Tag Archives: Courage

Stand Up

4 May

One day during an important staff meeting with the senior management team, my supervisor was annoyed at something that had happened, and made a remark giving his opinion that included several extremely vulgar words. I was shocked. I do not use that sort of language, and I found it to be very offensive, especially since I was at work, and required to attend the meeting. To my own, and everyone else’s surprise, I stood up at once and said, “I will not remain here in this meeting if this is the kind of language that will be used. I will not tolerate this level of un-professionalism, and I am completely offended.” I remember I was shaking because I was so upset. There was a stunned silence as everyone realized I had broken the first two cardinal rules of work. #1 – Do not criticize your boss, and #2 – Do not EVER criticize your boss in front of his/her boss. Yep, I had completely ignored those, and had stood right up, and spoken out. After a moment, my supervisor apologized to everyone, and said he was sorry he had used that language. I sat back down, and the meeting continued.

Afterward, back at my desk, I thought about what had happened, and I wondered what repercussions I would be facing for standing up, and making such a scene at the meeting. I was concerned that I may have jeopardized my job. I mean, you don’t correct your boss when his boss is in the room without something happening later, right? I remember sitting there and thinking I was going to face some serious setbacks for my outburst, and I was quite worried. But I had done what I felt was important. I had kept my standards, and stood up for what I thought was correct.

What happened next surprised me. One by one, the others in the meeting came by my desk to thank me for speaking up. They each said they, too, were offended by the comment, but were uncomfortable pointing it out, and they were proud of me for being brave enough to address it. And then my supervisor called me into his office. “Well, here it comes,” I thought. I took a deep breath, and walked over to see him. “Shut the door,” he said as I entered. I sat down, and looked him in the eye prepared to take whatever was coming. He looked at me, and then apologized profusely for his behavior at the meeting. He said I was right to say something, and he was embarrassed by his statements. He asked me to forgive him, and said he would never use that sort of language in the office again. I was stunned – I did not expect that.

We all have our own ideas about what is right and appropriate, and often when someone steps all over them, we don’t say anything. We just stay quiet to avoid an uncomfortable situation. But I learned that day that speaking up was the better choice. Most people don’t want to offend those around them. Sure, there are some that don’t care about anyone but themselves, but most people try to be polite, and not hurt others. So it’s appropriate if we are uncomfortable, that we say something. We have the right to say it’s not okay. We can stand up for what we think is right.

Today, if you find yourself in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, remember, you can say something about it. You can be polite, but you can also be forthright. You can say you are uncomfortable, and you want the situation to change. You have that right. Today, exercise that right. Speak up. Be clear. Say what you are feeling. Do not sit quietly, and take it. If you stand up, you will feel stronger, and more empowered. You will gain the respect of those around you. And those are great attributes to gain. Speak up. Say what you mean. Be strong.

Setting the Bar

12 Apr

Lauren Hill died two days ago. If you haven’t heard of her, there has been a lot written about her and you can surely find several articles regarding her amazing life. Lauren was only 19 years old when she died. A college freshman basketball player excited about her prospects for the future. And then she was diagnosed with an inoperable, untreatable, fatal brain tumor. Instead of becoming morose and depressed, instead of giving up, she persevered and became an example to everyone. She said, “I don’t want people to say I lost, or I gave up,” and she didn’t. She was always cheerful, always smiling, always positive. And she thought of others. She raised over 1.5 million dollars for cancer research while suffering with the disease herself. Because she was becoming weaker every day, her college coach moved up their first game so that she could realize her dream of playing for them. She played well to a sold out crowd.

I have been following Lauren for some time. I have been amazed at her strength and courage in the face of sure defeat. I have been inspired, and impressed. She was always so happy even when it must have been hard to even face the day. I reflected on my life and my choices. Here was this young woman smiling with brain cancer, and I’m not that cheerful when I have a mere headache! And I thought of the example she was for us all.

Nobody knows what life will bring them. Along the way we will make millions of decisions. Will they be good or bad? Will they affect others in a positive way, or will we be the one that destroys someone else? Will they have far reaching implications or will they just touch our moment? Will we be able to fix things when we falter? Will we be an example for good? Every decision will have some impact – good or bad, large or small, temporary or permanent – we have to wait and see. We surely will all die at some point. The mark we leave after we’re gone depends on what we do today.

Lauren Hill set the bar high. She never waivered. She never quit. She never gave up. Instead, she gave back every day. She looked outside herself and touched others. She set the bar high. She set it for all of us. Today, remember that kind of courage. Remember that it’s possible, even when we feel bad, to be the example. Remember that we, too, can set the bar high and be noble. We are here for a purpose. Today, recognize that and be the best you can be.

