When I’m Most Free

When I’m Most Free

A few years ago, a friend of mine approached me with a bit of a dare. ”What if we flew to Anchorage, rented motorcycles, and rode and camped across Alaska for a couple of weeks?” She followed it up with, ”and don’t say ‘yes’ unless you really mean it!” I thought on it for about 12 seconds…“I’m in!”

Instantly, we burst into nervous, giddy laughter with gulping wide eyes, as if to ask, “what have we done?!” coupled with the sobering realization that neither one of us owned or rode motorcycles. From there, we made a plan: we signed up for and passed motorcycle training, got our license, and bought bikes. A year later, we flew to Alaska and had the absolute time of our lives riding from Anchorage to Homer and covering the Kenai Peninsula in between.

Freedom.

I’ve never felt so free as I did on that trip – the wind in my hair, the glacial coolness on my skin, the thrill in the feel of my bike, and camping in a wild like I had never known. And that feeling of freedom coats me every time I ride.

Driving a motorcycle lets you experience the world in 4D – taking in nature’s elements, sights, sounds, smells, and textures. I’m never so present as when I’m riding my bike – my senses are fully alive to the essence surrounding me. I can be no other place than right where I am.

Our Alaska adventure checked all my boxes, hit all my values, stretched and challenged me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. We did our research. Mapped our own route. Provisioned and purchased all the right gear. We thought through all kinds of scenarios, dangers, and what ifs, planning as best we could. I’ll admit that I had some restless nights leading up to our trip truly afraid of the scale of it all and dreaming of bears in our campsite. Fortunately, we never encountered any bears!…and I leaned into my fear and felt in awe of our sheer accomplishment. 

I fantasize about my next motorcycle adventure…2021 or 22 maybe – I’m thinking of a West Coast stretch from Vancouver to San Diego. One day, New Zealand? Thailand? Meanwhile, I ride as often as I can in and around North Carolina with a smile that wraps around my head.

When are you most free? 


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help  them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, and coach, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Learning Agility and Embracing the Suck

Learning Agility and Embracing the Suck

 

“Embracing the suck” is part of the path to mastering anything new says social scientist, Brene Brown.

These days, my “new” is learning to write the stories of the amazing, courageous women I’ve interviewed for my book…I’m learning to be a storyteller, essentially. And it’s hard!

It’s hard because

  • I feel responsible for someone’s story. I want to write it in such a way that I honor and convey the core essence of their narrative. I want my reader to really see the women and their experience.
  • I’m so accustomed to business writing, which is all about keeping the message short, direct, and to the point. Storytelling requires me to develop a style of expounding, elaborating, and being more colorful and emotive in my writing.
  • I’m working to find the balance of staying focused and on point, yet sharing enough that my reader is drawn in, as if riding a wave beside my “character,” following the rise and fall of the story’s build, the peak, and the close.

The work is stretching and challenging me in new ways. The difficulty persists, but so do I. I show up even when I don’t feel creative. I make myself write – “just get words on the paper,” I tell myself, “and the flow will come.” I feel myself growing, not only in my ability to write the stories, but also in how I tell stories to others. I’m learning about the art and delivery.

This path, and sometimes anguish, of learning something new is what I refer to as The Learning Curve. I have the (ahem) joy of being in it right now!

The Learning Curve

Whenever we come up on a learning opportunity, we have a choice of two ways to go:

  1. We can decide to go for it, or
  2. We can choose to stay right where we are…“the comfort zone”

If we choose to go for it, we’re sure to have some new muscle building with a likely series of trying the new thing and failing. It’s like learning to ride a bike as a kid and taking the training wheels off for the first time. We’re gonna fall – probably over and over and over again. Attempting and failing is hard, it’s embarrassing, it…sucks. It makes us want to quit!

If we decide instead to stay the course of where we are, it’s easy. We’re comfortable. It feels good. In other words, we can “do it in our sleep.” But we also miss out on learning new things, opening up possibility, and even discovering something we might love or be really good at, that we had no idea of before.

Anytime I come up on something new – it could be a job opportunity, realizing I need to develop a skill, or fixing something in my house ­– I think about The Learning Curve and weigh my options: Do I really want to do this? Is it worth it? What’s the worst-case scenario?

Sometimes I decide not to take on the challenge, and I pass on the potential promotion, delegate the task, or call that plumber. That can feel really good – and necessary. But sometimes I decide to step up, stretch myself, and I go for it, I take the leap, I DIY it. And there’s a thrill in that too. Even though it brings pain with it, which it is certain to do!

