Meeting 1

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Meeting 1 Guide

 
1. Start a Gratitude List

Write down one thing you are each grateful for on Activity Sheet 1.

Save this so you can add to it in the coming days.  You will use it in every meeting. 

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TIP #1

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TIP #2

Take 2 minutes of silence AFTER each question. 

Use a timer? One family said the teenagers were frustrated by each other’s interruptions so this could help. It also encourages self-control and allows time for real introspection (the opposite of narcissism).  Great meetings avoid Group Think – whoever speaks first influences the next and so on.  Silence allows each person to use their OWN brain. 

Take turns about who goes first. 

People (especially children… well, adults too) may be worried they need to say ‘the right thing’, or might sound ‘stupid’, or appear naive. Many will want the person running the meeting to go first. Take turns so everyone can be brave.

Examples

I’ve heard people say they are grateful for

  • slowing down, even though they have been forced to

  • not commuting to the office (my 25-year-old said this in such a heartfelt way)

  • family dinner every night, with Dad, because he’s not travelling

  • the internet, FaceTime, WhatsApp

  • having a garden; having a pet; having a nap; having a chocolate; having another chocolate

  • Mumsnet UK has been celebrating coronavirus heroes– including amazing fundraiser Captain Tom Moore who walked 100 laps of his garden before he turned 100 on April 30. He raised over £30,000,000 by the 30th!  Honored to say that my twin, my dear friend, and I all share a natal day with Captain Tom.

  • The NHS, and all hospital workers everywhere 

  • Zoom calls with friends (my Godfather, 88, just learned how to Zoom – he is delighted!)

  • Not having to put on make-up 

  • Sunshine

  • The hysterically funny memes circulating on-line

  • Music – the The virtual version of Hallelujah by the Roedean Girls School Choir is amazing

  • Spending more time with their partner, or meeting a new one!!

  • More time to play on the computer

  • “Prise de conscience de valeurs essentielles” (taking time to consider essential values)

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

 Why bother with a Gratitude List? Gratitude has been shown to make us happier (Harvard Medical School) more likely to be lucky, and lead to greater success.  

As Aesop wrote in the late 5th century BC, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls”.  It certainly saved Androcles’ life.  Ask the lion.

 

Examples

I have heard people say they see  silver linings:

  • with so few planes in the air this is a living experiment to measure environmental impact.  Harmful pollution levels are falling like a stone  - down 30% in 3 weeks.

  • one family said their children were missing school!  Now that IS a silver lining.

  • there are numerous stories of people being open, friendly, caring towards others.  Could this pandemic lead to a societaleconomic and/or environmental re-set?

  • one great grandmother said in doing this exercise “Prendre conscience qu’on doit changer notre mode de vie”.  (We realize we need to change the way we live.)

  • bald eagles are nesting in Arizona Seguaro for the first time since 1937.

  • people are doing more planning ahead (meals) and less shopping. They are seeking less immediate gratification, and hopefully finding that more is not necessarily better. Could COVID-19 help lead humans toward Aristotle’s Golden Mean? A silver lining of pure gold?

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

 John F. Kennedy famously said that the two Chinese characters which together mean “Crisis” individually represent “danger” and … “opportunity”.  

While scholars are less convinced, the valid idea remains:

             from disaster good can come.

Historians and economists often say that societies ONLY make great leaps forward in times of crisis.  They expected war.  We got COVID-19 instead. Can pandemics lead to leaps forward? 

 

(This was just too much fun not to include.) Cambridge University has only ever closed twice.  In March 2020. The only other time was during the bubonic plague in 1665.  As a result of that closure, a young man named Isaac fled to a country house called Woolsthorpe. It was there he saw an apple fall from a tree.  And it was there, while ‘self-isolating’, that he had what is often called his Annus Mirabilis.  His year of miracles.  

It may feel like the sky is truly falling now.  We certainly are in crisis. So, what can WE do with this time?  Isaac Newton used his imposed quarantine to forge a theory of gravity.  Teenagers might be interested to know this was also the time he refined our understanding of light using prisms, discovered the generalized binomial theorem, and deduced the rudiments of calculus or ‘fluxions’.  (For everyone struggling with calculus, a.k.a. “mathematical theory of continuous change” -- how apropos of our own time -- you can blame it on the Bubonic Plague.)

 

Why bother with Silver linings (redux)

A Silver Linings List helps us break our strong natural tendency to think in a binary way – black/white, day/night, good/bad, right/wrong. There is always some good with the bad. There are always silver lining opportunities when changes happen.  Rather than fear change, this exercise helps you and everyone become more agile – now and into the future.  

