No matter what it is, ending well matters.

Whether a much needed vacation, retirement from a meaningful career, ending a relationship, navigating a courageous conversation, saying goodbye to a parent, or the last line in your manuscript, ending well there starts right here. By now we have hopefully learned that absolute control over anything is…well..a joke. However, mindful consideration of a desired outcome can help us better order our steps from here to there.  But while we can work mightily to achieve a goal, make things go our way, craft a specific outcome, influence another person, or take all the right steps, there will always be an element of “it’s a crap shoot”. If we focus solely on exactly how we would like things to turn out, we’ve missed the deeper issue. What matters even more than how it turns out, is who we are in that moment. The essence of beginning with the end in mind can be summed up in one question: When the end of whatever “it” is comes, who do we want to be?

Examples of endings are everywhere. Some that end well, and others not so much. Whether you are an NFL fan or not, this years Super Bowl is a prime example. The Carolina Panthers, led by their talented, brash young quarterback Cam Newton, were the hands-down favorite. Expected by everyone, including themselves, to win. They didn’t.  By a long shot.  An hour after the game, Cam Newton stepped in front of the microphone as the leader of his team, to fulfill his media obligation.  Hoodie pulled low over his face, he sat in a chair, eyes down, gave short sullen answers until getting up and walking out mid-interview. Did he want to win?  Of course!  Why else would he play the game?  Had he given thought to who he wanted to be, win or lose?  Apparently not.  Compare that to last years Super Bowl when the Seattle Seahawks, led by their talented, humble young quarterback Russell Wilson, experienced an even more devastating loss.  Expected by many, including themselves to win, they didn’t. Within seconds of winning the game, with that ill-fated, still debated call…. they lost.  An hour later Russell Wilson stepped in front of the microphone as the leader of his team, to fulfill his media obligation.  Suit and tie, he stood, faced the camera, expressed appreciation for his teammates, took responsibility for the loss, and praised the winning team. Did he want to win?  Yes!  Why else would he play the game? Had he given thought to who he wanted to be win or lose?  Apparently so.

One of the greatest lessons in ending well came for me personally when my mom passed away.  Her name was Ashby, and the word that best describes who she was and how she walked through the world is ‘grace’. There was nothing Asbhy loved more than what she liked to call a “good visit”.  Whenever you showed up on her doorstep, announced or not, whatever the task at hand was set aside and replaced with a cup of tea, served in her best china.  She was short on advice and long on understanding. She loved by listening. The last week of her life we brought her back from the hospital to the home she loved and tucked her into the bed she still shared with my dad.  Every day was filled with her grace, along with a constant stream of friends and family who came by for one more good visit. They would sit on her bed and talk to her, sing to her, laugh and cry with her. No longer able to speak, she did what she did best.  She loved by listening. After she was gone, I realized that I had been given the opportunity to stand at the end of her life, and look back on my own. From that vantage point I understood that ending her life with grace wasn’t the result of some grand decision, but rather is an accumulation of choices.

As I reflect on this topic I am reminded of something Mr. Carson, the butler of Downton Abbey said.  “The business of life is the accumulation of memories.  In the end, that’s all we have.”  The way in which we end things is either the accumulation of a memory or a regret.  To gather more memories, begin with the end in mind.

What endings are on your radar screen? When the end of whatever “it” is comes, who do you want to be? What would ending well in those situations mean? Now is when ending well starts. Here is where it begins. This present moment is what you have to work with.

This blog post also appears on Trailhead Coaching & Consulting
As 2015 draws to a close, Kristine and I send all of you our crazy-deep thanks for walking the planet with us.  Our Matters That Matter work continues, and we love it as much as ever.  We are also each finding work that fills our individual souls…  please, oh please, visit Kristine’s website to see what she is up to… Bean Pole Pottery  Every piece she makes takes one’s breath away!
Molly is about to launch her new business – Trailhead Coaching and Consulting.  In anticipation for her website going “live” (mid-January) here is a final post to end 2015 well, and step into 2016.

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It’s almost here.  

A new year.

As I sit at my desk writing this post, outside my window, it’s winter.  3ft of snow, icicles hanging from the roof, the sun moving across the sky while never clearing the tree line, and the world seems to be holding its breath, quietly waiting for…. something.  