My boss the bully.

27 Mar

Some years ago I had a very stressful job.  It involved dealing with all kinds of unhappy people in situations where they were angry.  I am pretty good at diffusing conflict and I learned very quickly just to listen and let them blow off steam before I would talk and offer suggestions for resolution.  It was a good job in that the salary was high, the hours were good, and the benefit package was nice, but it was a very hard job and what made it worse was that my boss at the time was a bully.  And to add to it, (although this term has been completely over used and tossed around way too much in recent years) the woman was also a racist.  She hated white people.  She frankly stated it time and again.  At work!  I will not reveal what race she identified with because it’s not important.  What is important is that I am “white” or what she thinks of as white.  Actually I’m Italian, but that was white enough for her.

The first few months in my new position, my boss ridiculed me regularly, demeaned me in meetings, and criticized me openly in front of my co-workers.  Every time I turned around she made a snide remark about me, and did everything seemingly in her power to make me feel horrible.  There were days I cried in my car driving home thinking, “I can’t go back tomorrow.”  But I needed the job and there was no way I could quit.  I tried meeting with her alone but she would not show at our appointed time.  I asked again and again to see her, and she would not meet with me.  Her boss was also her best friend who hired her despite the fact that she did not meet the requirements for the job, so going to him seemed pointless.  And so I was stuck day after day basically in job hell.  After several months of this, I became physically sick and called my elderly dad and told him what was going on.  He was patient and told me what I already knew – I shouldn’t have to put up with this.  Then I called my attorney and asked him what my options were and he advised me with all kinds of legal suggestions that I figured would just make the situation worse.  And then I called my Bishop at church who advised me to pray about it, which I had been and continued to do.  But still there was no change.

After one particularly horrible day, I went home sick to my stomach, with a grinding headache, and decided I couldn’t take it any more.  I shouldn’t have to put up with this, I didn’t want to take legal action, and so I decided I was going to have to quit.  I didn’t know how I was going to manage but anything was better than what I was enduring.

I got home, cried a little, felt horrible a lot, took a long soak in the hottest water I could stand, and went to bed.  Resigned to my fate.  Defeated.  Done.

But something happened that night.  I tossed and turned in bed for hours and at about 2:00 in the morning I sat straight up and said out loud, “Oh no you don’t.  You are not taking my job from me.  This ends NOW.”  Somehow in a moment I had changed.  I was not going to be the victim anymore.  I was going to stand up and although I didn’t know how I was going to do it, I was going to confront her in the morning and put a stop to the abuse.  I took a deep breath, steeled my resolve and went to sleep.

The next morning I got up and got ready.  I was nervous and scared, tremulous, but determined.  No more letting her roll over me.  No more abuse.  When I got settled at work, I stood up, took a deep breath and marched into her office.  I shut her door, and told her I needed to talk to her.  She looked up at me like she wanted to put a knife in my heart.  I took another deep breath and said:

“I will no longer tolerate your abusive behavior.  It will stop today.  If it does not stop today, I will either file a civil lawsuit of discrimination, an EEO complaint, or a grievance.  Or I might file all three.  But your degrading comments about me and to me, your constant criticism, and your remarks about my race end now.  This is over.  Are we clear?”

She was stunned!  She looked like she had been hit in the face with a brick (I know I exaggerate but you need to know the full effect of my words.)  She cleared her throat and said she would have to report my comments to her boss, and I said, “That will be fine.  Are we done here?”  She nodded, and I turned and left her office.

When I got back to my desk I nearly fell into my chair I was shaking so hard.  I felt I had faced down the demon, and it had been both a terrifying, and immensely gratifying experience.  It took a while for my breathing to calm and for me to be able to feel normal again, but I was very, very proud of myself of facing the issue and doing what had to be done.

After the moment I left her office, everything changed instantaneously.  I never heard another single negative thing from my boss.  Nothing.  She was cordial and polite every time we interacted, she was respectful in meetings, and when we passed in the halls she always said hello.  I couldn’t believe the difference or how quickly it happened.  Later she moved on to another job, as did I.  We’re both still with the same company, and when we see each other she is always quick to say hello and ask how I’m doing.  A complete and total reversal from where we had been.

