published in Failure, John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, Public Speaking, Workplace Safety by Maryanne | January 15, 2019 | No Comments

The Bigger the Failure the Better the Lesson

 

Last week, I found myself delivering a safety presentation to a gymnasium filled with two hundred Junior High School students. The kids were great. Rambunctious yes…but for the most part, attentive and well-behaved.

The presenter, on the other hand, well…she had a few things to learn. And what better way to teach an old dog a few new tricks than by placing her so far outside her comfort zone that she has no choice but to learn them. For in terms of what I consider to be enjoyable activities, public speaking to teenagers ranks slightly below having a triple root canal.

Admittedly, thanks in part to my current Bohemian writer lifestyle, my public speaking skills are a bit rusty. But I certainly know the story (the circumstances that led to John’s death) and the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund’s (JPMF) workplace safety messages inside out and backwards. I’ve delivered our safety presentation dozens of times to a variety of different audiences over the years…but never to a gym full of 14-year-olds. In the past, other JPMF speakers have done the school presentations.

In other words, I didn’t know my audience and I hadn’t bothered to do the research to tweak my presentation accordingly. But (for a variety of reasons) since it was ME standing in front of those kids, it was me who had to deliver the presentation…so I did the best I could.

And it’s fairly safe to say I was a resounding failure.

But that’s okay because while I was flailing about at the front of the gym, focusing on the wrong elements of the story, failing to make our safety messages relevant to that particular audience, causing the microphone to make that horrific screeching sound (I think I actually heard some boos from the crowd on that…can’t blame them) and struggling with the damn audio/visual system, I was also learning.

I had no choice. My contact person at the school (also responsible for crowd control) just happened to be a very switched-on, take-no-guff Vice Principle who knew how to handle the students AND, I soon learned, how to make our safety messages relevant to them.

Since the kind soul  had to keep coming up to help me with the A/V anyway, at one point she started taking the microphone and explaining to the students the points I (in an ideal world) should have been making.

Here’s a brilliant example of the Vice Principle in action:

She took the mike, looked at the gymnasium full of kids, paused a moment for effect (which really works by the way…the crowd hushed immediately), then pointed at them and said: “YOU have a role to play in helping make sure police officers, firefighters and paramedics make it home safely to their families.”

Then she pointed to the overhead screen behind her where an image from one of the JPMF’s videos was paused on the screen, then resumed addressing the students: “Those first responders come into YOUR school, YOUR homes and YOUR future workplaces to keep YOU safe! They are extremely well-trained but they are coming into an unfamiliar place and cannot possibly know all the hidden dangers…which is why you have to help make wherever you are as safe as possible.”

Then she handed the mike back to me. Wow. A little later, she did the same thing with our traffic safety messages.

Afterwards, I confessed to her that I had gone into the presentation not really convinced that young people – many of whom don’t yet have part-time jobs or their driver’s license – would find the presentation of interest or relevance.

To this she looked at me, crossed her arms (she is a Vice Principle after all) and said: “Do you have any idea how incredibly important the Memorial Fund’s safety messages are for kids this age?”

Obviously not…but I was certainly starting to figure it out.

“They are certainly old enough,” she said, “to understand that what happened to John was not only preventable it was completely unacceptable. The Memorial Fund’s safety messages and videos are powerful and effective…you just have to tweak the presentation so that you make it relevant to their age group.”

We’re not supposed to be good at everything

The very next day, wouldn’t you know it – but I was having coffee with a JPMF Board member. He, too, has delivered many safety presentations over the years but, like me, had been hesitant about the relevance of our safety presentation to Junior High students.

I told him all about the presentation and what the Vice Principle had said, including her specific examples of how to make the safety messages relevant to teens.

After I finished speaking, he leaned back, nodded and said, “Yup…got it. After hearing that feedback, I’ll do those presentations from here on in.”

And there you have it…we aren’t supposed to be good at every single task. If public speaking was where I wanted to direct my energy, then yes, of course I’d learn from my mistakes and tweak accordingly moving forward. But sometimes it’s okay to fail at a task for the purpose of learning and sharing what we’ve learned, so that someone else can pick up the ball and run with it.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

Shaping Our Lives – Lessons Learned from Eyebrows & Play Scripts

 

“The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.”

