Tag: family

Your Only Competition is You

Your Only Competition is You

We are surrounded by people we compare ourselves to. They are on social media with their frequent perfect tropical vacations. They're at church with their high-end handbags and heels. They're beside us at the starting line. They are sitting in the bleachers cheering on their child athlete. They're in Facebook groups. They're at work. They're at the grocery store. 

The problem is that we only see one sliver of their lives. We catch a glimpse. We see the carefully constructed representation of reality. We see the perfection.

We don't, however, always see the struggles, the challenges, and the failures. We don't see the profit statement. We don't see the hard work. We don't see the years of hard-won experiences and trials.

So why do we compare?

Friend, your only competitor is you.

Put the blinders on when it comes to others. They are a distraction that will hold you back from achieving your goals and dreams. Believe enough in yourself to look only at yourself.

Even if someone else has your same job title, he is not you. He can't do the job the same way you can. He doesn't have exactly the same background, experiences, and strengths. So don't doubt yourself.

Complement each other, rather than compete with each other.

Fill in each other's gaps, and utilize each other's strengths. Make referrals to others who do what you cannot. Hone your own skills.

This is your race to run, and you are your only competition.


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You Need to Unplug

You Need to Unplug

Our family went away on vacation earlier this summer. We were unplugged from our electronic devices, and it was absolutely wonderful. Before you dismiss this idea and say you could never unplug, please know that you can. 

And you need to.

Unplugging while on vacation required some work on our part before we went. Neither Ryan nor I could just leave town without prepping some things ahead of time. We had work projects to complete, articles to write and schedule in advance, autoresponders to turn on, and social media posts to create and schedule. Once all that was in place, our work ran smoothly in our absence.

It was important to us to be fully present with our family while on this vacation, so we did the necessary work ahead of time. We wanted to be in the moment. We wanted to look into our kids' eyes rather than into a screen. We needed to be rid of that gut knot that sometimes develops due to emails from unhappy customers, "urgent" text messages, or comparing ourselves to friends and family on social media.

Because we were unplugged, we relaxed. We shut off the notifications and endless buzzing and dinging. We talked to each other. We talked to our kids. We experienced the moments without distraction. We grew closer to each other by taking a break from business, work, and obligations.

Obviously, we can't do that all the time. Responsibilities don't disappear. I get that. But it sure was heavenly to take a break from all of that for awhile. We came home mentally rejuvenated and relaxed. The prep work beforehand was well worth it.

When was the last time you unplugged?

Quite a Long Lead-Up for a Whopping 10 Minutes

Quite a Long Lead-Up for a Whopping 10 Minutes

Our daughter, Marin, recently needed a very minor oral surgery. It was so minor I'm not even sure it's actually considered surgery. It was more like a minor procedure, really.

But for an 8-year-old who hates needles, it seemed more like it would be the end of the world.

She knew three weeks ago that this procedure was scheduled. So, for three weeks she waited for the big day. She had three VERY long weeks to think about it and stew on it.

The actual procedure lasted a whopping 10 minutes. Not even kidding.

The three-week lead-up to those 10 minutes was WAY worse than the procedure itself.

Isn't life much like that?

When we know something will be painful or scary, we build it up in our minds. It grows until it's something larger than life and out of control. 

It's that way with surgical procedures, and it's that way with unresolved conflict, too.

Think about it-- when there is tension between you and someone else, time moves slowly. You repeat every moment of your last conversation over and over in your mind. You dwell on it.

It becomes all-consuming.

But when you take 10 minutes to resolve it, it's over. Done. 

And much like after a surgical procedure, healing can begin.

If you have unresolved conflict with someone, create a strategy to resolve it. Don't let the lead-up grow out of control. Take the bull by the horns and initiate the resolution.

It seriously might only take 10 minutes.

If you aren't sure where to start, begin with an apology. A sincere one. Whether you're totally at fault or not. 

From there, explain how you'd like to proceed. End with "I'd really like to resolve this with you."

Don't let the lead-up continue. End it as quickly as possible. It may only take a whopping 10 minutes.

Dealing With the Joy-Suckers of the World

Dealing With the Joy-Suckers of the World

Some people just bring rain and dark clouds wherever they go. I call them joy-suckers. These are the people in life who have an opinion about everything (always negative), tell you why things can't be done, and generally suck the joy out of every endeavor.

