49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #25: LET BYGONES BE BYGONES

We all do really dumb stuff in our lives and things we live to regret.  

You've got to give people room to grow and learn. Hopefully, he's more thoughtful and compassionate today. 

Then again, there's Seamus rooftop dog. The term limit for doing inhumane stuff when you're a full-grown adult hasn't expired yet. But that's not why I'm not voting for him.

There are no words...

There are no words...

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #24: YOU CAN'T HAVE IT ALL (AT ONCE)

Tyra Banks's height, Kim Kardashian's behind, the Real Housewives, uh…. fake everything--you can't have any of that; it's theirs. 

You can, however, have what you have. And if you do that right, it will be more than enough. 

This society encourages us to lust after other people's lives and their stuff. But if you

The Beyonce lane is occupied. Do you. 

The Beyonce lane is occupied. Do you. 

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #22: LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE, NOT SOMEBODY ELSE'S

Everybody's life looks great from the outside looking in. But live it and you'd probably tell a different story. Rich people, married people, single people, etc., do not necessarily have it better than you do; they have it differently. 

You have it also. You just have to figure out what "it" is, then work hard to develop it. When you are clear about what you have and you're working on that, you'll love your own life and won't covet theirs.

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #21: SOMETIMES EAT YOUR DESSERT FIRST

Because if life isn't fun at least some times, what in the doggone world is the point? Let Charlie Brown's life belong to Charlie Brown. (Do young people even know who Charlie Brown is anymore?) If a cloud floats over your head, someone is always pulling the football out from under you, or your dog's world looks better than yours does, then change something. Change can be fun. And follow I’M 49 GOING ON 50 MENTORING TIP #18, if necessary. 

This is your life. As far as I know you only get one of them. Carrying regrets and looking back at lost (and irretrievable) time becomes more painful than you can imagine as you get older. Don't condemn yourself to that. 

Laugh during church, dance at a funeral, spin around in a circle for no apparent reason, do a cartwheel, take that painting class you've always wanted to take, go out with friends on a Monday night, sit by a waterfall, spin around on your chair in your cubicle (but don't unscrew it), hang upside down from your sofa, go to the movies at lunchtime, wear clothes that don't match, swing on the swing-set (make sure you have your FBI clearances first or it could get ugly -- and fast!), and learn to laugh at yourself.

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #20: DON'T WAIT TO GET HELP.

If you have a problem that you haven't been able to solve in a reasonable period of time -- or if you experience intrusive thoughts or ones that you don't want or can't control -- seek counseling.

I am a very big fan of counseling. I have sought it early and as often as necessary. Want to be a writer but make up reasons why you should remain trapped in your  corporate job that is financially safe but that makes you feel like you're selling yourself short and that you know you're going to fail at eventually? Check! Dating a great guy who expects you to read his mind and doesn't understand that that's impossible? Check! Mentally preparing yourself for your mother's impending death so that being an orphan at 35 doesn't devastate you? Check. Need to extricate yourself from the beliefs that permeate your family, race, gender, religion, nationality, etc., but that don't work for you? Check.

You have a pastor, a doctor, an accountant, a plumber, tech-support person, a sanitation engineer -- so why not a counselor? What's the big deal? Oh, yeah, it's expensive. Well, so are those shoes. So is the trip to the mall (or Cancun) you take to escape your life. So is repeating the same mistakes. 

Think of counseling as an investment rather than as an expense. There are psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, therapists. Training abounds so research the different styles and training types, ask friends who have gotten great results for referrals and interview therapists to see if they're helped anyone in a situation like yours and to see how you feel with them. 

Unless you need medication (think: depression, anxiety, etc.), you probably don't need a psychiatrist, the most expensive practitioners. But even if you do need medication, a psychiatrist can prescribe it and a less expensive practitioner can treat you. Some practitioners -- social workers, for example -- work on a sliding income scale. You can go as an individual, married or unmarried couple or family or participate as a member of a group. There are groups of people growing in all kinds of ways: addiction-recovery support groups, grief groups, church groups, and so on. Get in where your wallet allows you to fit in. But Lord knows, do not wake up 5 or 10 years from now trapped in the same life, problems or uncomfortable thoughts. That is far more painful than the investment of time, money and attention to yourself that you may need to make to heal. 