― Joshua Becker

What do eyebrows have to do with a play script…and more importantly, what do they have to do with you?

I was looking in the mirror the other day and it occurred to me (not for the first time) that I scarcely have any eyebrows left.

I’m not the only who has noticed this. In the summer, a friend (after one too many drinks, mind you) commented that I looked “rather like an egg.” With such candid friends, who need adversaries?

Anyhoo…last week I paid a visit to my hairdresser and she offered to wax my brows.

“NO!” I cried. “I have nothing left to wax. I already look like an EGG!”

“Trust me,” she said.

So I did. A few strips and several plucks later, she leaned back from her handiwork and smiled. “Voila!”

I looked in the mirror and low and behold, I had eyebrows again.

By removing the “peach fuzz” (her words not mine; 14-year-old boys have peach fuzz, not 50-year-old women) from around the actual brow, she’d given shape and clarity to my eyebrows. They were still thin but at least you could SEE them.

Maryanne in Saviour play workshop, Jan 2019

Fast forward a couple of days and I found myself in yet another workshopping of my play script, Saviour, throught the Alberta Playwrights Network. The last time my Big Fat Greek Play Script had been workshopped by professional actors, it was a whopping 143 pages. That bad boy sized script would translate to more than two and a half hours performance-time.

Ugh.

This time around, however, I was heading into the workshop with a 119-page script…better but it still needed a good trim. My goal is to get the script to about 100 pages (which would translate to approximately one hour and forty-five minutes performance time).

Thankfully, this workshop was only 3 hours – versus the 8-hour workshop I had in 2017. This meant that after the actors had read the script out loud, there was limited time left for discussion. So what little discussion we had was very focused and succinct…and therefore extremely helpful to me, the playwright.

L to R: Col Cseke, Kathryn Kerbes & Trevor Rueger in Saviour workshop at APN, Jan 2019

 

Kathryn Kerbes reading the part of Virginia Woolf

 

L to R: Trevor Rueger & Val Lieske reading Saviour at APN, Jan 2019

I left the workshop with a very clear idea of what had to be cut and what sections needed clarification. I went home and, while it was still fresh in my mind, immediately made the rough changes on the actual printed copy of the script. The next morning, I sat down at my computer and started making the changes in the word doc.

And voila! My Pleasantly Plump Play began to shrink even further…and low and behold, the essence of the play emerged.

Just like the brow trimming, it was only by removing the extraneous bits in my script (that I had been unable to see) that my play began to take shape.

My challenge to you (and me) for 2019

What extraneous bits could you trim from your life? Are there any habits, behaviours, attitudes, beliefs, thought-patterns, relationships or activities that you could delete (or at least cut back on) that might help give you more clarity about your purpose?

Just as it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees (or the eyebrows for the peach fuzz), so too can it be difficult to live up to our potential when we are being pulled in a dozen different directions…many of which are likely NOT helping get us where we want to go.

If the shape of your life is not quite as you’d like it, I challenge you to trim a component (or two) that is no longer serving you. And I shall do the same 😊

Related blog by Maryanne

Perilous Playwriting – Let’s Air Some Dirty Laundry Shall We? 

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

published in Change, Death, Financial Planning, Grief, Life After Loss, Money, Prosperity, Widowhood by Maryanne | December 20, 2018 | 2 Comments

This is the 5th and final blog in the Fall 2018 Life After Loss blog series: 

Grief & Money Go Together Like Flies & Honey

 

In other words, they don’t.

Unfortunately, they do tend to dance into our lives, hand in hand, at the same time…like some sort of poorly-matched dynamic duo.

On some deeper level, we may perceive the money we receive, as the result of a loved one’s death, as “blood money.” And because of this, much to our dismay we may find ourselves giving it away – in one form or another – as fast as possible.

But believe me, this is rarely intentional.

So what’s going on?

“If you come into big money when you’re not ready for it on the inside, the chances are your wealth will be short-lived and you will lose it.”