 

Silver Linings Lists are VERY powerful.  Indeed, as South Africans know so well, without natural disasters like catastrophic wildfires, their world-famous fynbos would NEVER bloom. 

2. Start a Silver Linings List

This is a special kind of Gratitude List. It focuses on finding gratitude even within very bad situations – and make no mistake, COVID-19 is very bad.

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TIP #4

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TIP #3

Punch the Clock at this building site.

Choose how long you will spend on each Agenda category.  Set a timer.  A timer helps avoid the dictator/doormat scenario. You could ALL agree to extend the time, but make sure everyone truly wants that.  

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Be positive – NO judgment.

There are NO wrong answers – it IS nice to ‘not have to go to school’. Really think about this; be authentic, be vulnerable.  Even if someone says something they don’t really believe, for them, in that moment it is the right thing to say. You can be right for you, someone can be right for themselves, AND you can disagree.  Just because you are right does NOT mean someone else is wrong.  This is typical of the human weakness for binary thinking.  You can both be right, and disagree.

 

Examples

The typical categories of Taking Care of Yourself  include:  

  • good hygiene from toothbrushing to hand washing, including PPE

  • healthy food

  • Exercise 

  • outdoor time 

  • spirituality and meditation

  • fun 

  • socialising; alone time; couple time

  • intellectual time

This list is broadly similar for all people – after all, we are talking about basic, survival needs here.  

 

What is YOUR priority?  We can’t do ALL of these things ALL of the time but we need to do the most important ones at least some of the time.  Meeting 6 will help you balance these needs.

 

And we need to do THE MOST important one properly MOST of the time.  What is the single most important way we take care of ourselves?  When is the ONLY time we heal?  What is THE BEST defense against the virus?  Against stress? Against poor decision making, losing our tempers, anxiety and so much more?  SLEEP. I highly recommend Matt walker’s book “Why we Sleep”… even if he does not mention menopause or baby-based sleep deprivation.

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

 Why bother thinking about “Taking Care of Myself”?  I mean, how boring, right?

Well, living in the middle of a pandemic means that Taking Care of Yourself is not a ‘to do’ list thing… it is a MUST DO thing.  Boring, perhaps, but true.

 

Abraham Maslow, the world-renowned psychologist, explained this best in his Hierarchy of Needs (a rubric used world-wide by business leaders, life coaches, and educationalists).    

Maslow theorized that we MUST take care of basic survival needs (like food and water), Safety needs (COVID-19 really IS an enemy), and relational needs (belonging, love, and esteem) before we can consider anybody else or any higher needs. In a typical first world country, most people have these bottom levels moderately sorted. Until now.  

The pandemic has not changed this … yet. There IS food on the table.  The streets are (eerily) calm.  We DO have loo roll. Perhaps even too much? But the pandemic has THREATENED our current and long-term ability to meet even our most basic needs. Sadly, that threat may become real:

“Will we run out of food?” “How can I feed my family and keep my house if I lose my job?!”

 

No wonder so many people are desperately worried.  These are elemental, not existential fears now.

 

So, it is critically important that we are Taking Care of Ourselves. Right now, I worry most about parents NOT taking care of themselves. And I worry about all essential workers, especially medical and care workers, like the doctor living in a tent in his garage.

3. Deep Dive: 360° View

 

Print the Activity Sheets or grab a paper and pen.

 

There are four typical categories of ‘things we need or want to do’ every day or week. Not just during COVID-19, but all the time.

  1. TAKING CARE OF MYSELF (the most important right now)

  2. PLAY

  3. CURIOUSITY

  4. WORK

Each category will overlap with the others, which is why it helps SO much to have a scaffold. A scaffold artificially keeps the threads untangled enough to make a plan, gain perspective and see
patterns. 

TAKING CARE OF MYSELF

 

On Activity Sheet 1 or a plain piece of paper, write down the things you need to do to take care of yourself.

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TIP #5

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TIP #6

The K.I.S.S. principle

Do NOT try to create exhaustive lists… or you will become exhausted!  Instead, be creative.  Use the KISS principle of good meetings... Keep It Simple, stupid!  Or, as my teasing brothers would shout, “Keep It Simple, Susan”. More importantly it avoids perfectionism.

The 10/20/70% rule of learning

 A word of advice:  remember the 10/20/70% rule for all learning. 

For families, parents should NOT be teaching children about eating their broccoli.  What you model will teach more than what you teach. And the person who will learn the most?  You. 

PLAY

 

On Activity Sheet 1, write down examples of how you play.

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TIP #7

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TIP #8

2 Minute Rule

Remember, it helps to have 2 minutes of silence for people to think creatively about each topic.  