For joy-suckers, there is a cloud for every silver lining. Every idea has a problem. Every situation has conflict. They squash dreams, they bring doubt, and they make us want to run in the opposite direction. Sprint, actually.

Do you know a joy-sucker?

Hopefully you aren't one. 

Dealing with joy-suckers can be difficult, especially when it's someone you care about. It's easy enough to dismiss trolls on our social media feeds, but it's tougher to deal with a joy-sucking family member, spouse, or friend. Knowing how to handle them can be a real challenge.

I talked about this topic on a LIVE Coffee and Connection show over on our Facebook page. If you missed this episode, you can watch it right now below. You'll learn exactly what a joy-sucker is, how to avoid becoming one, and ways to handle the joy-suckers in your life.

If you're a joy-sucker, or you know someone who is, take heart. Change can happen at any time as long as there is willingness to put in the work. 


We talk about this and other communication topics in our Speaking Society. Click here to join our community that accelerates your communication, connection, and confidence!




3 Steps to Stay Out of Communication Chaos

3 Steps to Stay Out of Communication Chaos

By Julie Ford

Communication chaos – it’s happened to us all.


You have an appointment with Jane. A conflict arises preventing this meeting at the original time. You reach out via phone and leave Jane a voicemail, “I need to change the time of our meeting.”

Jane never get the voicemail. Not that the voicemail fails to record, but because Jane just isn’t into listening to voicemails and answering a ringing phone isn’t her thing either. You find this out only after you and she don’t connect for your meeting and Jane texts, “It’s 10am – am I in the wrong place?” You apologize for the mix-up and reschedule the meeting via text, and follow up with an Outlook calendar invite.

The day before the new meeting, seeing that you have no reply to your invite, you try texting Jane to confirm the appointment. Crickets. Nothing, no response.

In desperation, you remember that you’ve once communicated via Facebook Messenger, so you try that.  “Are we still on for tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Gathering Grounds, or would you rather meet at the Coffee Mill?”

This time, Jane responds, “Yep. 😊


Sea of Communication Modes

These days we can communicate in person, on the phone, via video chat, text, voicemail, snail mail, email, and social media IM. Even with this sea of choices quite literally at arms-length, instead of effectively and leisurely floating along, we’re drowning.

In his article, Communicating Across Differences, John Gilio notes that 75% of each workday is consumed with talking and listening and yet 70% of that communication fails. When communication fails at work, we lose customers, money, opportunities, and face.

When we don’t communicate well at home, we are running to grab chocolate chips at midnight, we contribute bake sale items a week late, we drop the ball entirely on attending our kid’s MVP ceremony, and we forget date night altogether. 

This assumes that we even get the chance to connect in the first place, unlike our “Jane” situation above. What gives? How can we turn this around so we can have more intentional and effective communication?

Back to the Sandbox

Somewhere between the invention of the answering machine and auto-correct, we forgot about why we communicate. We want at least a two-way connection, sometimes more. We have talkers and listeners. And after listening, most of us expect a response.

Seems simple, but with the giant sea of choice in how to accomplish what used to take a string and two cans, we need a refresh. Let’s talk about it, shall we?

Communicate About Communicating

Duh. Sounds too elementary, right? When was the last time you sat with a colleague, prospect, teacher, coach, or family member and actually asked them how they’d like to hear from you? Here are the not-so-secret but oh-so-magical steps to beating communication chaos:

  1. Know your communication profile
  2. Know the profile of the person on the other side of the can.
  3. Practice flexible connection

1. Know Your Communication Profile

How do you prefer to communicate? What are your favorite modes given your work and life style? Does IM annoy you? Is your voicemail a pain? Is your email not connected to your mobile device causing disruptive delays to your response times?

Choose what works best for you, and where/when appropriate, ask to be communicated with in that form. However, be aware of which side of the communication your sitting (see step 3.)

2. Know the Profile of the Other Side

How do THEY like to communicate? When you’re communicating with others, it can be tempting to exert what I call communication arrogance.  You pick your preferred mode of communication, say, texting -  and if they can’t accommodate, they lose. The trouble with that is that you lose, too. You lose connection, opportunities, and often credibility.