Is there a bully in your life?  Someone who is making you miserable?  Someone who is doing things that hurt you maliciously?  You don’t have to take that.  You can stand up to it.  They say that many people who bully others do so because they have a low self image and lack courage.  That seems to have been the case in my situation.  I am not an extremely brave person.  I struggle with fear – have my entire life.  It took everything I had to stand up to the bully in my life, but I did it, and everything changed.  If I can do it, you can do it too.  Stand up.  You are worth the very best there is out there.  You can defend yourself and you can prevail.

Yes, you can.

25 Mar

There are limitless possibilities in every life.  Millions of paths you could choose, innumerable choices you can make about how you will live your life and what you will do.  The sky’s the limit.  We believe these things when we are young and think about becoming astronauts, ballerinas, famous musicians, Nobel prize winning scientists, and anything else we dream up.  We are sure when we are young that all of these things are certainly possible.  But as we get older and begin to more closely define our lives and what is important to us, we are also impacted by the opinions and advice of others.  It’s wonderful to be a dreamer and imagine everything that can be – dreamers are the people that give the whole world color and interest.  As we age, sometimes we temper our dreams because somebody said they would be not only difficult, but frankly impossible for us to achieve what we’ve been dreaming about.  And maybe somebody else said the idea was ridiculous.  And maybe somebody else said we should be sensible and plan for something that is easier to attain, where we can succeed.  It seems there is no limit to the number of people who will discourage our dreams.  Perhaps it’s because they are cautious.  Perhaps it’s because they are jealous.  Perhaps it’s because they are afraid.  Or maybe it’s because they didn’t go after their own dreams and so they really don’t want us to go after ours and maybe succeed where they failed.   There are countless reasons why people discourage us, and every time they do they chip away a tiny piece of our resolve, a tiny piece of our confidence – that is if we listen to them.

Our lives belong to us.  And they go by fast.  It seems that in a blink five years have passed.  It is important, no it is imperative that we understand that we control our lives.  We can do anything we want.  It doesn’t matter if everyone tells us it won’t work, we can still do it.  The greatest minds in history did things nobody thought could be done.  It is said that Edison designed 1,000 light bulbs that failed before he finally designed one that worked.  Somebody asked him how he could keep going when he had failed already 1,000 times.  His response?  “I haven’t failed 1,000 times.  I have found 1,000 ways that it won’t work.”  And that’s the attitude of success.

I went on a cruise with some friends and there was an excursion, “Adventure in the Trees” or something like that.  It involved completing an obstacle course twenty feet up in an orchard of trees on ropes, including zip lines and all sorts of tricky maneuvers.  We decided it looked like fun and figured it should be safe because the cruise line was sponsoring it.  When we got to the course and climbed up to the ropes we were told that nobody was going to assist us because the tour group had found that when their team helped the participants then tended to rely on them, and would get hurt more often than if they were left to themselves.  I took one look at the situation and thought “THERE IS NO WAY I CAN DO THIS!!”  We had to climb around large tree trunks with nothing to stand on, step on floating planks to get through, and hang from ropes at certain times.  My friend behind me was screaming, “Whose idea was this?  This is insane!”  I called back, “Just keep going,” and I proceeded with my heart in my throat.  The course was not easy and took about two and a half hours to complete.  But by the end of it we were laughing and having a blast.  We had tested ourselves, and once we got over our fears, found that it was really fun to push ourselves and figure it all out.  At the end of the course we decided it had been the BEST DAY EVER!  That was a great example to me that even when I’m afraid and think I can’t do something, I should go out there and do it anyway.

Is there something you really want to do and haven’t tried because you were told it wouldn’t work, it wouldn’t be worth your time or money, it was a dumb idea, or any other discouraging advice?  Is there something you really want to do that you haven’t tried because you’ve been afraid it would fail?  What’s the worst thing that could happen if you actually tried to do the one thing you really want to do?  What’s the worst thing that could happen?  If you want to start performing music, someone could say “You suck.”  Can you handle that?  If you design a new piece of equipment and it fails, you’re out the time you spent and whatever funds you invested.  Can you handle that?  If you want to write a book and you finish it, and nobody publishes it, can you handle that?  Take some time and think about what it is you really want to do.  Make a plan to begin the process to get it started.  When the hurdles come, jump over them.  You can do anything you want to do.  Anything.  Sure some things will fail, sure it might not go the way you think it will, sure it might be difficult, but you can still do it.  And whatever comes, you’ll be happy that you tried.   They say that when we are dying it’s not the things we did that we regret – it’s the things we didn’t do.  So be brave.  Be convinced.  Get out there.  Do what you are dreaming of.  Take control.  Live YOUR life.  Have a blast!