– T. Harv Eker

Why?

Because, as one of my all-time favourite authors explains:

“It’s hard to hold on to what we don’t believe we deserve, whether it’s money, love, or success.”

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

But why, for Heaven’s sake, wouldn’t we believe we “deserve” the money?

Because if a sizeable chunk of change has come our way as the result of the sudden death (or not so sudden) of a loved one, we may feel guilt. Even if we had absolutely nothing to do in bringing about the death of our loved one, we may still experience guilt…although we may not be consciously aware of it.

But WHY would we feel guilty?

Because we are still here…alive and hopefully healthy (although probably not very happy) and yet our loved one’s life is over. It’s called survivor’s guilt and although it is not rational, it is very real. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to last long – if diagnosed. The problem, of course, is that it often isn’t diagnosed. Rather, the fallout of survivor’s guilt manifests – often for years to come – in our choices, our lives, our actions, our habits, our relationships and oh yes, our bank account.

Whether we like it or not, our ability to make prudent financial decisions in the wake of a significant loss is often hampered by the fact that we may be spending money in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. We might be trying to fill the void in our lives – and the Grand Canyon-sized hole in our hearts – with stuff.

Does it work? In the short term, sort of. In the long term, no.

The temporary high that comes with spending does not – cannot – fill the emotional and spiritual void in our hearts and lives…although it can certainly fill our homes and closets with copious amounts of clutter and crap. As with the drug addict needing the next high, the hit that comes with buying something soon subsides and the quickest way to get that quasi-good feeling again is to spend.

I strongly suspect that when we are in the depths of grief, we also spend to feel some semblance of control. If our loved one has been oh-so-unfairly yanked from us, we learn a very brutal life lesson about just how little control we have. And I think it is human nature to not take particularly kindly to this realization. So to compensate, we may choose to go shopping and buy whatever the heck we want…because we can. We may not be able to financially afford this activity but in the short term, the sense of power it temporarily gives us seems worth the long-term ramifications.

But real power – authentic power – doesn’t come from buying things. It can’t. Authentic power has to do with our souls and our purpose for being here. Yes, money plays a significant role in us fulfilling our purpose…but the soul’s currency is not cash. It is love and service, kindness and compassion.

The next time you go to purchase something, ask yourself: what is you are really trying to buy?

Finally – but perhaps most importantly when it comes to the dynamic duo of grief & money – the reality is that we may be shocked to discover that the death of a loved one has caused a hurt that is, unbelievably, far worse than we ever could have imagined.

This passage from the book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, captures beautifully what I suspect may be going on below the surface in the wake of experiencing an incredibly painful loss:

“And dimly she realized one of the great laws of the human soul: that when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance…Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise, which only slowly deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at their worst.”

In other words: even though some time may have passed since our loss, the horrific hurt we have experienced – the wounding of our soul – may be just starting to make its way to the surface. Choose wisely how you handle that hurt. Spending and/or giving away more money than you can afford will, in the long run, cause more harm than good.

Money is sacred. Money is freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility.

“If you expect your money to take care of you, you must take care of your money.”

– Suze Orman

If you suspect that I speak so passionately on this subject matter because of personal experience, you’d be right. I have learned the hard way that spending money one cannot afford to spend – whether that’s buying stuff, donating to charity, gift-giving, trying to make the world a better place through funding financially unsustainable projects, and so on – does not bring a loved one back. It does not make people love you more. It does not right a wrong.

What it does do is put you in a financially precarious position that can jeopardize your future and rob you of the freedom to forge a new path of your choosing.

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one and are struggling with how to make prudent financial decisions, my wish for you this coming year is to get the professional guidance you need to get back on track…your track to a financially sustainable future.

Will I be blogging more about grief & money in the future?

You can bet your bottom dollar I will. If you want to receive these blogs, be sure to subscribe to the Life After Loss blog series (they will resume in mid-2019).

In the meantime, you may find our Potent Prosperity Principles daily quote cards of use (but if you are taking my advice and curbing your spending, you don’t have to buy the cards! There is a link in the blog where you can read all 30 quotes):

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here