He’s not a good communicator – he leaves me guessing.

She never gets back with me.

So how do you uncover someone else’s communication profile, especially if they’re a prospect or stranger? Here are three ways to try and I’d use them in this order.

Observe – It might be obvious. If someone contacts you out of the blue via email, mirror their action. Email them back. Easy. Is Grandpa all of a sudden tickled to be texting? Fab, then get those thumbs rockin and rollin! Are you getting responses from social media via IM, continue the conversation with that prospect there. Meet people where they are, and then check in from there. “Is this how you prefer to communicate?” Which leads me to the second (and most effective) way to learn a communication profile.

Ask – If you have the chance to contact them, like at a networking meeting, just ask using two modes of communication you most prefer, “how would you like me to follow up, via phone or email?” If you can’t ask the person with whom you’re communicating, ask someone who knows them better than you do. “Hey, does Sam prefer face to face meetings or could we get away with a video call?”

Assume – this is reserved for the totally blind contact or mass communication, like newsletters or announcements for a school fundraiser. Truly, don’t go here unless you’ve exhausted other options. Using the “norms” that go generation by generation can get you in trouble. I know 85-year-olds who love email and a 12-year-old who is over the moon about a posted letter in the real mailbox at the curb.

3. Practice Flexible Connection

Consider the connection you’re trying to create. Is it for business? If so, are you the client or the seller? Are you networking with a referral partner or colleague? Are you the mentor or mentee? Is this a family/friend connection? What do you hope to accomplish with the connection? Gain information from your child about an upcoming event? Set up a dinner date with friends? Are you the one asking for a favor or are you the one in need?

Your approach to communication will vary depending upon which side of the string you’re on and what your intentions are for the connection. If you’re the one asking for something (information, unpaid mentoring, a favor, referrals, business), you’ll want to make the transaction as simple and painless as possible.

If the collaboration is mutual, you have a bit more leeway to stick to your preferences. You can ask to meet half-way between your locations or via video rather than in person to honor your time.

If you’re the one providing the favor, paying for a service, or giving guidance to another person without expecting payment, you are holding the communication preference cards and can feel okay about choosing the time, place, mode and length of the connection.

Common Courtesy

It seems elementary, but we’ve lost a bit of common courtesy somewhere in the evolution of telephony. If you want to set yourself apart and keep your connections, it’s well worth spending a few extra minutes communicating about communicating with family, friends and colleagues.

If you’d like to work through your profile and go over tips to learn the profile of others, email me at and we’ll set up a Cool the Chaos call (on me!) to get you reconnected!

Julie FordJulie Ford
is a certified life coach, speaker, trainer, and author of Creating Time and Energy. She helps moms and dads through parenting chaos. Individuals hire her to help them trade their "badges of busy" for intentionally full lives. Organizations hire her because they value the next generation and when things are running smoothly at home, amazing things can happen at work! With one-on-one and group coaching, she helps her clients to define what matters most in their lives, and to realize what is and isn’t working. Collaboratively, they move through a customized plan to implement habits that serve rather than sabotage their intentions. Her clients find more joy and less chaos in every stage one habit at a time. Connect with Julie on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

We Boycott Valentine's Day

We Boycott Valentine's Day

We're boycotting Valentine's Day.

Well, kind of.

When we were first dating, Ryan and I bought into all the typical Valentine's Day hooplah... we gave gifts, shelled out cash for overpriced mushy cards, and even made each other mixed tapes (yes, that ages us... I know).

Somewhere along the way, Valentine's Day became annoying to us. We didn't like being told that we HAVE to celebrate love on a certain day. Can't we just celebrate our love when we WANT to? What if the 15th is a better day than the 14th to go out to eat? Doesn't it mean more to celebrate our love spontaneously?

And what about people who don't have someone to celebrate the day with? Valentine's Day can be especially difficult.

So this year we've decided to boycott Valentine's Day. We're taking a stand. Call it a picket. Maybe even a riot (as long as it doesn't cause a mess in my house). Want to join us?

This Valentine's Day, let's do things a little differently.

