Why Deserve Is a Dangerous Word

A young woman asked me this question on Instagram: Do you have a blog post about “imposter syndrome?” Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve the beautiful life I have. 

I understand where she’s coming from. We’ve all felt at one time or another that we don’t deserve the cards we’ve been dealt—good or bad. There are good people who endure so much pain: an untimely death of a loved one, illness; financial problems, or heartbreak. And there are bad people who seem to be rewarded despite the hurt they’ve caused or the mistakes they’ve made. Either way, the question becomes, “Why did this happen if I didn’t deserve it?”

“Why me?”

My answer: Life is not at all about what you deserve. It’s about what you do with it.

Recently, my mother-in-law asked me if I’d call an Uber for my grandparents to ride from Hallandale to Miami to attend a funeral. “You know how much they love Elisa,” she said. “They want to be there for her.” 

I remembered Elisa. She lived in my grandparents’ building. I’d met her several times when we visited. Her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s over twelve years ago. He’d been bedridden for quite some time. It was no surprise that he’d pass away soon. “Oh, poor thing,” I replied. “She took such good care of her husband. At least he’s resting now.” 

My mother-in-law’s eyes opened wide and her eyebrows raised. “No! It was not her husband who died. It was her son! He died of a heart attack. He was only 44 years old.”

I gasped. How could that happen? Wasn’t it bad enough that woman had endured the slow and painful deterioration of her husband to then have to lose her young and vibrant son? It wasn’t fair. It isn’t fair. 

Life Isn’t Fair or Predictable. It’s Just Life.

 

We could argue all the reasons Elisa didn’t “deserve” what happened to her. But does it matter whether she deserved it? What difference would that make? 

Also, how far should we take the deserve argument? Do you deserve to be born in a privileged country versus an underdeveloped country? Do you deserve to be born to one family versus another? Rich or poor? Homosexual or heterosexual? Male or female? Tall or short? 

To deserve something is that you are born worthy of that thing. I would argue that we are all born worthy of love, health, abundance, joy, success, and fulfillment. And yet there are so many who are deprived of those essentials since birth—without having done anything to deserve otherwise. So then what? If life isn’t fair or predictable, what do we do about it? How do we reconcile the things that happen? How do we maintain a sense of control? 

We eliminate the word “deserve” from our vocabulary. We accept that life is what it is, and we control the only thing we can—our attitude.

 

What You Deserve Doesn’t Matter

 

Once we accept that what we deserve is irrelevant, then we can take full advantage of the life we have. We can choose what we do within our circumstances. 

So you made a bunch of mistakes in the past and you feel you don’t deserve the life you have now? Apologize, forgive yourself, and commit to serving others from this point forward. Use your energy to be good and do good. Those mistakes will make you less judgmental, more forgiving, and more compassionate to others. You are in training for something bigger. 

So you’ve been a good person and you’re dealing with a hardship now? Let yourself experience that pain, be patient with yourself, and look for the lessons. Those hardships will make you stronger, wiser, and more compassionate to others. You are in training for something bigger. 

I do not believe that everything happens for a reason—but I believe everything that happens is training for the next obstacle.

You can always make better choices, pick yourself up again, express gratitude, and serve others. You have much more power than you think. 

As for Elisa, my hope is that she finds peace and hope in this difficult time; that her remaining children, grandchildren, and community offer her the love and support she will desperately need; and that she is filled with blessings in spite of her pain. 

A Moment Of Clarity

When you eliminate the word “deserve” from your vocabulary, you shift from a “why me?” mindset to a “what will I do about it?” mindset. Then it no longer matters that life isn’t fair or predictable—what matters is that it’s worth living. 

First you Do … Then you Become

Years ago when I started training for my first half marathon, I was running with a friend who I struggled to keep up with. In between gasps of air, I asked: “How do I get faster?”

His response was: “If you want to run faster, all you have to do is run faster.”

This answer annoyed me. Obviously, if I could just pick up my pace I would, but my problem was maintaining that pace throughout the run. Sensing my dissatisfaction, my friend elaborated.

“I know that seems oversimplified, but it’s not. You just have to keep at it. If what you want is to become a faster runner, every time you go for a run, commit to running a little faster than the last time. If you continue doing that, it’ll get easier. You’ll naturally become a faster runner.”

What he was telling me that morning, is a truth that applies to all of us in any circumstance.

THE ONLY WAY TO BECOME, IS TO DO

People often say to me, “Oh I wish I could run but I’m not a runner.” Of course, they’re not runners. They don’t run! I wasn’t a runner either until my girlfriend asked me to train for a half-marathon with her. All I had to do was put on running shoes, meet her on the street, and propel myself forward one leg at a time. Once the half-marathon was over, I trained for a full marathon and now I run a few miles a week to stay in shape. First I ran, then I became a runner.

For some things, this concept is intuitive. If someone asked you what they had to do to become a lawyer or a doctor, you’d have a simple answer: “Finish your undergraduate studies, attend law school or medical school, take your bar exam or boards and that’s it.”

But most things in life don’t have an exam that declares you that thing. Maybe you’d love to be a writer or a speaker, an artist or an actor, an entrepreneur or an adventurer. Maybe you just wish you were happier or more grateful. But if it doesn’t come naturally to you, then you assume you can’t do it. 