Rule of Repetition

It also helps to repeat instructions, especially when EVERYTHING is so new.  So I just repeated the 2 Minute Silence Rule.  I’m also putting into practice the KISS rule – VERY short, simple rules.

Examples

Many of the following examples are for families.  You might be more creative amongst consenting adults, but I’ll leave that to you!

  • Pillow fights

  • Read a book with a flashlight and all the other lights out

  • Have a ‘camp fire’ night

  • Enjoy a bubble bath with candles and a glass of wine (yes, adults can and need to play too)

  • Make a paper mache pinata using a balloon, flour and newspaper

  • Ask for, or give, a foot or head massage 

  • Look through old photo albums or old photos on your phone – my husband is not a giggler but there he was the other night, chortling away as he went through albums

  • Build stuff using household ‘rubbish’ you used to just throw away – like this miniature cardboard cabin for our upstairs neighbors’ little girls

  • Use chairs, blankets, and pillows to build a den

  • Play a Wii or video game TOGETHER – your kids will beat you… and love it!

  • Spotify has ALL your favorite old songs – sing them, loudly, and embarrass your children.  I have, singing to all the OLD Peter Paul and Mary songs as I hoover.

  • There are almost limitless ideas on the internet – like this one from The Guardian.
  • Cooking, building something, planning the menu, fixing the broken table, repairing the bike…. (“Is this PLAY you ask” … read on)

  • Seeing who can get the most dust bunnies in their plastic bowl, or who can hoover to the beat, or chop vegetables into flowers or fix the broken table… if even this sounds like work you will be interested in LOPI.  Read on!

By the way, the Play Category s is not about being a ‘perfect parent’.  You know the one? They live down the street?  Cupcakes and perfect toddler outfits always ready? Nor about that amazing Instagram ‘friend’ who is forever astonishing everyone with his homemade ravioli?  Yeah, that one?  

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

Why bother ‘Playing’? By ‘playing, I mean having fun, for at least 5 minutes a day.  This is also about having fun WITH someone else.  Fun, laughter, silliness are not simply the glue of relationships, they are the super glue.  Apply liberally. 

LOL. (Do read this brilliant essay about a dad learning from his teenage son the real meaning of LOL)

Better yet?  ROFL! 

Do you agree that play is a HUGE part of Taking Care of Myself? Allow me to argue the opposite. Ultimately EVERYTHING we do should end up within the category “Play”, not vice versa. Our work, our doing healthy things, our curiosity.  

Children are born knowing this.  Sadly, we nag them out of it.  We talk about ‘work first’.  We pine for the weekend. Perhaps this crisis can help us re-learn what children already know – everything could be play.

Within play, do include some silly time.  Why?  Laughing is infectious In 1962, one African village had to shut its school due to out-of-control laughing.  Coincidentally, the epidemic started in March.  It took almost 1 ½ years to fade away and spread to neighboring villages.  Now that is the sort of pandemic I’d enjoy!

 

Play also releases endorphins and dopamine (the happiness chemicals), and is one of the more effective stress busters

 

So, what about those two examples in the list above that sound like work?  

“Can work be play?” you ask.  

 We can learn a lot from children.  Young children are DESPERATELY keen to ‘work’ with parents.  They do not distinguish between play and work. Indeed, they instinctively know the critical importance of LOPI.   

 

What is LOPI?  Yes, it IS Icelandic wool.  And that wool is is tough on the outside, warm underneath and lasts longer than most wools.  All these traits echo what educational psychologists mean by LOPI - Learning by Observation and Pitching In.

The educational psychologist Barbara Rogoff who coined the term, argues that LOPI is the MAIN way children have learned throughout the ages. Now is an ideal time to indulge in a little, or better yet, a LOT of LOPI.  There will be much more about this in Inpower Meeting 5 

Examples

How many push-ups can you do every day, for every day we are locked down?  Check out this 1-minute clip of a young girl doing just that. Keep a journal of what the process is like.  How many; how did they feel? This offers terrific learning about learning! 

 

My son and I opted for a joint push-ups challenge. We’ve done it about every 3rd day.  But we are doing it more often as we get more 'into it - expect that for your challenge.  He has already increased his maximum by 25%   Imagine if we were accepting the challenge every day? He has moved out of our apartment (and the county), but we have started doing Zoom-ups together.

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

  • TBD

CURIOSITY

 

On Activity Sheet 2, write down ways you will feed your curiosity. To help scaffold the concept, consider these 4 options:

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Take on a Challenge
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TIP #9

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“A Cactus or a Rose? I do not like NOT knowing!”

Starting off on any one of the Curiosity categories is like finding a seed packet with no label.  You will have NO clue what to do.  