So don't waste time or procrastinate because of your ego or pride. If you suspect you need counseling, go now.

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #19: TAKE CARE OF FIRST THINGS FIRST

Okay, yeah, I was supposed to post something every day until I turned 50, yet for the past two weeks I've fallen off. I admit it; I overcommitted myself. If you want to register a complaint, I suggest you submit it now, because effective tomorrow I'll be coppin' a 'tude and my 49-Going-On-50 Mentoring Tips may morph into I'm-50-So-Don't-Say-Sh*t-To-Me Rants. But today is today. Back to my regularly scheduled mentoring tip...

Handle first things first. Which is what I did when I fell off the planet. I was taking care of a couple of things: 1) my workload, which escalated overnight because I just sold a new project, which I'll tell you about in a separate post; and 2) one day I realized that I want to enter my 50s with no piles in my entire house. No laundry, no hand washing, no business receipts, no stacks of mail, no insurance quotes that I want to compare, no drawers full of magazines I'm going to read one day, no tear-outs of recipes I want to cook when I entertain, no Netflix CDs that I've had for 11 months and still haven't watched, no emails in my inbox (oops! I got a little carried away with myself -- still have 197 unread, plus my 3 Gmail accounts, plus Yahoo, sigh...). No stacks of Obama paraphernalia, election day newspapers from around the country, or magazines with the POTUS and FLOTUS on the cover because one day they will be historic because everything will be in the cloud, won't it? (Oops! Got carried away again; I still have all my Obama stuff.)

Anywho, back to my point: At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself. Your  spouse/partner/significant other/roommate (does that cover everyone?), kids, salamander and hamster don't inhabit your mental or emotional world. They do not experience your head talk while you stare at the ceiling worrying about whatever you worry about, or your blood pressure rising as you write your To-Do list, or your growing list of regrets because you didn't stand up for yourself/take care of yourself/put your own needs first for once. 

There's a point at which you really need to do you. I mean take care of the things that it would be so easy to defer and take you child to the mall to upgrade their next digital device to prove you're not a bad parent, or listen to your friend who remains distraught about the same problem s/he's been obsessing about but doing nothing to fix for the past 10 years, or make the bouillabaisse for the class potluck that you promised to make in a fit of inspiration rather than tuna casserole. It's okay to say you're going to do something but then change your mind, or reorder your priorities, or do it later or not at all.

Learning this lesson is very important. Because few things are worse than feeling badly about yourself because you didn't take care of something you needed to handle for yourself so that you could to other folks who have since gone on about their business and are not thinking about you, or, worse, are making the next demand, not understanding or caring how much it strains you. And you're sitting there trapped in your head talk and bad feelings about yourself -- practicing affirmations, promising yourself that you'll do better next time, or rehearsing what you would of/should of/could of said or will say when they ask you next time. That is THE WORST! 

Fortunately you can stop the madness. 

Be graceful, generous and responsible, yes, but demonstrate those qualities to yourself as well. Take care of yourself first. Everyone can wait until you've gotten your affairs in order. You're fine, aren't you? You probably didn't even miss me. ;) Not only does handling first things first help you feel good about yourself, it gives other folks an opportunity to practice standing on their own two feet as they wait. A win/win for everyone. 



Medical doctors diagnose and treat diseases. But you don't want a disease, so you have to engage in behaviors that keep you from arriving at a disease state. I use the word arriving intentionally. Hypertension and diabetes? It almost always takes at least 10 years to get them. The conditions that lead to a heart attack? They take 20 to 30 years to unfold. Cancer? Researchers know much less about it, but many cancers are lifestyle related. The major cause of cancer is cigarette smoking -- cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. Entirely preventable. (Many times people get addicted to cigarettes during their youth. Why people mess with cigars as adults is way beyond me.) Eating the standard American diet of processed, refined, fast- and convenience foods contributes as well. As does drinking too much. Having said that, I can't explain why my mother got breast cancer. (And if I ever get cancer of the hands, tell my nonexistent children not to worry about their risk; it came from spending too much time on my laptop.) 