Some of us dabble in that thing we’re curious about. We take a writing class or a public speaking class. We read a book on happiness or practicing gratitude and we learn a few things. But taking a class, reading a book, or watching a video still doesn’t make us that thing we wish we could be. Only putting into practice what we’ve learned will change the game. 

BEWARE OF YOUR NEED TO COMPARE

There are some people born with talents or gifts that make them exceptional at a certain thing. On Tuesdays, I run at the track with one lady in particular who is an elite runner. Her speed is unbelievable. No matter how consistently I pick up my pace, I can never run as fast as her. But that doesn’t mean I’m not a runner. I can become a faster runner than I was, even if I can’t be faster than she is.

A friend of mine is passionate about acting and theater. He’s not the best singer. His talent doesn’t rise to the standard of being a Broadway performer. And yet, that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing what he loves. He consistently performs at community theater plays. There were some lead roles he dreamed of playing in a few of his favorite plays. But those plays either weren’t being offered, or he didn’t land the role he wanted. He decided to do something about that. He pulled some money together and produced a play himself in a local theater. It was a huge success. He recovered his initial investment and made enough money to produce more plays. Now he can say he is a producer and an actor. He did — and he became. And he never even quit his day job.

This is one reason I always warn against comparing our success against someone else’s yardstick.  There may be things that come so naturally to us it feels like breathing. Those are our gifts and talents and we should use them as much as we can. But there are other things we may want to do and don’t have that natural ability. Or there may be areas in our life that we don’t know if we could be good at or not because we’ve never tried them. 

If you dream of being a writer — you need to write consistently.

If you dream of being a speaker — you need to speak consistently.

If you wish you were happier — you need to train your brain to think happy thoughts consistently.

If you wish you were more peaceful — you have to practice breathing techniques, meditation, or other calming strategies consistently.

If you want to have a healthy lifestyle — you need to implement healthy food, exercise, and sleep habits in your life consistently.

If you want to be more self-confident — you need to practice positive self-affirmations consistently.

The common denominator to all of it — do it consistently. You must do consistently what you want to become.

Speaking of becoming. I’ve always dreamt of becoming a published author. I began writing 7 years ago in a blog I created called Pile On The Greens. After several years I expanded my topics and continued blogging on my current blog, Carolinedeposada.com/blog.

That made me a writer. It made me a blogger. But it didn’t make me a published author. The only way I could become a published author was to write a book… and publish it.

I am so excited to announce that I’m about to cross the finish line! I’ve written the book and will be self-publishing sometime between November and December. Just like that, I’ll become a published author instead of wishing I were one.

What about you? Do you catch yourself saying “I wish I could…” or “I wish I were…?”  then there is something you’re being called to do. You’ll never realize that calling if you don’t start somewhere. So do it. Do it consistently and see where that takes you. Before you know it, you may be something you never thought you could be.

A Moment of Clarity

First you do, then you become!

Are You A V.I.P.?

It was Wednesday of the first week of school. At pickup, Ryan opened the door of our Honda Minivan and looked at me with big eyes and a wide smile.

“How was your day?” I asked sensing some good news. 

“Mom, guess what?” Ryan clicked his seatbelt and sat up straight. 

“What?”

“On Friday the teacher is going to announce who is V.I.P. and I’m gonna get it.” Ryan squealed.

“Wow, okay. What is V.I.P.?” 

“It’s when you get to sit in the V.I.P. chair the whole week and you get to do all your worksheets in pen, and you get to use all of the teacher’s supplies … and you know what else?”

“What else?” 

He barely let me finish the sentence. “She gives you notebooks you can draw on if you finish your work early.” His enthusiasm was adorable. 

“That’s awesome, buddy! And how do you know you’re the one getting V.I.P.?”

“Because she gives it to the kid who behaves the best. And mom, I’m the best behaved kid in the class.”

“I see.” 

Ryan was so confident that I believed him. He couldn’t wait to get to school the next day and the next. 

On Friday I waited for him in the pick-up line, excited to see that elated smile. But Ryan kept his head down as he sat in his seat, clicked his seatbelt, and crossed his arms. 

“Ryry what happened?”

“Jake Diaz is the V.I.P., mom.” 

My son was heartbroken. I leaned over to grab his hand. “It’s okay, buddy, you’ll have another chance to get V.I.P. This is only the first week of school.”

“But I behaved so good, mom; I did my best. I just knew I was going to get it, and I didn’t.”

I sat with my six-year-old and explained that sometimes you can work really hard at something and not be rewarded for it. You can do your best, and still lose. But it is in those difficult moments that you have the opportunity to show your real character.

Are you the kind of person who lets a failure keep you down, or the kind of person who keeps working toward your goal? Are you the team player who can celebrate someone else’s win, or will your ego make you resentful and bitter? Will you accept responsibility and find ways to win next time, or will you behave like a victim? 

After some tears and hugs, we agreed that Ryan would work really hard to get V.I.P the following week, while still being happy for Jake. 

The next Friday I waited anxiously for Ryan to come out of the school. As soon as I saw his half-smile, I knew he had not been chosen as V.I.P.

Before I even had the chance to ask, he blurted out, “They gave the V.I.P. to Samantha. The teacher decided to do one week boy, one week girl.” 

