When I first started my Salesforce.com journey, I knew next to nothing about databases. I grew up in the digital age, so I certainly know my way around a computer, but I’ve never been crazy about them. I prefer my social to be unmediated, whenever possible. Read more
I’ve recently lost two very important people in my life; one I’ve already written about, the other a dear friend who I had only recently met. Read more
On May 7th, my dear friend Karen left this earth. While I was able to say my good-byes to her, it is still no easier and the grief can be quite consuming. Her obituary shows what an amazing force she was in this community and around the world. I’ve been having a hard time with my emotions and feelings about the loss, thus, I am taking a hiatus for the month of June. That’s not to say we’re not busy in Sherpa-land. Clients suggested we apply for a couple entrepreneur challenges: one with the Great Lakes Entrepreneur Quest and the other the Social Entrepreneur challenge. These are both in Michigan. We were also compelled to apply for a national award through Wisdom 2.0 and that’s where the video comes in. We needed to develop a 60 second video that explains the business. 1 minute?! Wow, we did it with help from +Teresa Thome and Steve from Shutterwerks Media. Two amazing and powerful individuals who made time to make this happen. So grateful!
In the meantime, keep this in mind, life is short and in the blink of an eye, everything can change. Embrace those around you closely and hold them in your heart every day. Don’t take a single moment for granted.
I wanted to share an important person in my life with you, one who has shaped me profoundly in many ways: Karen Henry. She’s been a good friend for longer than I can remember (you know those people who come into your life and you cannot remember a time without them, that’s Karen). She has mentored and loved me in so many special and amazing ways.
Karen is an activist, a humanitarian and all around amazing woman. She has won awards. Given many speeches. Been honored by many. And I find her to be the most down to earth and real person. I’m still amazed that she is my friend … I feel so very lucky to have her in my corner.
I can only visit her for a short time these days, as she is very sick and gets tired very quickly. But, when I see her, we laugh and share stories. It’s a wonderful time together!
Karen has always been so encouraging and supportive of whatever I am doing, whether it be applying for a new position, or taking on the challenge of a master’s degree, or starting my own business, or having a child—actually, that’s a funny story.
I was talking to Karen on the phone and decided to tell her that I was pregnant, as I knew it would be some time before I would see her in person, but somehow I never got around to it. A few days had passed, and we were on the phone again, when she said, “I had the strangest dream that you said you were pregnant!” Then I laughed and said, “That wasn’t a dream, I am pregnant!” We both busted a gut laughing so hard, and when we had settled down, she told me, “You’ll be a great mom.” Since then, every time I see her, she keeps telling me that and giving me specific examples of why
Karen has a gift to see clarity in every situation. Here’s an example: She was interviewing for a position, and during the interview, she realized that a friend was better suited for the position. She stopped the interview, handed the person her friend’s contact information and said, “She would be a better candidate,” and then left. Her friend got the job. Karen was thrilled. She didn’t grasp for the job for the sake of having the job. She saw it for what it was: better for someone else. She then turned it to someone else. Her friend has had the job for 10 years, and loves it.
Karen’s love is what can often sustain others. I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself, but Karen’s love is amazing. There was a time when things were very low. But, Karen was there for me. Supporting me. Loving me. Once, when things were particularly bad during this crisis time, she decided a trip to Saugatuck was in order. We loaded into the car and drove there. (About a 45-minute drive from Grand Rapids.) We shopped, ate, laughed and talked. And I will never forget one particular moment. I was trying on some jackets. Karen looked at the jacket I was wearing, looked me in the eyes and said, “You are so beautiful, Ashima. You radiate beauty.” It made me feel so very loved. And it also helped to soften my hardened heart and move past my crisis.
Karen always takes the time to see the greatness that is inside of everyone. I love that she looks me in the eye to tell me what she thinks of me or how much she loves me. It makes the connection all the more strong and real.
I’m grateful that my little girl has been able to spend time with her “Mimi.” She has been able to be in her company and learn from this truly amazing woman. Mostly, I’m grateful that the universe brought this jewel to my life. It is hard to imagine my life without her in it, but as actress Valerie Harper, who is battling terminal brain cancer recently said, “Don’t go to the funeral until the day of the funeral.” So today I will not do that, and instead look forward to spending many more precious days laughing with my dear friend and mentor.Karen has taught me so much, but first and foremost, she has shown me what it means to be a good friend and mentor. She has shown me the importance of being the voice for those with no voice. She has given me more than I can even begin to thank her for.
Years ago, I owned a business called Hopper Business Solutions. I named it in honor of a spitfire math wiz, Naval Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. (Thanks to Admiral Hopper, we have the phrase “buggy software” and the COBAL programming language.)