Taking good care of yourself requires not a twice-a-year visit but many-times-a-day choices. Choices such as those that: keep you feeling connected with our Creator, however you experience It; that protect the body's need for at least 7 hours of sleep; that help you to drink 64 oz. of water daily, instead of soda pop and/or other artificially sweetened and chemically laden beverages (make the transition by dropping a piece of fresh fruit juice -- orange, lemon, lime, strawberries, etc., into your water for flavor); that reduce the negative stress in your life; that help you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains; that keep your body moving, whether through physical exercise, walking, swimming, biking, gardening, etc.; that unplug you from electronic devices (says the laptop addict ;); that connect you with supportive friends and community; that engage you in meaningful work; that help you contribute to someone less fortunate than you are and a cause that is bigger than yourself. Choices that connect you with nature. That disconnect you from addictions to anything smoked, alcohol, sex, Crackberries, shopping, religion, or whatever your thing is. That protect your body, mind and spirit from people, places and situations that would harm your wellbeing. 

Integrating these types of activities and behaviors into your daily living creates a lifestyle that promotes being well -- mind, body and spirit -- and makes it more difficult for the conditions to create illness to develop. 

Also, do not mistake your fashion or beauty routine -- hair, makeup, mani/pedi, etc. -- for anything having to do with your wellness. These things are fun but they deal with your outsides. Health (and true beauty) come from the inside out.

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #17: BE FIRST TO SAY I'M SORRY.

When I was younger I used to make up all sorts of stories that would justify my fear of apologizing. My thinking was twisted; I admit it. Somehow I would always find a way to tell myself the story so that I was right and the other person was wrong, or so I was the victim and the other person the villain. They should apologize because I had done nothing wrong -- or at least nothing as wrong as their offense. That was the story I'd tell myself. It felt important to maintain the supposed upper hand for some reason I neither understand nor remember. 

Boy was my thinking ridiculous! Maturity has taught me that it is so much easier to apologize first -- and ideally right away -- than to let the so-called offense linger and the story snowball and take on an (inaccurate) life of its own. Apologizing can create intimacy -- room for all parties to be human and to have that humanity accepted.  

They also can deepen relationships. Demonstrating grace brings out the graciousness in others. The big part of them will often respond to the big part of you.  And when someone can trust you to take responsibility for yourself (and vice versa), the relationship grows stronger.  

Apologizing can even be downright fun, especially when you can laugh at yourself or the ridiculousness of the situation. It removes the pressure that pretending that you're perfect creates. You can screw up, apologize, laugh at yourself, learn the lesson and start over. 

You can say even I'm sorry strategically. There are times when I'm not really the least bit sorry about what I did, but I *am* sorry about the misunderstanding that occurred. Apologize for that. It will heal and open doors. 

Apologizing first is a sign of power. The person who apologizes sets the tone for the rest of the conversation and even the relationship. I wish that I had understood 20 years ago that in a seemingly weak act there is strength.

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #16: GIVE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.

It amazes me how often we interpret people's behavior in ways that makes them more villainous than they really are. I think that most times when people do things that hurt my feelings, get on my nerves or offend me, they probably: 1) are not even thinking about me, 2) intended something else, 3) may be preoccupied, and 4) are definitely not trying to hurt me; and I am: 1) self absorbed and thinking about myself excessively and/or 2) Hungry, Angry,  Lonely and/or Tired, in which case should follow the AA acronym HALT and take care of those things before talking to them about it or taking any kind of action.

If people constantly try to hurt you, get them out of your life. If they have your best interest at heart, when they hurt you just assume that they were trying to do something well intended that you haven't considered but that may have gone awry. You'd want the same consideration.

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #15: DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK.

One of my mentors taught me that the amount of information we know pales in comparison to the amount of information that we don't even know that we don't know. So ask questions, even if they feel uncomfortable. Chances are that you're not the only person who wants to know the answer. And not only will your courage create space for others to ask tough questions, you will increase the information available to help everyone move forward with whatever the issue is, since we don't know far more than we do know.