That evening at dinner, we shared our highs and lows of the day as we always do. Ryan’s low: “Walking into class, seeing the VIP chair, and knowing I could not sit on it.”  

“Daddy, may I be excused from dinner.” our middle son, Justin, asked. 

Orlando resisted. “Justin, this is our family time together. Why do you want to be excused?”

“Please daddy, please. I need to be excused for a good reason but I can’t say what it is.”

Orlando allowed it. 

A few minutes later, Justin shouted from his room. “Can you guys come here, please? Can you come … now?” 

We headed toward Justin’s room. He’d grabbed Ryan’s old Elmo chair, draped a blanket over it, and decorated it with a white piece of paper that read “V.I.P. Chair.” 

As Ryan walked in Justin stood by the elmo chair and said, “Ryry you don’t have to be V.I.P. at school. You’re V.I.P in our house.”  Ryan ran to his brother and hugged him, crying. 

“Why are you crying?” Justin asked. 

“Because that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, Justy. I have the best family in the world.”

My six-year-old learned a second valuable lesson: Sometimes what matters most is the support system you have around you. Knowing your people have your back, and that they will love you even when you’re down is incredibly powerful.

Our little Ryan did not lose hope. The following week V.I.P. was to be given to a boy, and Ryan was determined to be that boy. Every day he’d come home and let me know he had great conduct and that his teacher was so happy with him. Because I’d have to travel on the next Friday, Ryan asked me to call him as soon as school let out so he could let me know that he’d been chosen as V.I.P. 

At 3:05 p.m. I rang. “Tell me Ryry? Did you get it?” 

Another boy had been chosen once again—a boy who was new to the school and who had become one of Ryan’s closest friends. “Oh buddy, I’m sorry to hear that, but this is Chris’ first year; he may have needed to be V.I.P. even more than you did.” 

“I know, mom. I said congratulations like a hundred times.” 

“Good for you, buddy. You feeling ok?” 

“Yeah I’m fine.” 

“Good. Keep your head up and keep working toward your goal. You’ll be V.I.P. soon enough, and when you do, you’re going to enjoy it even more because you’ll have worked so hard to get it.” 

“Okay, mom.” he replied softly. 

On Tuesday of the fourth week of school, I noticed Ryan crying at bedtime. I lay next to him and asked him what was wrong. 

“Every day I walk into the classroom and I see the V.I.P. chair, and I see myself sitting on it. Mom, I see someone else’s body and it’s like I see a cut out of my face on their body. I belong on that chair. I know I do. And I can’t get V.I.P. this week because it’s a girl’s turn!” he sobbed.

“Ryry, sometimes it takes us longer than we expect to get what we want. We don’t always get what we think we deserve. That’s life, buddy, but this is an opportunity to show you’re not a quitter.” 

“But what is the point of behaving good if a girl is going to get V.I.P. anyway?” 

“Ryan are you supposed to behave in class only to get V.I.P. or because it’s the right thing to do?”

He sniffled. “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

“Okay, let me ask you another question. Let’s say you get chosen as V.I.P. The privileges of being V.I.P only last for one week, right?”

He nodded. 

“Well, does that mean that once that week is over, you plan to behave bad the rest of the year?”

“No.” He looked insulted. 

“Then it doesn’t matter if it’s a girl’s turn this week. You’re supposed to behave because it’s the right thing to do, not because you want to be V.I.P. In life you must do what’s right because it’s right, not because you’re expecting to be rewarded for it. Sometimes you can do what’s right and never be rewarded for it. And even when that’s the case, I promise you, it will always be worth it.”

In a much calmer state, my son looked me in the eyes and said, “I guess you’re right mom.” 

That Friday Ryan was picked up at school by grandma. When I arrived at the house, he was waiting for me with a folded piece of paper in his hand. It had a heart drawn on it and read: “For Mom.” 

Ryan loves to draw me notes so this wasn’t out of the ordinary, but when I opened the paper, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In blue crayon, the note read Ryan is the V.I.P. 

I started jumping up and down and cheering for him. He screeched and laughed in excitement. It was unexpected.

“Ryan, how did this happen? Wasn’t this week’s VIP supposed to be a girl?”

“Mom, I raised my hand in class today and when the teacher came to my desk, I asked her: ‘Does VIP have to go to a girl, or can it go to the child who behaved the best?’  The teacher said, ‘It should go to the child who behaves the best.’ And then at P.E. she said, ‘Ryan is the V.I.P. this week.’”

It was then that my son taught me a life lesson: Sometimes you have to ask for what you want; you have to speak up for yourself. He didn’t think he had a chance to get V.I.P., but Ryan asked the question that made his teacher think about her choice and re-evaluate her decision. He grabbed what he wanted because he knew he deserved it. 

Ryan spent the next week sitting in his V.I.P. chair and enjoying that which he’d longed for since the first week of school.  Every night at dinner as we announced our highs and lows, Ryan would share every detail of how great it was to be V.I.P. 

This brings me to the last life lesson we all learned from this experience: Enjoy the win! Revel in the reward. We will always have ups and downs, wins and losses. Celebrate your successes when you have them and enjoy them.

 

Ryan was only V.I.P for one week, but his determination, character, and resilience will make him V.I.P for a lifetime. 