 

Just back from visiting friends and family, having spent time with some of those we love most, it seems that there is a theme afoot among those we spend time with.  That theme?  Anticipation. Every single conversation over the holiday season shed a different speck of the same light on the year ahead. No one knows for sure what is coming, what exactly lies ahead, or what specifically is over the next rise.  But one thing they do know for damn sure, is that “it” is coming their way. They are anticipating its arrival, not expecting it.  They are preparing for it, not planning for it. They are listening for it, not talking to it.  They are holding it lightly, not gripping it tightly.  

Expectation is enclosed, signaling a kind of certainty, and like a practical-minded project leader, it is focused on what should happen.  Anticipation has an openness to it, a sense of wonder and childlike delight, giddy about what could happen.   

Expectation is a  spotlight.  Anticipation is a sparkler.

Expectation seems cramped, a wee bit suffocating and expects you to color inside the lines.  Anticipation feels spacious, with room to breathe and room to roam.

Expectation is certain.  Anticipation is curious.

Expectation likes information.  Anticipation loves imagination.

Expectation favors control.  Anticipation is fond of courage.

Expectation is an expedition.  Anticipation is an adventure.

It might be easy to think that they are the same thing, but as we head into a new year, I suggest they are not.  We aren’t just haggling over semantics here.  Expectation casts the future in concrete, setting us up for disappointment and disillusion, since life rarely works out exactly as planned.  Anticipation on the other hand, opens the door to new possibilities, leading us on an adventure of discovery and delight, as life unfolds in new and unexpected ways.    

 Expectation or Anticipation?  

Each is a mindset.  

Each is a choice.

2016: A Year of Expectation or Anticipation?

Your choice. 

Read the rest of this entry »

When NO means YES

April 14, 2015

by Molly Davis

IMG_0053My cell phone rang as Kristine and I walked back to the conference center to facilitate another workshop at the retreat. Gathered at a beautiful resort in Woodstock, NY, the woods ablaze with fall colors, it had already been two days of connection and inspiration, new friends and new ideas.  The workshop was one of our favorite topics, a best seller with clients, always a crowd pleaser, resulting in powerful insights for all.  Starting of course, with us. Since as everybody knows…”You teach what you need.”

With a few minutes to spare, and seeing that the call was from a client, I decided to answer. “Hey Molly. We’re in a big bind.  The person who was going to facilitate the Leadership Experience can’t make it.  Would you be able to do it?  It starts the day after tomorrow.”  Immediately I knew the answer to that question….

A vehement “No!”

As in…

Hell No!

Never!

Not on your life!

That kind of No.

While certified to facilitate the experience, I had yet to actually do so.  Not only that, it was going to be with a senior global team, and the facilitator they had really wanted was obviously not me. He had more experience, and was clearly their first choice.  Stepping into a big arena, trying to fill big shoes, coming in at the last minute, with people who expected someone else, felt like a recipe for disaster all around. Besides that, getting an earlier flight out would be almost impossible due to our commitment to the current retreat.  There was one other tiny little detail. I was terrified.   Afraid that I couldn’t do it, wouldn’t meet the high bar set by the group, and couldn’t measure up to their expectations, I respectfully declined, politely thanked him for thinking of me, wished him the best of luck, and hung up the phone, filled with relief.  Except the relief kept getting pushed down to make room for something else.

Regret.

My reasons for saying no were logical.  It  made perfect sense.  Still, I had the sense that I had just let myself down.  Imperfect as my facilitation might be, was it possible that I was the perfect person for the job, and it the perfect job for me?

It was time for the retreat workshop to begin.  Stepping up to kick it off, I couldn’t get that phone call out of my mind. Thankfully, Kristine stepped in and masterfully led the group through the first exercise, allowing me to clear my head of my swirling thoughts.  In saying No to the request, I was saying Yes to my fear.  In answering No to a big challenge, I was opting for a Yes to playing it safe.  Just then I heard Kristine as she continued leading the participants through the exercise, asking them to complete the statement: “If I had the courage, I would………

Oh, did I forget to mention that the topic of our workshop was COURAGE? Oops.

Heads bent over their journals, the participants began to write down as many ideas for completing that sentence as they could.   As they finished writing, I stepped back in front to lead them through some reflection on what they had just discovered. Looking into their faces and seeing their courage, they led me back to my own.