What new thing are you learning these days? How’s it going?

 



Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

 

 

 

Leading Wholeheartedly

Leading Wholeheartedly

A few weeks ago, I watched Biden and Harris take office and was especially struck by a comment in Biden’s inaugural address, “Take a measure of me and my heart. If you still disagree, so be it. That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably within the guardrails of our republic is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength.”

“Take a measure of me and my heart.”

His words stunned me. First because it feels so good to have leadership again. And second, because it feels so good to have leadership with heart. I believe we do.

Our world needs more leadership with heart. It’s what I’ve come to call “wholehearted leadership,” to borrow one of Brene Brown’s coined phrases. It was in reading her book, “Gifts of Imperfection,” that I first heard that phrase ten years ago. I strive to live it in my work and life. And I look for it in others. It’s so deeply satisfying and fulfilling to see it in action…

  • Cultivate authenticity and let go of what other people think
  • Cultivate self-compassion and let go of perfectionism
  • Cultivate our resilient spirit and let go of numbing and powerlessness
  • Cultivate gratitude and joy and let go of scarcity and fear of the dark
  • Cultivate intuition and faith and let go of the need for certainty
  • Cultivate creativity and let go of comparison
  • Cultivate play and rest and let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
  • Cultivate calm and stillness and let go of anxiety as a lifestyle
  • Cultivate meaningful work and let go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
  • Cultivate laughter, song, and dance and let go of “cool” and always in control

– Brene Brown’s 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living

These affirmations hang in my office as a reminder of how I want to love, live, and lead in the world. It’s about showing up with vulnerability – owning who you are and letting others see you. It only took me a few decades to learn this…and it’s a forever journey. It requires great intentionality, practice, and loads of courage…Every. Single. Day.

I remember the first time I learned about vulnerability as a leader. I was 30 years old and in a leadership development program where I had been paired with an executive coach. Part of her guidance encouraged me to become more vulnerable as a leader. I had an instant, visceral reaction to her words. I cringed, remembering my mom and what she taught me as a young girl. I told my coach, “My mama did NOT teach me to be vulnerable!”

I imagined sitting across from my mom and sharing with her what I learned at leadership school. I could see her plain as day…sitting across from me, arms tightly crossed, and giving me a furrowed, disapproving stare. Growing up in my home, any thoughts of vulnerability were considered weak, and I was taught to show anything but that:

Be strong!

Never let ‘em see you sweat (or cry)

Hold your cards close to the vest

I don’t think either of my parents intended this, but what they taught me around vulnerability – to guard against it – caused me to show up as a leader rigid, aloof, and less approachable. It took me nearly two decades to undo.

I see this same resolve in leaders I coach today, especially female leaders. To get ahead, we develop armor…a shell to protect us, we put forth an image of steel, as in “I have this under control” and “I’ve got it all together.” Inside we may be quaking, but the external world will never know it. We take it own, carry the load, and ‘grin and bear it.’  Years and decades pass. We become someone we don’t know anymore….or worse, someone we don’t even like.

“Take a measure of me and my heart,” Biden says.

This is a reminder to us all to put down our armor, come out from behind our shields, open our hearts and let others see our humanity.

 


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Welcome to the Neutral Zone

Welcome to the Neutral Zone

We’ve been waiting. Waiting for 2020 to end and 2021 to finally arrive. But the turn of the calendar didn’t solve our problems – in fact, not much feels different at all. If anything, it feels like a continued or even an increased sense of unknown, uncertainty, and chaos.

Since March 2020, I’ve often felt like I’m in the middle of a dense forest with no obvious way out. My “way” has become one of putting one foot in front of the other, literally taking the next step, and then the next. Most days, this helps me feel like I’m making progress, albeit slow.

My consulting and executive coaching work focuses on helping leaders and their organizations navigate change and transition. These days, I lean on my own practices…a lot. One of my favorite sources is the work of William Bridges and the Bridges Transition Model. In his book, “Managing Transitions,” he presents the stages of transition: Letting Go, the Neutral Zone, and the New Beginning. Let’s take a look at the Neutral Zone he describes.

The Neutral Zone

“It’s a time when all the old clarities break down and everything is in flux. Things are up in the air. Nothing is a given anymore, and anything could happen. No one knows the answers: one person says one thing and someone else says something completely different.”

Sound familiar?

