What if you stopped trying so hard?

Everyday, I get an email from a guy named Mike Dooley who offers inspirational messages. Some days, I feel too busy to read them and simply delete them. Other days, it’s like he has somehow been able to read my thoughts and sends a perfect message at just the right moment.

Here’s the message I almost deleted this morning:

Stop thinking that you have to make it happen, Lara, and let it happen… That you have to be better, and be yourself… That I’ve ever judged you, and be free.

What stopped me in my tracks this morning was that this is the exact message I decided to use for a keynote speech I’ve been asked to deliver at a Women’s Leadership Conference next year. And I just came up with this yesterday afternoon.

Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I’m taking this as a sign from the Universe that I’ve chosen the perfect topic. I’ll be talking about authentic leadership, and how the first step is self-acceptance.

Crazy things happen when we accept ourselves–we become a magnet for others who want to accept themselves, too. And all of that has nothing to do with being perfect or better than others.

Photo credit La Bella Sandra Photography
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Amazing kids

About a month ago I was invited to speak to a group of “at-risk” high school students in the metro Detroit area. These students had elected to be part of a summer-study course to learn about Global Trade Markets, and ultimately, to learn what it takes to get a job in today’s global economy.

I was floored when I met these students–mostly minorities of one sort or another, with bonus points for unconventional hairstyles, clothes, piercings and tattoos.

But their appearance wasn’t what surprised me. They were doing the work of entrepreneurs in this four-week long seminar, looking for problems and creatively collaborating to engineer money-making solutions. They were studying the cultures of our overseas neighbors to better understand the challenges and pitfalls that could occur when doing business in a global model. They were taking ownership of their model “companies” and doing what it took to get their ideas to work. These kids were motivated, creative, ambitious, willing to learn and dedicated.

All this while living in a home where important basics were missing: one or more parents, proper supervision, love, a healthy, safe environment, the list goes on…

I challenged them in my presentation to take the entrepreneurial strategies and skills they were using to create global businesses and apply them to their lives. I asked them to consider themselves CEO of a company called Your Life, Inc. As they were getting ready to finish school and begin calling the shots in their lives (where currently many of them were surviving circumstances no one should have to), this challenge shook them up a bit.

They had already demonstrated to themselves that they could do everything it took to give a company a successful vision, to figure out their biggest obstacles and create a plan to overcome them, and to keep themselves focused on their end goals until they reached them. So what would keep them from doing the same to accomplish their own dreams?

The students were very engaged, asking questions, offering examples, sharing their ideas. I was totally inspired by their openness and willingness to take responsibility for their lives and go after what they believed in. I would love to teach this concept/strategy to other high school students so they walk out of school and into the world with the knowledge and power to achieve their goals.

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