As a young woman in the workplace, by far the most important question that I learned to ask was, "Can we please turn the room temperature up by a couple of degrees?" I figured that if the room was so cold that I could hardly think, someone else in the room must be feeling cold also. Typically that "someone" turned out to be all of the women in the room, who just weren't going to say anything but were glad that I did. The men seemed to have a different metabolism. Or perhaps it was just that they were wearing suits with pants as well as socks and undershirts, and we were wearing suits with skirts or dresses and the dreaded pantyhose. I have been told that the most important question a mature women must to learn to ask is, "Can we turn the air conditioning on the highest setting possible right this very minute before I melt, dammit?" But I wouldn't know. ;)

On a more serious note, I am working on asking for help earlier. I think I have lived on my own and away from my family and as a single person and self employed for so long, by the time it occurs to me to ask for help, the S on my chest is already very sweaty. 

What has been the most important question you've learned to ask? What do you need to practice asking?

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #14: THANK GOD.

Early. Often. Constantly. Count your blessings. Even in the midst of our difficulties, we are the most privileged people in the history of humankind, yet I find amazing all of the absolutely trivial nonsensical things that we -- and I'm including myself in this -- find to complain about. 

When we are grateful for what we have -- and I'm not just talking about material possessions; it could just be that somebody loved or loves us -- we move through the world from a place of power: We know what we have and can use that as a launch pad. It's a lot easier to gather momentum if you use your legs to push off from the side or dive into the pool.  

When I feel connected with and grateful for what I have, I feel happy and confident. It makes me feel connected to the energy of abundance. Conversely, when I focus on what I don't have, I can't leverage what I do have going for me to get to where I want to go. 


Sunrise 1.jpg


I think the term mentor is really misunderstood. People come to it with these tremendous expectations, as though one mentor can be all things to all people. Everyone can't teach everyone about everything. So learn little bit from a lot of very diverse people, instead.

When I was in my 20s, I had about 40 mentors, which I didn't realize was unusual until many years later. But I had so many in part because I understood early on that I could learn a little from everyone. After the company officially connected me with a 60-something-year-old white man who I shared little in common with and who behaved towards me as though I was his daughter -- which I was, in fact, young enough to be, so bristled at, since the dad lane was already quite well occupied, thank you, and I was young and full of myself and the whole set-up-the mentorship-thing was awkward (for both of us, I now realize) -- I also connected with a bunch of other folks of all backgrounds. 

Some of the most powerful were White women about 10 years my senior (they were all white because, well -- and there's no way to say it delicately -- there were no other women of color who were middle managers, even in 1990) including my friend Christine Cook, who took me under her wing. I learned two extremely important things from Chris, who was a director of quality. One was how to think and problem solve in a very organized manner. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Chris was training me to become a good editor; however, I wouldn't realize that until years later, when I was actually working as a writer and editor. (Thanks Chris!) The second lesson was the high price a person pays for integrating an environment. Chris was the only woman at her level in research and manufacturing settings. Just watching what she had to do to deal with the sexism she encountered was stunning! This lesson was reinforced as I observed the Black men who mentored me. Ultimately witnessing how much time my White female and Black male mentors spent dealing with sexism and racism helped me to conclude early on that spending my day fighting those battles and barely to see any progress would be a colossal waste of my life force energy, which I could more effectively and enjoyably direct elsewhere. 

I was mentored by several accountants of various genders and races who liked me because I respected them rather than dismissing them as bean counters, as many of my marketing colleagues did. They taught me a lot about cost structures and cost accounting and showed me how to price things, which comes in handy today in my business. The administrative folks (women of various races) and the folks in the mailroom (black men and women), knew everything about everything -- relationships, power dynamics, etc. -- and are often very powerful themselves in ways that may not be obvious. Diss them at your own risk! 

I was mentored by several plant managers, who liked me because I didn't think they were dumb Southerners, as many of my Northern colleagues did. And because I listened to their concerns. And because when I visited the plants I would talk to the manufacturing workers on all three shifts, which the other marketing folks thought was beneath them to do. That made them slightly less suspicious of me than they were of my colleagues, and helped me get things done. 