As soon as our workshop was over, I called the client back.  “Yes.  I’ll be there.  To be clear, this will be the first time I’ve actually facilitated it, and I won’t have time to review any of the materials.  If flying by the seat of my pants is ok with you, I’ll change my flight and be there.”  It was a powerful Yes that began as an overwhelming No. Rather than disaster all around, it turned into a blessing for all concerned.  Starting of course, with me. Instead of a miserable failure, it was a mighty success. Starting of course, with me.

Now when I experience a knee-jerk “No!” and want to run the other direction, I pull up my boot straps and start walking the scary trail toward Yes.

When our first response is No, can we find the courage to search for the deeper Yes?

When desperate to scream No, can we find the strength to whisper Yes?

When it feels safer to say No, can we brave the waves to Yes?

Yes.  We can.

No.  it isn’t easy.

And Yes. That means we are on the right track.

Just One More Rise….

April 8, 2015

by Molly Davis
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Looking out the window of our SUV, we could see a few remnants of possible life.  A harrow from an old plow used to till up the rocky, dry soil before planting season, an old wagon wheel, and scattered bits of this and that, all suggesting that at one time there might have been a home or barn here.  “I think this must be where it was.” my husband Tom said.  We had been driving for over an hour, in search of the old homestead built by my great-grand parents in eastern Washington.  I had heard of ‘Rattlesnake Ranch’ in the stories my dad told of growing up during the depression in Waterville, a small rural town where making a living was tough in the best of times.  He spent many summer days on that homestead, helping his grandmother gather eggs, poking sticks into nests in the hen-house to scare out any rattlers that had slithered in to get their breakfast, and drawing water from the backyard well.  His stories evoked visions of a childhood that was both happy and lonely, hard and adventurous.  I’d always longed to go there with him, share a bit of his past, and get a glimpse of what life in that rustic, hand-hewn cabin must have been like.  I wanted to see with my own eyes what I had only been able to imagine through his.

We never got the chance to go there together before he died in 2000.

Tom had surprised me, planning this trip on the way home from dropping our last daughter off at college.  I was in need of distraction before going home to an empty nest.  We had spent the morning in the Douglas County Museum, combing old newspaper clippings, maps, and county records to narrow our search.  This was vast country and we wanted to hone in on the most likely location of anything still standing.  Maps in hand, we set out, me driving, him navigating.  A 4 lane highway gave way to a 2 lane country road, which became a gravel road, dwindling to a dirt one, and finally fading to nothing more than faint wagon tracks.  Staring out the car window at the long abandoned detritus of an earlier time, I could feel my spirits sinking down and the tears welling up. My chance at a bucket list visit into my dad’s past was apparently gone.  And then for some reason I said out loud, the words that had quietly drifted into my thoughts.  “Just one more rise.”

Driving slowly forward to avoid the rocks, ruts and potholes, we crested the next hill.  And there it was.  Roof falling in, windows broken, the house listing to one side, but still standing.  For the next few hours we walked around what was left, wandering the tiny rooms, poking sticks into the hen house nests, and peering down into the well from which my dad pulled up buckets of clear, cold spring water.  We took lots of pictures, so that we would be sure to remember what we’d found, all because we had chosen to go over just one more rise.

It would have been so easy to give up.  Turn back. Give up the quest. Chalk it up to a good effort.

But we didn’t.

Rattlesnake Ranch now hangs on our wall, framed in wood from one of the old windows we found that day.  Lately, when I find myself at what seems to be the end of the trail while in pursuit of a vision or goal, a creative idea or new opportunity, the right words to put onto the page or a door that might open to new possibilities…..whenever it appears that it is time to give up, turn around and head back….I remind myself that what I am looking for might just be over one more rise.

Now. Here. This.*

April 3, 2015

by Molly Davis

megaphone-155779_640 Now hear this….

NOW.   This moment.  Right here.  This is when we have.  What is the right/best/good/courageous/loving/authentic thing to do now?

HERE. This place. Right here.  This is where we are. What is the right/best/good/courageous/loving/authentic way to be here now?

THIS. This stuff. Right here. This is what we have. What is the right/best/good/courageous/loving/authentic way to use what is true now?

Then is some other time.  There is somewhere else.  That is something different.

Now hear this…….. Now. Here. This. 

This post was inspired by the April 2, 2015 On Being podcast.  Host Krista Tippett interviewed Father Greg Boyle, who is the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries, a non-profit dedicated to helping former and current gang members turn their lives around.  Father Boyle shared that he uses “Now. Here. This.” (also the title of an Off-Broadway play) as a mantra, to remind him to be present with who and what is right in front of him.