This Neutral Zone is a huge chasm of discomfort between an ending and a new beginning. We’re waiting – for a new president to take office, for spring to come, for a vaccine to be widely available, to return to school and work, to hug our friends and family, and to travel. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Telling yourself it’ll be worth the wait, but also feeling exhausted, isolated, and worried because time can feel like a finite resource.

Bridges continues, “One of the most difficult aspects of the Neutral Zone is that most people don’t understand it. They expect to be able to move straight from the old to the new. But this isn’t a trip from one side of the street to the other. It’s a journey from one identity to another, and that kind of journey takes some time. The attitudes, outlook, values, self-images, and ways of thinking that were functional in the past have to ‘die’ before people can be ready for life in the present.”

So, what do we do in this neutral zone? What do we do while we wait? How are you in this zone? Probably like you, one day I’m up, the next I’m down. Some days I’m optimistic, others, I can’t find that optimism no matter what I do or how hard I try.

But hang on…there’s hope!

As we’ve sustained in this abyss now for nearly 12 months, I’m learning to be with it and also recognize it for its gifts and opportunity. Somehow, it helps to know we’re all in it together…it literally feels like there’s not one person on the planet with a “ticket” to escape this time of pandemic, social and racial injustice and unrest, and political turmoil. We’re faced with doing our work and living our life the best we can. What feels most right to me is openness, kindness, compassion, flexibility.

“This is not the wasted time of meaningless waiting and confusion that it sometimes seems to be,” offers Bridges. “It’s a time when reorientation and redefinition must take place, and people need to understand that.”

Yes, it’s a time of anxiety and even chaos, but also it is a time when we’re more open to new ideas and opportunity. I remind myself daily that there’s power in this place. For me:

  • Priorities have become clearer, and I realize what’s most important in my life.
  • I can do with less. A lot less, in fact: money, material things, activities, work hustle…all the busyness
  • Losing what “was” is teaching me to exercise my creativity and look for new opportunities to cultivate and apply myself – my interests, skills, talent, and experience. Coupling this with new insight around my priorities is giving way to a new and more aligned path.
  • I’m reminded to celebrate the highs and the wins, even the smallest wins (especially those!)
  • I look for the lessons in the lows and greatest challenges.
  • I realize that my happiness and power come from within. I’m developing my spirituality practice to help me tap into that.

Since March, I’ve discovered that not only does my old way not work now, but I no longer even wish for that way. There are many things I quite like about this middle place and how the present is informing what I’m building. I’m learning to trust myself and my intuition and inner voice much more every day.

How are you finding ways to maximize and leverage your neutral zone?


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Setting a Place at the Table

Setting a Place at the Table

I got married a few weeks ago on October 10. As I fell asleep the night before, I meditated on an intention to be fully present on our wedding day. You know how weddings go – they’re chock full of endless tasks and details and a flurry of activity. I knew this was the reality and I wanted to let go and be fully present with Lyn, my wife-to-be, and our beautiful, precious ceremony.

As I drifted off, I wondered what it would feel like tomorrow when the day I had longed for finally arrived. I had imagined it a thousand times, playing the scenes over and over in my mind.

As I awoke that morning, what I hadn’t considered was this feeling that now washed over me – the deepest sense of gratitude. “I get to do this,” I thought. Just six years ago it wouldn’t have been possible to marry Lyn, to bond our love and commitment in the formal union of marriage.

I sat reflecting on those who came before me – those who advocated for this right of equality and were persecuted, prosecuted, and even gave their lives for it. The very freedoms and rights they fought for; many never were able to live it themselves. And here I sit, in my den, cozy under a blanket, sipping my coffee on my wedding day…I get to do this.

Audre Lorde, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Billie Jean King, Harvey Milk, Jack Baker, Michael McConnell, Edith Windsor, Jim Obergefell, Mary Bonauto, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Evan Wolfson, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., and so many, many more.

I carried their spirit, perseverance, and legacy with me through the day, sustained in gratitude, committing to do far more than simply hold this feeling – to persist as they did, take action to ensure common humanity, freedoms, and rights for LGBTQ people. There is so much work that remains to be done.

Today, heading into Thanksgiving week 2020, where our pandemic world is turned upside down and inside out, Lyn and I have decided how we’ll celebrate the holiday this year. In the absence of not being able to gather with family and friends as we traditionally do, we’re preparing our dining table with place settings reserved for those whom we want to honor, celebrate, and give thanks. The seats will be taken, not only by champions who fought for LGBTQ freedoms and rights, but also by those who led the way for women’s rights, civil rights, and for democracy, equality, and inclusion.