I met Geri in my early years as a business owner. We met when she taught a business marketing class. I don’t recall the title of the class, but I do remember Geri was dressed in a sharp suit, had great credentials, and made a profound impression on me. We took an immediate liking to each other – she taught me the ins and outs of running my own business, and I extolled the future of this wacky thing called the Internet. I still have the book she wrote back then: “Woman to Woman: Street Smarts for Women Entrepreneurs,” it was very helpful then and still is today.
Over the years, Geri and I kept in touch. I would visit her in Ann Arbor, and she and I would have coffee or lunch when she came to Grand Rapids. She sent me copies of her latest books, and tried to help me get published, (which failed, but hey, we tried). I was so impressed with Geri, that I was blogging about her and one of her books, “Bad Hair Days” before blogs were fashionable.
Geri never set out to mentor me; it just came about. Through her actions, delivery and thoughts she touched me in very profound ways. Through her activities and connection with me throughout those years, she modeled and showed me what living an authentic life is all about. She has taught me about mindfulness and compassion without asking me to attend a single class.
Then, as often happens, we lost touch, until I discovered that Geri had given up her business as a high-powered management consultant to enter a Buddhist seminary where she was ordained, and then had started a temple in Detroit, Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple. Talk about a career change! Needless to say, I decided to attend a retreat at the temple. We greeted each other with a wordless hug, and the years fell away as the feeling of connection immediately resumed. It was amazing to see this once larger than life management consultant silently leading us through meditation. It was poignant and lovely.
Afterwards, she showed me the temple, her simple room, her beautiful artwork, and the neighborhood that surrounds it all. We laughed, talked, and shared memories; then, all too soon, it was time for me to leave. As I got into my car, she said to me, “You know what to do, and will do the right things.” Her confidence in me (something I was sorely lacking at the time) revealed her – and myself – in a new light: We were simply women trying to make sense of our lives. And during all those years when I placed her on a pedestal, the truth was this: She and I were more alike than I ever realized, but by believing more in her than in myself, I had prevented me from seeing my full potential.
This got me reminiscing about the time when Geri hired me to help her understand the potential of the Internet that was bursting into business scene. I remember thinking, “Why is she working with me, she could hire the best? Why me? Why is she listening to my ideas and taking them to heart?” But now I get it. Geri saw something in me that I hadn’t yet seen in myself. And by placing her confidence in me, she allowed my confidence to grow.
Now that we have reconnected, I get cards and letters from her. Even though I don’t see her as often as I would like, I count her as once of my closest friends. When Zola was born, Geri sent her a book, “Drink Juice, Stay Loose,” an adorable book for kids. Another time she sent me her book, “Building a Business the Buddhist Way.” Inside the cover she wrote, “Dear Ashima, because you’ll get this! Love, Geri Larkin.”
I have a better understanding of what it means to have a child start school… as Zola just began pre-school this month. My life feels quite upside down while we both adjust to a new schedule. That being said, I’ll be taking a break for the rest of the month and will be back in October, full of great ideas and thoughts.
Before I leave, I thought I’d leave my faithful friends and followers a few thoughts that may fuel your compassion engine:
- Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. – Dr. Seuss.
- Along with love, compassion is the face of altruism. It is a feeling from deep in the heart that you cannot bear others’ suffering without acting to relieve it. As compassion grows stronger, so does your willingness to commit yourself to the welfare of all beings, even if you have to do it alone. You will be unbiased in your service to all beings, no matter how they respond to you. – Dalai Lama’s status update on Facebook
- Another quote from Dr. Seuss: Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
I’ve embarked on a Gifts of Gratitude tour which has allowed me to spend time with my wonderful friends and supporters of Database Sherpa. It’s given me a change to talk to them about the future of Database Sherpa and to give gratitude to them for helping me on this path. I’m so grateful to all those that support and encourage the growth of Database Sherpa.
During this tour, I’ve been reflecting on what I have learned:
- People love to share stories of success and triumph. It’s a joy to listen and learn from them. My favorite story during this tour was the one with a client who has found an amazing intern who has helped immensely with their database. This intern has transformed into a leader of the system, getting cues and ideas from others. This was exciting news and I plan to meet this intern soon!
- Individuals want you to succeed. Everyone I have met has wished me luck, has hopes for the best for me, and encouraged me to continue this work. No one said that they were not receiving any benefit from the coaching and support I provided. Most were asking how they could help me further my work. How wonderful!
- Ideas are everywhere. My clients have so many ideas of what Database Sherpa could be and more that it could offer. I was astounded by the marvelous ideas and concepts presented to me. Now, to digest them all!
I want to thank all of the individuals and organizations that have helped to make Database Sherpa such a successful business. I appreciate your dedication to me and it drives me to continue to do this work!
My daughter Zola’s teacher asked me to come to her class and teach the kids about yoga. I didn’t hesitate, because I LOVE to show yoga to anyone who asks. Just talking (and writing) about it is a thrill.