The point being: everyone has something valuable to share. Listen to them and learn. 


49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #11: COURSE CORRECT QUICKLY XX

There are a lot of things more important than being right -- being happy high among them. Better to admit early that you've made a mistake or would do something differently, so that you can get the results you actually want sooner, than to be defensive and self-righteous when you're wrong or want different results than the ones that you're getting. 

Admitting that you're wrong and/or being open to others' perspectives leads to conversations and understandings that you can't achieve when your heels are dug in. People respect you more when you 'fess up to your errors. And it leaves space for them to be human as well, which in turn creates more space for your humanity.


FIX THIS ONE from here on in


My big course correction was quitting my corporate gigs. When I think about the difference between who I am now vs. who I would have become had I stayed, I am humbled by the difference. In the words of Langston Hughes, writing "life for me ain't been no crystal stair," but I'm very happy with a really wonderful existence. Had I continued to invest in climbing the corporate ladder just because I couldn't answer all of the questions about how I would support myself, pay my health insurance, get a pension and so on, I might -- okay, probably would -- have more money than I have now, but I would also be angry, depressed, miserable, and probably have a stress-related illness or chronic disease, which I don't have now. Thank the Lord! 


49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #10: ENJOY EVERY AGE YOU REACH

I hate to break it to middle-aged women: 60 is not the new 50; 50 is not the new 40; 40 is not the new 30; and 29 isn’t 29 unless you’re, well, 29. In many parts of the world, people don’t live that long. We live that long and wish we hadn’t. Go figure! 

The younger you are when you disconnect yourself from our society’s nonsense about age and appearance and sense of accomplishment, the more you’ll enjoy your life. If you listen to the media, there’s nothing good about being middle aged. However, I have loved maturing -- maybe because my mother always communicated positive messages about aging. She even enjoyed being in her 60s despite the fact she was very ill. And my dear friend Mrs. Eula cousins, who is 109 and, amazingly, has all of her wits about her, lives a very amazing life. (More about her in a later post.)

I do not miss the anxiety, uncertainty, insecurity, blah, blah, blah that I experienced during my 20s and 30s. I gladly accept peace of mind in exchange for gray hair. And I really appreciate the fact that I know myself better, feel more confident about my decisions, understand my strengths and limitations and am cool with them, enjoy the perspective that having lived for a long time brings and know that I’ve endured difficulty and survived so, really, how bad is the next thing likely to be? I appreciate having friends and acquaintances who have known me a long time. I’m not a mom, but I’m an auntie and love watching them grow up without having had to change diapers. (Just kidding!) I love saying no or giving someone a piece of my mind (nicely, of course) and having no second thoughts about it because I am not to proud to admit my mistakes and I am confident of my ability clean up after them. 

But I do think that aging is easier when you don’t have a lot of regrets. Which brings me back to my previous posts about following your dreams. Even if you never do something dramatic like leave your job, as I did,  chip away at and enjoy them over time. You’ll be surprised how much you can progress if you approach it little by little. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

My dear friend Mrs. Eula Cousins at her 109th birthday party. She passed away at age 110.

My dear friend Mrs. Eula Cousins at her 109th birthday party. She passed away at age 110.

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #9: EMBRACE HARD THINGS

When I was younger, I avoided hard things. They were, well, hard and I didn’t always want to be bothered and sometimes even resented them. But at (almost) 50 I understand that hard things are the gateway to new  and better things. When you do hard things, you develop muscles that you didn’t have before. Muscles that make that hard thing easier and new experiences accessible to you. 

Somewhere in the bible (that I would look up if I weren’t on the train to New York right now with spotty Internet, but that one of you can fill in for me if you’re up to it) there is language about enlarging your territory. Doing hard things expands the amount of spiritual, mental, physical and emotional space you can occupy in the world. They give you a bigger and more satisfying life. Embrace them. 