A Moment of Clarity 

Sometimes you don’t win even when you worked hard. Keep your head up and be a team player. Your time will come.

Surround yourself with people who will always have your back and push you to keep going when you’re feeling down. 

Do what’s right because it’s right, not because of the reward. There won’t always be a reward. 

Ask for what you want. Speak up. Don’t just sit and wait; go out and grab it! 

Celebrate your success. 

Apply these principles in your life, and you will always be a V.I.P.  (A very important person)

What My Mom’s Failed Marriages Taught Me About Success

Today I get to marry my mom. I’m sure that there aren’t that many people who get to do that in their lifetime, but I do. My mom met a wonderful man. He is kind and loving, hard-working and smart. He takes good care of her and makes her laugh. He’s everything she’s been looking for her whole life. 

My mom has married and divorced quite a few times. For a long time, I saw her divorces as a series of poor choices she made. It seemed like she could never get it right. I wanted her to stop making the same mistake, so whenever she got divorced I’d try to convince her to never remarry again. And yet here I am, getting ready to perform her wedding ceremony. Ironically, I couldn’t be happier for her.  

If she knew I was writing about this, she’d probably tell me to delete it!  Her divorces embarrass her. But my mom’s failed marriages have taught me more about success than anything else, and I want her to know how proud of her I am. 

Here are seven important life lessons I’ve learned from this amazing woman: 

Life Lesson:

Let it go

My mom has an incredible ability to forgive. No matter how many times she has been hurt or wronged, she refuses to be a resentful woman. Anger does not define her. Resentment does not consume her. She lets those emotions go. Not allowing your heart to harden makes you vulnerable to getting hurt again — but it also allows you to love again, to trust again, and to dream again. Holding on to the pain may keep you safe from being hurt, but it also means fear controls you. Letting go allows you to live fully instead of letting a part of you die.

Life Lesson:

Correct your mistakes

Mom taught me that you can correct your mistakes. People assume divorce is always a sign of failure. Sometimes divorce is the mistake. It can result from one or both parties’ unwillingness to do what it takes to make their marriage work. Those cases are unfortunate.

But there are also times when divorce is the correction of the mistake. It’s a way to stop the bleeding in a bad situation. It’s a way to cut your losses. I learned from my mom that no matter how painful it is to publicly acknowledge failure (i.e. go through a divorce) it is more painful to be imprisoned in a life that no longer serves you. My mom gave her marriages all she had. She fought for her relationships. But there were boundaries she was unwilling to cross. And when there was nothing more she could do — or there were wrongs she was not willing to accept — she dared to walk away. I will never view my mom as a woman who has failed. I see her as a woman who is courageous enough to start over when her circumstances no longer serve her.

Life Lesson:

Something good can always come from the bad

 I’ve often questioned my mom as to how different her life would look if she’d made better decisions. But she always tells me, “Even if I could change all my decisions, I wouldn’t because they gave me your sister, your brother and you.”  

Life isn’t always perfect, but that doesn’t mean you should want to change it. Your past is part of your journey, and something good will always come from it — even if the only good was the lessons it taught you. 

 Focus on the good and move on. You don’t have to live with regret. Embrace that this is all part of your journey. 

Life Lesson:

Ignore the naysayers

 So many people worry about their image. They govern their decisions by one premise: What will they say? 

But they don’t have to live your life. At the end of the day, they go home and you’re left with the choices you’ve made.

The problem with living life to maintain an image is that it prohibits you from living authentically. That is why so many people suffer from depression or live a secret, double life. 

But not my mom. 

She withstood so much criticism over the years from her family, her friends, to outsiders. People have judged and criticized her for not wanting to be alone. I was one of them. I was only trying to protect her. I didn’t want her to get hurt anymore. I just wanted her to be happy by herself. But that wasn’t my decision to make. Sometimes you think you’re protecting the people you love and what you’re doing is discouraging them from finding their happiness. That must have hurt my mom tremendously, but she ignored us, naysayers.  

My mom is fierce. She forged ahead anyway with a smile on her face and her heart on her sleeve. She wanted to find love and she would never stop looking for it, no matter who said what.  

Life Lesson:

Accept where you are, 

but be clear about where you want to go

 

There came a point in my mom’s life where she finally realized that being alone is better than being in bad company. Her desire for love overlooked that in the past and blurred her decision-making. The good thing about her is that she was strong enough to end bad relationships. The bad thing is that she was weak enough to get into them. Sometimes you have to beat your head against the wall a thousand times before you get it right. She’s one of those people. But at a certain point, albeit late in her life, it clicked that she should only be in a relationship with someone worthy of her. 

 She began doing things she hadn’t done in years: she went back to the gym, made friends, and began enjoying life as a single person. My mom finally accepted that she may be alone for the rest of her life. It made me proud to watch her embrace this new era. 

But she never closed the door to love! She still met people and went on dates, only this time as soon as she saw there was a red flag, she’d stop there. My mom became crystal clear on what it was she was looking for and she would never settle for less again. 

 It was when she took that stance she met the most wonderful man; the man she’s going to spend the last chapter of her life with. 

Life Lesson:

You’re never too old to find happiness

As long as your eyes open in the morning, your life isn’t over. Witnessing my mom find love at 70 years old has been remarkable. One would think she’s too old, but she’s proven to all of us that is only a limiting belief. Love has no age limit. Success has no age limit. The only limits we have are those we impose on ourselves. 