Humans don’t like that.  Yet that is how we learn. 

Plant the idea.  Pay attention or you will over water the cactus or under water the rose.  If well-tended, you will be surprised and delighted by what blossoms.  

You have a natural human tendency to want to – need to -- know for certain what is The RIGHT thing to do.  Don’t let this desire stop you from DOING.  

Covid has upended many of our supposed certainties. Be flexible. Pay attention. These traits will help you enormously in this New, post-Covid World.

Venerate Venn Diagrams

“But wait” someone complains, “these categories overlap”. 

 

Exactly right! Categories are artificial ways to gain perspective and help us uncover patterns – they ARE the pattern. Gratitude lists overlap with Silver Linings. So too do Play, Taking care of Yourself, Curiosity and Work.  These categories are simply a scaffold to artificially keep ideas untangled long enough to make a plan, gain perspective and see patterns. The Venn Diagram helps us look for that sweet spot. What Abraham Maslow calls “Self-Actualization”.

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Perform a Random Act of Kindness

Examples

  • Make someone a cup of tea.  My husband does this for me – African Dawn rooibos of course!

  • Send emails or funny memes to your teenager.  They might even send you one back.

  • Think of something nice to do for your partner

  • We just delivered a note and brownies to a neighbor we’d never met, but who had a terrible battle with Covid19.  He was so touched he sent photos of the note to his family in France.  He said his sister cried!

  • Think small.  Think big.  Think random.  

  • What do you wish someone would do for you?

  • February 17 is designated Random Act of Kindness day.  Every day could be Random Act of Kindness Day.  Aesop (again) illustrates this so elegantly with his tale of the mouse and the lion.  Such a wise Lion.  Being kind saved his life.

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

Humans need to be helping others.  When we don’t, we feel very unsafe… because we know if we don’t help, then no one will help us. There was a full Master’s Program at The London School of Economics on this very topic.  I know because I have the MSc to prove it.  Research conclusively proves that kindness leads to success and greater happiness.  This excellent Atlantic article gives you the full story.

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Explore Music, Dance, Art, Literature, Theatre, Museums…. 

Examples

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

Culture.  I don’t believe in a distinction between ‘highbrow’ or ‘low brow’. To me it is ALL culture and we ALL need it.   Human beings have a drive toward the aesthetic. What Prof. Maslow calls the Sublime. And right now, we have more (virtual) access than ever before.  

Examples

  •  Choose any one of your Taking Care of Myself, Play, Work or Curiosity activities and do a deep dive:

  • Gardening (REALLY learn about soil PH for hydrangeas. Or how to grow healthy tomatoes or how to compost.  My father-in-law was a keen composter and always gave a bag to his best friends each Christmas!…)

  • Cooking – for the deepest dive use Harold McGee and his book on the history, science, and culture (!) of cooking.  We now enjoy the most perfectly cooked steaks as a result of our eldest son reading and digesting this book (pun intended)

  • Sewing (I hope to take my grandmothers’ hand-me-down table linens and turn them into little cream dresses for grand-nieces… or granddaughters! Photos to come)

  • Knitting – perhaps with the lovely LOPI yarn from Iceland mentioned under the Play catergory?

  • Card games?  How about learning bridge...very good for the brain.

  • learning how to give massages

  • One family is starting an earthworm farm. I think I”d prefer massages, myself.

  • Yes, we should ALL be reading a little (or a lot) every day

  • And, yes, we should all be writing or typing something…. every day  

  • Your deep dive could EASILY be one of your other Curiosity ideas like learn a language.  If so, watch a film you know well, getting the foreign language subtitles, order a comic book, use recipes in that language…

 

This is not just a dabble, but a dive.  Deep end of the pool. Stick with it.  Measure your progress.  The Internet is the greatest source of information in the universe (as far as we know) so use it!

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

TBD

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Focus on a Learning Deep Dive

WORK

On Activity Sheet 2, write down one type of work you actually enjoy doing.

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TIP #11

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TIP #12

Listen to understand, not to reply.

We have a strong human drive to critique. Listen first.  No matter what someone says about "Work' they enjoy. Second, repeat/rephrase what the other person said. You can ask questions and discuss but only in order to understand. Third, if you want to ‘add’ something, ask first if they would like to hear it.

Listen to understand, not to reply (redux)

Also known as C don''t C - Contribute, don’t Criticize.

When we ‘add’ to what someone else said, when we ‘refine’ it, or tweak it, we THINK we are contributing when in fact we are criticising. Even when we have the good intention of ‘improving’ what someone has said, we are in fact saying ‘it is NOT good enough’.  When we add our two cents we are saying “this could be a little bit better” …which is just a friendly way of saying it is partly WRONG. Deborah Tannen is an expert in this area

Examples

For now, your only job is to think of one type of work you enjoy, at least some of the time. 