I began by asking my friends who teach yoga, what should I do with kids. I knew that my lesson wasn’t going to be about achieving a perfect pose, but instead about getting them to move. I also wanted to make it fun and something they would be excited to talk about later. My yoga friends agreed, and I went to work.
I wrote a little story that the children and I could act out with various simple yoga poses. We focused on Nature. The smell of earth and the feel of the sun. We began as trees in the woods. Then along came a breeze, which got stronger and toppled us over. Then we became cats smelling and moving in woods and then morphed into cows mooing in the woods. Then the cows saw dogs running in the woods. The dogs were running from a pride of lions. The lions were distracted by some birds that were flying away from some snakes. We went through all the poses: tree, cat, cow, dog, lion breath, bird and cobra.
I think the kids enjoyed it — they were smiling and listening and excited.
But, I think I got more out of it because they were such great teachers.
So, what did I learn?
For one, I know that in my yoga asana, I tend to hold myself stiff, using a lot of muscular energy. These kids were all about organic energy. They are just little balls of energy. They fell and laughed and tried again and again. It was quite fun to watch—I wish I could have watched more.
But, what they did to me is amazing. I had my own class after this little session, and I let go of the muscular energy and surrendered to the organic energy ENTIRELY.
Know what I found? Places in my body where I needed to let go and surrender and other places where I needed to be stronger. By letting go, I realized where I needed to be stronger. It was such an ah-ha moment for me.
What else did I learn?
Joy. Yoga is about finding joy. It’s not about finding the perfect pose and looking perfect. It’s about finding that place where joy and a smile come across your face. Where you are at peace. These kids were all about peace and joy. It was pretty cool.
So, a short 15-minute yoga demo to a group of toddlers ended up being an enlightening experience for me that I will work to remember the next time I need to let go!
I’m departing from my traditional posts about Database Sherpa and the work around the process, because lately I’ve been stumbling across articles like The Worrying Consequences of the Wikipedia Gender Gap and Inside Silicon Valley’s Gender Gap. They bring back old memories and new worries.
For those friends who know me well, you know that this is an issue near and dear to my heart. My first love was programming, in large part to my education at Michigan State University and my dear friend Pat Draper, who constantly supported and encouraged my pursue of a degree in Computer Science.
I know that most of my female friends are not going to run out and become programmers or pursue a degree in Computer Science. While it would have made me very happy if the majority of my class was female, rather than male, when I graduated in 1991, I am also realistic in understanding that not every field is for every person. I could go on and on about the lack of women in the field of computer science and specifically the lack of programmers, but I won’t bore you with that. Now, onto my new worry.
It has to do with the article about the Wikipedia Gender Gap. In a nutshell, a disturbing study discovered that only 13% of Wikipedia’s editors are women! And here’s the rub: There is no logical reason for this. Wikipedia editors aren’t required to go to school for years and study. They don’t need a computer science degree. All they need to do is put the information out there, edit inaccuracies and add information. It’s fairly easy. Nothing to fear. But yet, we see a huge gender gap.
And here’s another fact. More men than women are creating and running companies whose products are aimed at women. See this fascinating article about the rise of pink color businessmen.
This ALARMS me and really, frankly, scares me to death. If we aren’t at the table (or the keyboard), we won’t have our voices heard.
So, my call to action for my sisters:
- Become an editor for Wikipedia.
- Learn how ANY technology works — and then make something better.
- Learn the statistics of women representations in leadership, government…
- Don’t blame men. Don’t blame the media. Accept responsibility and do something. ANYTHING.
- Support your sisters in their hard work. Make them dinner, give them a shoulder…. whatever it takes to help them — and us — bridge the gender gap.
Today was an amazing and thought filled day… I say this because I saw two totally different movies that moved me in a way I didn’t think was possible. Let me try to explain in writing (I’m much better at talking, I wish I could talk my way through a blog)….
I was invited to watch Miss Representation with a group of women, all in high school, and discuss the movie. I don’t often get asked by young people to engage, so this was an opportunity I wasn’t go to let pass by. Also, I’ve been wanting to see this movie. These women are part of a group called Young Women for Change, a program that is run through the Michigan Women’s Foundation.
Let me also mention the other movie, The Lorax. We went as a family and this was Zola’s (my daughter) first time at a movie theater. It was exciting yet nerve wracking as I wasn’t entirely sure how she would behave in the movie, she’s only three. Also, although I know The Lorax, I was really expecting to be bored and focused more on her, especially after reading some of the comments from various critics. When will I ever learn to ignore the critics?!