 Stop thinking you’re too old to live your life. You’re still here. Live!

 My mom hasn’t been afraid to put herself out there no matter how old she is. And after all these years, she found the man she dreamed of. We don’t know how long they’ll have together but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they get to be together today. 

Life Lesson:

Own your journey

There have been many moments in mom’s life where things didn’t work out the way she thought they would. There have been many moments when she didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel; when she thought her life was hopeless. Even though she has lived courageously and authentically, there is still a part of her that is ashamed of her divorces. Society has a way of making divorce feel like you’re wearing a Scarlett letter. That’s why it’s so important for me to share this message: You don’t have to be ashamed of your past.  

I wear my mother’s divorces like a badge of honor.  

Because of her mistakes, I’ve learned the power of making good choices. Because of her example, I know I can fail and pick myself back up again. Because of her actions, I know that I can always choose love, happiness, and forgiveness. Because of her never giving up, I know failure often paves the path to success.  

Every journey is different, what matters is that you own yours.  

As I reflected on these life lessons I’ve learned from my mom, I realized if I were to replace the word “marriage” with “business” I’d be describing an entrepreneur’s journey. An entrepreneur’s journey is not easy or perfect. My mom is nothing more than a badass entrepreneur of love!

If there is one thing my mom will say at the end of her life, is that she lived it her way. And that, my friends, is a page we should all take out of her book. 

 

A Moment of Clarity 

No matter how many mistakes you’ve made or how many times you’ve fallen — never give up on fighting for the life you want. A life lived with passion, zest, resilience, and a happy heart is the most successful life you can live. My mom taught me that. 

Have Your Reasons Become Excuses?

I used to love sitting in the audience watching my father deliver a speech. He could tell a story I’d heard a hundred times and I’d laugh, cry, or be inspired as if it was the first time I’d heard it. But watching him wasn’t the only reason I loved being in that room. 

I loved the content. I loved the audience. I loved the business.

Speaking was always something I wanted to do. 

Instead, I became a lawyer. Strange isn’t it —to grow up in a world that you love and consciously decide to do something else. 

There were two big reasons for this:

1. I wanted to have a family. My dad was an awesome dad but didn’t have much success in marriage. I believed if I wanted marriage & kids to be a priority, this wasn’t the business for me. I also had gender bias, thinking it was okay for my dad to travel all the time but assuming it wasn’t okay for me because I was a woman. 

2. I didn’t have enough experience as a business person. I didn’t want to tell people how to do things I hadn’t done myself. I didn’t want to be a phony.

In the last 20 years I’ve learned from the best, worked for others, worked for myself, run successful businesses, and accomplished personal goals. I’ve been a wife, a friend, a daughter, a family member, and I’ve had the privilege to mother three boys.

I thought I’d chosen my life path.

I had no regrets about that.

But paths evolve. We are constantly entering new phases.

What came before trains us for what’s yet to come. 

When my dad died, I realized the days of me sitting in the audience watching him speak were over. Without knowing it, I’d been training for this my entire life. If I ever wanted to see my dad on stage again, or stay involved in that world I adored, it was time for me to step on to the stage.

The two reasons I didn’t speak before weren’t reasons anymore, they had become excuses.

Because I’ve reached a point where my family is strong enough to support my work whether I have to travel or not. And as for experience in life and business? I have plenty.

It is my time to share. 

Sometimes we want things that we’re not ready for but we forget that life is long. There are seasons in our lives where we have reasons not to do something we want to do. That’s okay. Timing is important. But be vigilant as your life path evolves. When you realize your reasons have become excuses, you’ll know your time has come to do that thing that’s been gnawing at you all along. You’ll be ready.

A Moment of Clarity

You are always in training for something bigger, even if that something comes 20 years from now.

 

Pick Your Pitch

My eight-year-old Justin, plays in a baseball league. He has a practically perfect, beautiful swing—a swing that when executed properly could rip a home run. And yet he often fails to make contact with the ball. It used to be because he wasn’t keeping his eye on the ball. Eventually he realized that he couldn’t swing and pray that the ball the pitcher threw would magically meet the barrel of his bat. He had to focus on where the ball was and adjust upward or downward. He was the one responsible for making contact and increasing his chances to get on base. 

Then something interesting happened. He’d swing at everything, no matter where it went. The problem with that is that some pitches are bad pitches. 

One evening after a game, Justin walked toward the car with his head down because he’d struck out. His dad patted his son’s head. “You have to pick your pitch, son.”  

He explained that part of the process of keeping your eye on the ball is knowing when to adjust and when not to swing. “I know you’re excited to make contact with the ball. But if it’s a bad pitch, you waste a swing and increase your chances of striking out when you could have waited for a better pitch.” 

At the very next game, Justin hit two doubles and a triple. He’d applied the lessons his father had taught him and was reaping the results. Unfortunately, our six-year-old did not have the same luck. He is on the same team as his brother. He stepped up to the plate and when the ball came flying toward him, he held his swing. At the next pitch, he swung and missed. Strike. Then he held his swing again. After a few pitches, the coach told him, “Ryan, this is your fifth swing. You HAVE to swing, no matter what.” Ryan swung and fowled off, but he didn’t understand that he’d met his pitch count according to the rules of the league and could no longer wait for a good pitch. On the next throw, he held his swing and was called “Out!”

