and education, we were making progress.

Over time, my eyes were opened wide. Little by little, I couldn’t deny the truth.

Ten years ago, I received a call to emergency foster a malnourished and terrified malamute from an Arizona puppy mill. The operation had been shut down due to flagrant abuse and neglect, and the owner jailed. We quickly grew to love beautiful Whisper, but in less than a week she died, tragically, after giving birth to dead puppies at our home. Ally of ARA husky rescue in Los Angeles says it best: “These precious souls are not ATM machines.”

Still, I held back.

One day some years later, I read Kathy Freston’s book, Quantum Wellness, and finally acknowledged the horrors of factory farming. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. She happened to be that teacher.

So I stopped eating meat, continued to foster the occasional dog, and donated to whatever animal cause struck an emotional chord. But something gnawed at me – when I let it invade my consciousness.

More years passed. My husband Arthur adopted two rescued horses. The first, saved from a feedlot, gained 300 pounds after coming to live with us. He now rules our barn. The second, a victim of the cruel sport of tripping, came to us crippled and arthritic, with a broken spirit. Arthur restored his spirit, and Duke knew love for the rest of his life.

We were doing our part, right? That was more than just a rationalization. We were – and are – doing something meaningful. But for me it wasn’t enough.

In April of this year, I was working with a client to help her decide on a second career after a job elimination. She thought she might want to work for a non-profit, though nothing she had run across felt particularly compelling. I asked her a question.

“What is it that you can’t not do before you leave the earth?”

Eventually she found an answer, and left our meeting with a plan. But the very moment I asked the question, I knew I had to answer it for myself. I finally realized that before I leave this earth, I must do something to cause fundamental change for animals. It was a commitment I was finally ready to make.

As things go when one truly commits, (and as the book E2 promises), that very afternoon, when my client left to catch her plane, I checked my voice mail. I had a message from a colleague asking if I had an interest in joining the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as an AZ Council member.

Everything I had done brought me to this point in time when I could make a profound difference for animals. I said yes. That was in May.

Soare you still asking, “What is the punch line?” Okay, here goes.

Since May, in my opinion, I have done little that’s tangible. I have been studying the issues and building relationships.

But the day my “blessing” was due, I got an email asking me to present to board and council members at an HSUS conference in Washington DC. When I asked why, I was told, “We want our members to be inspired by your story.”

As this post is being published, I am doing just that. And there you have it. The rest of the story.