Instead of store-bought cards, fattening candy, and wilting flowers, let's focus on what really matters:


Let's do what it takes to make our relationships strong, healthy, and productive.

How do we do that?

Start by telling the people who matter to you that they matter to you. Tell them you love them and want to build stronger relationships. This Valentine's Day, celebrate the day in a way that will last a lifetime: by building your relationships and making them stronger. Make a true difference. 

5 Tips for Communicating Without Getting Angry

5 Tips for Communicating Without Getting Angry

Do you get angry? Do you find yourself infuriated and lashing out? We all feel that way at times. Certain things set us off, and we react in anger. We can curtail the anger, however, and it's important to do that so we can maintain our relationships.

Here are five tips for communicating without getting angry:

1. Talk often. Don't let things fester; deal with stuff right away. It's easiest to do that when we're having regular conversations. My husband, Ryan, and I have (almost) nightly coffee hour which really facilitates consistent communication. Because we are talking to each other so often, we are usually able to resolve issues when they are still small instead of trying to tackle issues when they've piled up and snowballed.

2. Ask questions. Seek to understand the situation from the other person's point of view. Listen without interrupting. Instead of making statements or accusations, it's important to allow the other person to express his or her ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Ask open-ended questions to gain a more thorough understanding of the situation. Don't pass judgment or assume anything.

3. Kindly and respectfully share your viewpoint. Be honest but nice. Yelling is not okay. Be direct and say what you need to say, but be kind. If you bite the other person's head off, it will be very difficult for that person to resolve the issue with you. Speak to that person in the way you'd like to be spoken to. Make sure you share everything you need to share. Don't hold back, but be nice about it.

4. Be okay with not agreeing. You don't have to agree about everything. Compromise. Many people believe that a relationship is "okay" only if there are no disagreements. That is false. Ryan and I disagree often, and we're fine with that. Seeing something from another perspective is valuable. We don't need to debate something to the death. We just need to be able to move forward with understanding. Neither of us needs to "be right" or "win" the argument because we're on the same team. We appreciate each other's viewpoints.

5. Speak to the other person the same way you'd like to be spoken to. Be kind and respectful. I've said this throughout, but it's worth reiterating here. Screaming never helps a situation. Ever. Take time to cool off before speaking if you need to. Be humble, and use the golden rule.


We talk about this and other communication topics in our Speaking Society. Click here to join the community that accelerates your communication, connection, and confidence!

Just Say No to #AllTheThings

Just Say No to #AllTheThings

Somewhere along the way, busy-ness started being celebrated. Now we almost brag about how much we have to do and how we "don't have time" for anything else. It seems the more we have to do, the more successful we are. 

But what are we so busy doing?

Being busy working on projects we love or spending time with family might be energizing. If we're busy with activities that excite us and that we enjoy, those are the right activities to be busy with.

On the other hand, if activities are draining you or if you dread them, it's time to reconsider your schedule. It's time to prioritize. It's time to take control of your calendar because it may just be controlling you.

How do we do that?

1. Start with a blank calendar. Seriously, just totally start over. Make a conscious decision to only add items to the calendar that are absolute priorities. Give some thought to how many days each week you want as "free space" and don't schedule anything there. 

2. Prioritize your activities. Only add the "must-do" items to the calendar. If an activity isn't enjoyable or you feel obligated to do it, don't add it to the calendar. Some things will have to go, and that's okay. You'll thank yourself later.

3. Get good at saying "no." You'll need to say no to activities that you don't enjoy. You'll need to determine how many activities your kids can participate in. You'll need to decide which volunteer activities actually bring you joy and make a difference. Say "no" to everything else. 

It's your calendar. You are the master of it. Don't allow other people's priorities to fill your calendar. Rather, fill your calendar with your own priorities. You'll be glad you did.

Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays

Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays

During the holiday season, there can be a lot of stress. We're overscheduled, our budgets are tight, and we're dreading that family visit that includes old Uncle Harold and his distasteful jokes. Despite all of that, we can come through this holiday season with stronger family relationships if we try. We just need to create opportunities to disengage from electronic devices and promote face-to-face conversations.