He cried his way to the dugout. “I did what dad told me to do.” He said, tears streaming down his eyes. Although he was following the right principle, he didn’t understand that the principle has its limits. There are only so many times you can wait for the right pitch before you have to swing even if its not the perfect pitch. 

That fine line is just as difficult to master in our businesses as it is in baseball. 

Sometimes we think our product, offering, or service is so good we can sit and wait for the customers to find us. But customers and clients don’t magically appear on our doorstep. Having a good product or service isn’t enough.  Being good at what we do isn’t enough. We have to adjust our sales pitches and our marketing efforts to speak the same language as our potential customers. We have to focus on their wants, needs and struggles instead of thinking our work or talent speaks for itself. That’s how we keep our eye on the ball in business. It requires a deep understanding of our business, our clients, and the outcomes we’re looking for. 

As for picking our pitches, we are often so hungry that we say “yes” to every business opportunity and every client we come in contact with, even if they’re not a good fit. We eat the marshmallow. (If you don’t know what that means, click here).  We overlook that we are not engaging with the ideal customers or that our clients are underpaying for our services because we desperately want the sale. This can create a vicious cycle in our businesses where we’re working too much for too little. A dangerous business model that ultimately results in unhappy customers and frustrated business owners. What’s worse is that if you kept your eye on the ball and were patient, the right pitch could increase your chances of hitting a home run. But there are moments when we have to swing. When the bills are due, or we have to prove ourselves, or we need exposure, sometimes we have to go for it even if it’s not the perfect opportunity. 

Like most things, the answer is in the middle. Keeping our eye on the ball and knowing when to hit versus when to hold is an art, not a science.  You will strike out from time to time. You will swing when you shouldn’t and you will hold when you could’ve swung. And sometimes you’ll lose sight of the ball. But no matter how often you strike out, the only way you’ll improve is if you keep showing up to the game and stepping up to the plate. The more you do, the better you’ll get at picking your pitch. 

A Moment of Clarity

When thinking about your business, always keep these two simple rules from baseball in mind:

Keep your eye on the ball. 

Pick your pitch. 

What if you could…

Have you ever had a big dream or idea? One that lights you up inside when you think about it. You might get carried away while all the possibilities fluttering in your mind get bigger and bigger. But then you come back to reality and remember the bills you have to pay, the kids you have to raise, and the deadlines you have to meet. And then of course, the quickest way to reign in those fantasies is with the very real notion that you could fail.  Before you know it you’ve tucked those wild thoughts neatly into the if only I could compartment of your brain.

Last week I took my kids to the circus. No, not the big giant Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus (that one closed down). I’m talking about a small circus in a round, pop-up tent on an open field in the middle of our local Kendall Town and Country mall. We know this area for its movie theater, restaurants and shops, but hearing of a traveling circus appearing in the middle of it seemed random. And yet there it was.

A little circus that had big dreams. 

At least that’s what Kevin Venardos, the ringmaster and creator of that American circus, said in his opening act. He spoke to the kids in the audience and encouraged them to follow their dreams, even if they are mocked or bullied, and even when it seems impossible. Venardos showed us how he dreamed of owning a circus and willed it into existence.  

Talented performers, inspiring words, great music, and a sense of joy and happiness made for a spectacular Sunday outing with our family. I was most impressed by learning that the performers who wowed the audience were the same people who set up the tent, collected tickets at the front door, sold popcorn during intermission, and cleaned up when the show was over. Within their team of fifteen people, there was no such thing as “that’s not my job.”  Every one of those performers has to pitch in and wear different hats to bring this event to life. That’s the price they pay for doing what they love. And seeing how they do it with pride, joy, and determination is a lesson for all of us. 

This is a business that started from the ground up with just an idea and a team that was willing to put in the time, energy, and work to make it happen. They believed in themselves before anyone else believed in them. They struggled, made mistakes, and overcame obstacles. Venardos started with one show in one year… and now is making appearances in over 40 states. Maybe that’s why he coined his circus “the little circus that could.”  Because Venardos and his team are willing to do what others may not be willing to do, they are succeeding, growing, and realizing their dreams.

So now I ask you: What if you could start that business or do that thing that makes your imagination sing? What if you could will your dreams into existence?

Would you? 

Would you be willing to believe in yourself before anyone else does?

Would you be willing to put in the sweat and tears?

Would you be willing to do what others are not willing to do? 

A Moment of Clarity

The next time an idea or dream rents space in your head, instead of thinking if only I could, think what do I have to do, to turn those dreams into reality. 

Successful people are willing to do things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do. – Joachim de Posada

Living With a New Truth

In our home we celebrate Christmas. For many years I struggled with the “Santa” tradition. A part of me enjoyed that my kids believed in Santa and all the magic that came along with it. But another part of me didn’t want to lie to them. I had no problem finding out the truth about Christmas when I was young, but a friend of mine was deeply scarred by it and it took a long time for her to trust her parents again. She vowed to never mislead her future children. I wondered what it would look like when my kids found out. Not only did they believe in Santa, but they also believed the magical Elf on the Shelf moves around the house and travels to the North Pole every evening. 