49 Going on 50 Mentoring Tip #7: FOLLOW YOUR HEART NOT JUST A CAREER PATH

Because advances in technology, the ever-changing global economy and the fact that many Baby Boomers are now unable to retire means that a career path isn’t what it used to be. Even the security that caused many of us to trade away our dreams isn’t so secure anymore. Holla if you hear me doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, postal workers -- shall I continue??? 

When I walked away from my corporate career, some people thought I was ruining my life and I, quite frankly, wondered the same. But I had to know whether the God-given gifts and talents that made me so happy existed for a reason or whether they were as random as say, (presumably) big ear lobes or skinny toes. I sensed that it was more than a coincidence that my innate gifts corresponded with my dreams. And though my heart’s desires seemed so far off, discovering the answer to this question became more important to me than following a traditionally “safe” career path. To my 30-something-year-old mind, few things seemed as though they would be more painful when I was older (read: age 50) than looking back over my life and wishing I “would of/could of/should of” followed my heart. I recited Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled” like a mantra. It begins: 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ 

and knowing that I could not travel both/

and be one traveler, long I stood 

and looked down one as far as I could 

until it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other just as fair

Except it was grassy and wanted wear...

The possibility of that spoke to me. So did Jesus’s words: “Greater things than these shall ye do.” They made me wonder what it would be like to walk on water in my own life.  

That was 15 years ago, and not only have I discovered that my gifts correspond with the things that I was imagining, I have learned that the people, places and ideas that I’m naturally attracted to are a part of that vision. For example, I’ve learned that anything that I have a natural affinity for or that I notice or am attracted to repeatedly is a metaphorical breadcrumb that God has dropped along my spiritual path in order to draw me in that direction. 

15 years later I have learned not to plot my moves according to a career path that someone else has determined for me. Instead of moving from the outside in, I move from the inside out -- from breadcrumb to breadcrumb. I let my heart -- the people, places and things that I love and/or that call out to me -- illuminate my way. I now know that they chart an invisible path through the Universe that has my name on it and that is far more secure than a path that another person, a company, the economy, etc., dictates for me. Security comes from within, I’ve learned. 

The amazing result of living this way is that I have been self employed for 11 years and have never looked for work -- work finds me. Had I not followed this path, I wouldn’t have known that living this was was possible. 

I wish that I had had someone to tell me this. But I’m glad to know now. And now I’m telling you. 

As Robert Frost concluded: I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.  

Take small steps to live more from your heart and let me know if it makes a difference for you. 



Recently, as I was leaving Bible study, a young woman approached me for mentoring advice. She was moving forward on what she felt was her Spiritual Calling, which she was very excited about. But one part of her felt sure that she was moving in the right direction, but another part of her felt very insecure. She had never stepped outside of her comfort zone before and now her fears were starting to bubble up. What should she do? I was really glad she asked, since I have been there, done that and bought and worn the tee-shirt.

Because let's face it: a lot of things we once thought were secure weren't really so certain at all. For example: Enron, Arthur Anderson, the World Trade Center, the real estate market, the U.S. economy, a job as a lawyer, or at the post office, or as a teacher. And a lot of things that didn't previously exist are now central to the lives of many people: the Internet, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram to name a few recent examples. They too, however, will pass.

So move in the direction of your dreams, but don't stress about whether things turn out exactly as you envisioned. They probably won't and you don't want them to. The world is dynamic and you will (hopefully) grow and change. There's also no need to wed yourself to an idea or a vision of yourself that represents a previous level of your development. I find that as I move toward my dreams things often turn out better that I had imagined. For example, I used to envision myself as becoming a novelist. I had no idea that book collaborating existed. But I do a lot of that now and absolutely love it! 

And the insecurity that you may feel as you step into new situations is temporary. The more new things you try, the more likely it is that you will develop a new skill set: the ability to feel comfortable in situations when you don't know the answers. You will start to know discover that no matter what happens, you will know how to handle it when the time comes. And that confidence will empower you to take even greater steps forward. It will also give you peace from the fears that used to keep you stuck in a life that you longed to outgrow. When you know you can handle pretty much anything that comes your way, there's much less to fear. Least of all yourself. That was my advice.