  • In school, did you enjoy art class most? 

  • Did you live and breathe for sports practice? 

  • If so, my guess is that you WORKED very hard in those areas. 

  • Do you enjoy cooking and feel pride in creating some new creation or replicating a terrific recipe?  That is work.  

  • Do you ever skip lunch on the weekend to play two more levels on Call of Duty?  Then you are WORKING very hard.  

COLLAPSE

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Why Bother?

What first drove me to create these meetings was hearing from so many clients that they were really REALLY struggling.  And the area that was hardest?  Household chores, problems with working from home, and the horror of ‘home schooling’. 

 

When I gathered the family for our first all-together-now house clean, I realized that it wasn’t just other people who found this tough.  I had to start a Swear Jar…for me!  I went totally Chimp, to borrow Prof. Steve Peter’s brilliant description of the primal brain’s reactions to stress.  You will have a chance to do a Deep Dive into work in Inpower Meeting 3.  Meeting 3 will help you all learn about turning chores and other work into a successful D.A.N.C.E.  And in Inpower Meeting 4 you will learn more about managing this Chimp, and getting a handle on your emotions generally.

 

But back to this idea of ‘work’.  Why Bother?

 

Do you ever get into ‘the flow’? Do you ever lose track of time?  You are not even consciously thinking about what you are doing?  You have rhythm, and you ARE putting effort in, but it doesn’t feel like work?  

 

That is not only what a true Growth Mindset FEELS like.  It is also what has described so compellingly by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.  OK, his name might be one reason too few people know of his work.  (it is pronounced “Me High… Chick Sent Me High”!).  This animated book summary captures this idea perfectly. It is just over 5 minutes. The ideas are pure gold.  This is also effectively what Prof Maslow would call Self-Actualization.  

 

Humans need much MUCH more of this than we are getting.  And yet if you go in search of it, you can’t find it.  More about this in Meeting 8.

 
4. Action Points

 

Talking can be a prelude to action, but talking without action is meaningless.  And pretty irritating.

 

Go back to your Activity Sheets: 

What do you enjoy doing the most?  Write it on a post-it and put where you will see it. For me, chocolate is probably second but working on this project is undoubtedly tied for first. 

 

How can you do MORE of YOUR favorite thing?  Not ‘How can I do ONLY my favorite thing all day long?’.  That might seem ideal, but too much of a good thing is too much. (Although a bit more chocolate wouldn't be that bad?)

 

And, is there one playful thing you could do RIGHT NOW? Go do it.

And, when you are ready, come back to 'do' Meeting 2, The Rose Bush. It is short, sweet and VERY powerful!

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TIP #13

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TIP #14

Walk the talk

Advice to parents or anybody leading a meeting – you need to walk the talk.  Adopt and follow through on at least one of the curiosity ideas for yourself.  Improve one way you Take Care of Yourself.  Get out there and PLAY!!!!  If parents do not model it, few children will.  Friends, be cheerleaders for each other.  

I’ll never forget my father saying “do as I say, not as I do”.  Didn’t work then, won’t work now.  You won’t develop and neither will your team.

Use post-it reminders, add iPhone reminders, commit to a team member, or keep a journal.

Mistakes = Learning

When someone gets something ‘wrong’ all that means is they have learned what does not work. Mistakes should be celebrated.  It means someone has been willing to try something.  If you make a ‘mistake’ running the meeting, if someone makes a ‘mistake’ getting angry or cynical, you and they are simply learning.

Examples

Over the coming days you could update each other on

  • what you learned/the progress you made on your challenge. Nick told me he bought a weighted vest to make his zoom-ups even more challenging.  I need to up my game!

  • what Random Act of Kindness you have done – brownies were delivered again and we are now feeding the robins once a day.

  • what new artist you saw or singer you listened to and liked … and why you liked it. Zwakele Tshabalala’s opera singing is my new go-to voice.

  • the challenges and disappointments you had… the roses AND the thorns. Trying to learn Illustrator is … causing me to add to my swear jar. Inpower Meeting 2 will focus on this.

 

No matter what is discussed at the meeting, what matters is getting into action.  Starting with small steps, using post-its, asking our friends to be cheerleaders… and stopping whatever stops us from… stopping us. There will be lots of information and tips for this in Meeting 9 (Nein!)
 

So now, it is time to ‘practice’.  Because practice doesn’t make perfect.  

Practice makes possible.

COLLAPSE

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