Would they feel betrayed? Would they stop trusting us? Will they be devastated? 

Nonetheless I played along, postponing the inevitable. Until January of this year. We were attending my oldest son’s developmental workshop in the University of Miami. (Click here if you haven’t read that inspiring series) 

 Justin, my middle child who had just turned seven, told me he needed to speak to me in private. 

We went off to the side, and I knelt down to meet my son at eye level. 

“Mommy” he looked away. “I don’t think I believe in Santa or God.”  My heart stopped. I wasn’t prepared to have this conversation. I needed to buy some time. 

“What does your heart tell you, Justy?” 

“My heart tells me to believe Mommy, but my brain is interfering with my heart.”  Stay calm, Caro, I told myself. We were in the middle of an event and I didn’t want to have this conversation without my husband there. But I knew it was time to tell Justin the truth. 

“Justy, we’ll talk about this today but we need to wait until we get home so we can speak in private. Is that okay?” 

Justin nodded. 

“I don’t want you to talk to your brothers about this, either. This is between you, mommy and daddy.” 

“Okay mommy.” 

I kissed his cheek and stroked his sweet, innocent face. I almost cried. 

I found Orlando in the crowd and told him what had happened. “We have to tell him tonight,” I said. Orlando agreed. 

Justin, true to his promise, didn’t mention anything for the rest of the evening. When we finally arrived home, we put the other boys to bed. Justin, his dad and I locked ourselves in my bedroom and sat on the bed. 

We had a beautiful conversation about Santa and the elves. We told Justin that now that he knew the truth, he had become one of Santa’s helpers, and it was his job to pass the magic on to his brothers who still believed. We explained the difference between Santa and God and our thoughts on both. (I will not share the God conversation in this post for brevity, but if you are interested in knowing what that conversation looked like, let me know in the comments and I will write a separate blog about it.)

In August of this year, Orly started a new school. Because he was entering the fourth grade, we were afraid that the kids in the new school would spoil Christmas for him and we wanted him to hear the news from us, not anyone else. So a few days before his first day of school, we sat down with him and had the same conversation we’d had in January with Justin. Orly was dumbfounded. Unlike his brother, he was unsuspecting. What hurt him the most was discovering that the elf wasn’t real. He loved his elf. It had become his friend, and he trusted it. He was crushed to learn that it wasn’t magical.  I wondered if we had made the right decision in creating this fantasy for our kids only to shatter their reality later. 

On Thanksgiving morning, I was busy preparing for our dinner when Orly called me over to his room. “Mom!” He whispered. “Where are the elves?” 

“Oh, Um, they’re put away.” I had forgotten that the elves arrive on Thanksgiving Day. 

“Well, you need to go get them mom. Ryan will be waiting for them!” 

I sneaked over to their secret hiding spot, took them out of the box and handed them to my son. Orly called out for Justin and together they ran off to conspire on what they would do with the elves to surprise their baby brother. A new season had begun in our home. 

For weeks I’ve seen the big brothers create the same magical experience for their little brother as we created for them. They’ve been intentional about the words they use and the actions they take. Orly has been particularly mindful about helping me with the elves. I am amazed at how fun it’s been to team up with my kids this year.  

I was talking with Justin the other day and I asked him how he felt about all that had happened. 

Justin shrugged his shoulders as he confessed,  “At first I felt a little betrayed that you guys had lied. But mom, now that I’ve seen the look on Ryan’s face when he wakes up to those elves, I understand why you did it for us.” 

“Are you enjoying the year as much now that you’re in the know?” I asked. 

“I’m actually enjoying it even more!” He smiled. 

It still pains Orly that his elf isn’t what he thought he was. But even so I’ve been so proud of how gracefully he’s behaved. His disappointment has not affected the excitement he’s had in making this time special for his little brother. He found a new way to experience the joy of Christmas. 

I no longer question whether what we did was right or wrong. I realized that because my boys lived the magic, they can now create that magic for someone else. 

The magical moments they experienced growing up were very much real to them in the moment. And that is how we should all live, isn’t it? In the moment.  Change doesn’t take away the experience, it creates the space for new experiences. We may believe something to be true for us today that isn’t true for us tomorrow. That’s okay. It’s part of our journey. We evolve, we learn, and we adapt to our new reality. If you look back, you‘ll realize that each experience and every belief is training you for what’s coming next in your life. It will help you lead others and serve others in a new capacity. It stops being about you, and it becomes about them. I learned this lesson as a parent, and my boys learned it as big brothers. No matter how many things change, we can find the beauty, the joy, and the magic in the next stage of our journey. Life is all about how you choose to look at it. It can be wonderful, even if it’s different from what you once knew. 

A Moment of Clarity

 First you live the magic, then you create it. 

The Middle Years

Our family celebrated my husband’s grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary. Their daughters honored them with a ceremony and reception, surrounded by all of their family and friends, to fulfill their dream of getting married by the church. After sixty-five years of civil union, our grandparents stood at the altar choosing to love each other and take care of each other once again. 

Witnessing a happy old couple holding hands, giving each other a tender kiss or renewing their vows after many years of marriage is inspiring. A sign of lives well lived and two people who, together, have made it to the top of the mountain—encouraging those that follow behind them that they too can enjoy a long-lasting, meaningful relationship. 