After coming home from The Lorax, I found something gnawing at me… like I needed to write down my thoughts, but what were the thoughts? I wasn’t entirely sure…. but I felt like a something was bubbling deep inside of me and had to be unleashed. I had to find a way to share that with all of you. Something has happened to me…. deep, powerful and profound. So, this blog post was started…. I’m still unsure how it will end, so let’s see what happens.
Miss Representation took me on a journey through the dark side of how women are represented or the lack of women’s true representation in government, media, technology, etc…. things that really impact us all. The Lorax took me on a different journey, one where we misuse our natural and wonderful resources. Yes, one was more like a documentary and the other a “cartoon”, but both had strong messages and made me feel inspired and also entirely overwhelmed.
Although the journeys were quite different, both movies were very inspiring. And, my head kept coming back to the fact that they were similar. Not just in the length of the movies, or the fact that they had themes or that they were telling stories. Something else was smacking me across the face in each journey. The part that had me feeling inspired. But, I couldn’t figure out what it was. What was that thing smacking me?!
So, I stood in that feeling and breathed. I sat in silence and dark and just breathed. I breathed in the comments made by the young women after the Miss Representation. I breathed in my notes from Miss Representation. I breathed in my daughter’s comments after The Lorax. I breathed in the conversation David and I had on the drive home after The Lorax. I breathed it all in…. my thoughts blended together with my breath. My breath took my thoughts around the earth and back. And, what came back to me was a loud sound of a single word… COMPASSION.
I was shocked. I expected to hear GREED or EVIL or something negative, but instead, I hear the beautiful word.. COMPASSION.
I rumble through the notes in my head…Compassion? Seriously?! Universe, please help me make sense of this word… compassion. Why is this the word you serve me… let me see if I can break it down for myself here with you as my companion.
I’m not sure I saw much compassion for women in Miss Representation? The stats were alarming.
- 78% of girls hate their bodies by the age of 15
- 65% of girls have an eating disorder
- Women are 56% of the population yet only hold 17% of position in Congress (less now that Olympia Snowe isn’t running again) and 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs
So, where the heck do that word come in? Why compassion? The movie presented some thought on why these stats were our reality. Why women were struggling so much at so many levels. Why men saw women as objects to be obtained and why women accepted it. But, compassion? Ummm… Wow. Not what I expected to hear in my head.
The Lorax. Was that a compassionate movie? What happens?
SPOILER ALERT, if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie and want to be surprised, stop reading.
Well, an individual called an once-ler found an amazing tree (Truffula) with beautiful tuffs that allowed him to make a “thneed”. People buy the thneeds like crazy. He can’t keep up and begins to cut down trees (although he promised The Lorax he would never cut down a tree). His business ends because he cuts down the last tree and cannot make anymore thneeds.
But wait, there is more to both of the stories….
I left out the part in The Lorax where Ted, a young man living in Thneed, goes looking for a tree and the once-ler. He finds him, asked for a tree and instead hears the story. He returns to the once-ler, now an old man, living alone with nothing at all but his sad thoughts, to continue to hear the story of The Lorax and the Truffula trees despite the obstacles in his way. He is finally given a seed by the once-ler and is told “unless he does something, nothing will ever change”. And, he does…. he plants the seed and hopes it will change the world. He has deep compassion for the once-ler and his fellow human beings. He also believes that he can change the way of the future.
With Miss Representation, I found compassion in the women who sat around the table with me. These women, they were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G and will be great leader,s for which I cannot wait! One actually said “we need to get everyone to see this movie, it needs to be broadcast everywhere. Men and women both need to see this movie!” She felt compelled to show it to everyone because she believed that if they saw it, they would surely be changed for the better. She showed deep compassion for those around her being able and willing to change.
It’s just like in The Lorax as the young boy believes that if he can get a tree to grow then everyone will love trees. Once they see that tree, it will change everything. If we can get this movie to everyone, this will surely change everything.
I know, it’s idealist.
I know that we, jaded adults see things differently. Our hard knocks make it hard to see it any other way. Our lens have been fogged up.
But, for an instant, in my breath, I was taken to another place. I feel my lens has been wiped clean. I felt like I had arrived in a place of DEEP, heartfelt compassion. One with breathtaking views and beautiful scenery.
So while we adults all continue to complain about the state of our country and the fact that we’re losing good people in government (see Olympia Snowe). While we continue to argue over what is at play here: greed, ego, power, anger, hatred, etc.
I ask you to make this pledge with me. Show everyone around you compassion. Even those you disagree with. Those you agree with. Those you dislike intensely. Those who make you life horrible. Those who make your life easy. Bring compassion back to the mainstream.
I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. We’ll fail and fall and make mistakes, but then we should get right back up, dust ourselves off and try again.
We need to take a lesson from all the young people with their idealist, fog-less glasses because in the end…
I leave you with the quote at the end of The Lorax that made me cry and smile at the same time…
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.