Stronger relationships won't "just happen." We have to work on them, and we have to be purposeful about it. Here are a few tips for doing that:

1. Plan a favorite family activity. Our family enjoys snowshoeing, card games, and game nights. None of those costs much, they don't require much planning, and they all provide opportunity to talk to each other. Some of our best memories have been made while snowshoeing when we're taking in beautiful views and laughing about something one of the kids said. Find an activity your family enjoys, and be sure to do that during this holiday season.

2. Try something new. Take a cooking class together. Try downhill skiing. Check out a museum you haven't visited before. While we love our familiar favorites, sometimes it's nice to try something we haven't done before. Doing that as a family provides an opportunity to work as a team, get vulnerable, and help each other be successful. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll make memories.

3. Volunteer together. Nothing builds a family bond like doing good work together. Whether you take a shift serving lunch at the homeless shelter or simply decide to shovel driveways in your neighborhood, you'll create a bond with your family while helping other people. Working together to make life easier for someone else forms a bond like nothing else.

4. Give Secret Santa gifts to each other. Sometimes we focus so much on what we're getting that we forget how giddy we can feel when we give. If that's the case this year, draw names and start a Secret Santa program in your family. Simply give each other tiny gifts for a few days in a row. Your family will bond while thoughtfully choosing gifts for each other, and when you reveal who the Santas are, you'll have lots of laughs and great discussion.

5. Deliver cookies to friends and sing Christmas carols on the way. For this one, you'll spend time together while baking and decorating the cookies, and you'll get time together in the car while you deliver them. Christmas carols add to the festive atmosphere, so turn them up loud and sing along. Having fun together as a family is a great way to build a bond. Don't feel pressure to make it perfect though. If buying cookies and singing along to Stone Temple Pilots is more your speed, do that.

These ideas should help you think of ways to spend time with your family while promoting stronger relationships. Choose an activity you all can enjoy, and utilize it to start having conversations. You'll laugh together and create memories for years to come.

Building Stronger Family Relationships During the Holidays
Encouraging Good Behavior During the Holidays

Encouraging Good Behavior During the Holidays

I often wish my kids would behave more like adults, especially in public or at formal events. Let's face it: I want perfection. I really want them to display good table manners, say "please" and "thank you," make small talk with good eye contact, and refrain from doing anything that might embarrass me. I wish for the same during the holidays. There's nothing like a family dinner or holiday party to test even the most well-behaved child's behavior. I've learned over the years, though, that perfection is totally unrealistic and actually even overrated.

Parents may feel out of control during the holidays, but we aren't entirely powerless. Here are a few tips for surviving the holidays with kids:

1. Get enough sleep. Everyone gets cranky when tired, so be sure your children get enough sleep during the holiday season and especially before a big holiday event. Same for you. Enough said.

2. Be reasonable. Young children cannot be expected to behave perfectly for 8 hours straight. They also cannot keep a formal gown spotless for an entire day. They cannot sit perfectly still or put up with their annoying cousin for hours on end. Be sure to think through the reality of the situation and don't ask too much of your kids.

3. Prepare your children. Bring toys or activities to keep them busy during holiday gatherings. Make sure you have sufficient snacks. Discuss the plan with them so they know what to expect. Talk about the manners you want them to display. If there will be a guest present who is troublesome for your children, talk about how to handle it ahead of time. Give your kids an escape route if they sense trouble starting. Let them know they can come to you if there is a problem. It's a good idea to inform them how long they will be at the event, what foods will be available, and what your expectations are. Talk about it all so your children are well prepared.

4. Make corrections in private. You'll embarrass your children if you correct them in public, so if a correction is necessary do it in private. Your child will appreciate the respect, and a break from the activity is a good idea anyway. If a situation at a party gets completely out of hand, simply leave. Sometimes it's better to just cut your losses. You can discuss the behavior after everyone has calmed down.

5. Get over it. Nothing is perfect, including children and holidays. If an event ends up less than enjoyable, don't dwell on it. Simply learn from it and move on. You may be disappointed or embarrassed, but the important thing is to remind your children that you love them. Your family is so much more important than a single event or holiday.

The holiday season is full of fun and enjoyment, but it can be overwhelming and downright stressful at times for both parents and children. Plan well, and follow our tips, and your family will make it through this holiday season unscathed.

When Kids Are Impolite