A new marriage is also emotive. It’s beautiful to see two people who found each other and committed to building their life together. As we celebrate their nuptials, we hope that they will become the happy old couple at the top of the mountain.

These are the picture-perfect moments; the Hallmark cards of life, representing all that is good and beautiful. 

But what must the newly married do to become the happy old couple? They must endure the middle years!

As we admire old couples or encourage young ones, we gloss over the middle years—the period of raising children, pursuing careers, and trying to make ends meet while saving for retirement. Couples struggle with finding their way as a unit while preserving their identity as an individual. We grow tired of each other or our marriages become stale, giving rise to disillusion or infidelity. We get wrapped up in commitments, financial pressures, and demands of daily life. Our dreams and goals often get set aside to push our children‘s futures forward. 

It’s such a chaotic time that eventually it blends together in our memories. It‘s easy during this time for couples to stop looking at each other lovingly, holding hands or giving each other tender kisses. Getting lost in the middle years makes it difficult for the marriage to survive, not to mention that illness or death can strip couples from enjoying their relationship into old age. Like everything in life, it takes a certain level of luck and a lot of good choices during those middle years to reach the top of the marital mountain. 

That is why celebrating a 65th wedding anniversary is so meaningful. The old couple survived the middle years and lived to tell the tale. 

I once wrote an open letter to a newly married couple sharing five principles to help them along their journey. What I was offering them were the tools to overcome the challenges of the middle years. They are simple suggestions but that doesn‘t mean they‘re easy. If you are a newly married couple or wrapped up in the in-between, I encourage you to read that post by clicking here. 

With only twelve years under our belts, my husband and I are in the midst of the middle years, working together to climb our mountain. In the past I’ve written about choices we’ve made as a couple and rough patches we’ve encountered in our marriage. We’ve navigated through changes in our career and employment, the illness and death of a parent, and many other struggles that we’ve confronted along the way. But we’ve done our part to enjoy the journey, sort though the mess, and never stop holding hands. So far, our imperfectly perfect marriage is going strong. 

True commitment, good choices, and a little luck can produce magnificent results in marriage and in life. 

Watching the joy in our grandparents’ faces as they shared their special day with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren was priceless. A true success story, worthy of emulating.  As my husband, three kids and I stood by our grandparents’ side, I prayed that that would be us one day. 

A Moment of Clarity

No matter how special it is to witness a new couple tie the knot or an old couple renew their vows, never forget success happens in the middle years. 

‘Tis the Season of Overwhelm

I envision the holiday season as a dreamy and peaceful time where I get to make gingerbread houses and bake cookies with my boys, watch Christmas movies in our matching holiday pajamas and ride bike around the park. 

But as soon as December hits, real life quickly sets in with massive traffic congestion, promotional email overload, and trying to tie loose ends before we wrap up the year. Add to that, massive shopping, constant holiday parties, and keeping up with what to bring on what day to my kids’ schools. Meanwhile, as I’m trying to keep my head above water, every blog post, commercial and podcast is reminding me to be mindful, present, and in the true spirit of the holidays. The only spirit I’m in is the one of exhaustion. 

Sound familiar? 

This December crept up on me. I was supposed to have my book finished by now, but I’m still working on the final edits. Two of my sons are performing in plays in theaters on opposite ends of town. What were we thinking?

Between drop offs and pick-ups, school, work, lunches, homework, Iready, sending out Christmas cards, buying gifts and remembering to move the elves every night, I’m hanging on by a thread! 

I’m pretty sure the holidays aren’t supposed to be this stressful, but the consensus from everyone I talk to is that we’re all feeling overwhelmed.  But I’ve come to a conclusion: this is totally our fault. 

I’m not saying we don’t have a lot on our plates, or that the stress isn’t real. But the reason we feel overwhelmed isn’t because of what we have to do, it’s because of the value we attach to all that we have to do.  

We place so much importance on our to-do list and don‘t realize that in the scheme of things, much of our pressure is self-imposed and insignificant. We worry that others will judge us or that not doing something makes us a failed parent, spouse, employee, boss, or person. That stress steals the joy out of the things we actually want to do. 

And the craziest part about it is that despite the chaos, it’s over before we know it. Soon we’ll long for that time again with the same romantic goggles we had before it started! A friend of mine said the other day, “It’s hard but I’m sure I’m living the best years of my life.”  I don’t want to miss “living” the best years of my life because I’m stressing to-do items I’ve overvalued. 

So here’s the deal. Things will never be perfect. My blog this week was a day late, my book won’t be released until after January, and by the year-end I’ll still have loose ends I didn’t resolve.  I choose whether to beat myself up for the things I haven’t done, or honor the things I have accomplished. 

There is always a choice in how you look at things. 

So if you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, take a hard look at how much value you’re putting on all the miscellaneous things you’ve added to your plate. Are they to-dos you want to do or have to do? Do they all need to get done? What would life look like if you didn’t do them? Would it matter a year from now? How about 10 years from now? If this were your last holiday season ever, how would you spend it? 

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll know what things to put the most value on during this December. And for the rest of it, cut yourself some slack. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s good enough.

A Moment of Clarity

The reason we feel overwhelmed isn’t because of what we have to do, it’s because of the value we attach to all that we have to do.