It will be a Thanksgiving like none other…maybe one that’s here to stay.

 


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation. 

Do The Work

Do The Work

Fear. Self-sabotage. Procrastination. Self-doubt. I’ll bet you know some of these “characters” first-hand. I do. I know all of them…and then some, sometimes all at once! Right now, this is where I am.

Earlier this year, I shared that I’m writing a book. It’s a book on knowing and living your truth. I’m embarking on this, my most creative undertaking yet, and as I do, it’s awakening Resistance (yes, with a capital “R”) like I’ve never experienced. I’ve done hard stuff in my life. I’ve done big things, creative things and things that have terrified me. But this venture has me searching for a new way, new tricks, props – anything! to keep me focused and move me through the process.

What’s helping most is a platform of sorts that I call “Do The Work.” It may sound ridiculously simple. It kind of is. And yet, it’s bullishly hard. So, I have little reminders, like the sticky notes pictured here, posted around my office and home to keep it front and center. This maxim is becoming my #1 defense to the Resistance – this multi-headed fire breathing monster – I experience every day.

First, it has helped me to acknowledge that this project isn’t really about writing a book. In the beginning, I thought I was simply writing a book. Instead, it’s a meandering, soul quaking undertaking to:

explore what it means and what it takes to know yourself at your core

understand and challenge your deeply held beliefs

get clear on what you most want and desire in this life

realize you’re always in choice to claim and act on that desire

know that it takes a hell of a lot of courage to take that action and live the life you most want to live

What I now know is that when you begin work like this…a deep, life transforming undertaking  – where you stir up the molecular juju within yourself – you awaken God and all her angels as well as the darkest dragons and demons. Daily, the battle between these allies and adversaries rattles my bones! If this sounds intense, it’s because it is.

This project as a whole is much less about the art and skill of writing (although this is important!) and far more about – Doing The Work – the discipline of showing up every day, committing this as a core part of my professional full-time business, and engaging in the physical activity of producing words on paper.

This project is also acknowledging a very important shift in me that writing is not my fluffy, amateur, side kick hobby. It’s my profession. I’m a writer. There. I said it. I AM A WRITER. My internal battle to slay the dragon is as much about claiming and owning who I am as a writer as much as it is the writing process and content itself.

Every. Single. Day. Resistance slithers in on my scene with a mission not just to slow my work or redirect it, but to derail and destroy it. It’s sneaky and cunning. It attacks not as a single strike, but rather as a slow, steady, relentless invasion. It’s deadly. And I refuse to be taken out by it. It requires me to be diligent, resolute. I engage everything at my disposal to slay the beast. In my world it shows up as:

  • my other work clients needing my attention
  • urgent (but not always important) project needs that spring up
  • my elderly mom and her many demands of my time and focus
  • a workout that I suddenly am hugely motivated to do
  • the compulsion to organize my bookshelf…again, this time by title and in alphabetical order!
  • monthly finances that must be reconciled NOW
  • the overwhelming desire take my dogs for a walk

Early on, it tricked me. I had no idea all the attractions and distractions were Resistance.

Some of the above tasks seemed like legitimate priorities, and I thought my unquenchable desire to read more, study more, and research more were all forces to sharpen me, enhance my work, make me better. While all these certainly are important – there is a time and place for them, and it’s not during my writing time.

Resistance is seductive. The more I fall victim to Its force, the more and more and more It wants.I see you, Resistance. I’ve learned. I’m smarter now. And you will NOT beat me. You will not win.

Do The Work keeps me focused. Do The Work centers me. Do The Work has me keeping the main thing the main thing.

Now, in the mornings when I rise, I imagine the hoodie, sweatshirt, or suit I put on as a powerful, protective “Harry Potteresque” cloak – an impenetrable “Do The Work” shield to all the distractions, chaos, and fires attempting to kidnap me from my writing. I put it on. Lace it up. It’s becoming my super power.

 


Hi, I’m Jeanie Duncan. I work with individuals and organizations as a transformation partner to help them unlock their Truth, discover authentic value, and create meaningful impact in the world. I believe when we are truly aligned with our purpose, we can live and perform at our highest potential. With over 25 years of experience as an executive, CEO, consultant, coach, and writer, I offer strategic, knowledgeable, and experienced guidance for those who are ready to take the courageous leap toward true transformation.