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Finding Peace with Your Data: A Worksheet & Mindfulness Practice

It’s not always easy to find peace with your data. How many times have you run away screaming from your computer in agony over a report you needed to create or data that was incorrectly entered? I bet it’s quite a few. Finding peace with data isn’t always a straight path. Often, it’s a curvy path filled with potholes and knotty bushes. Along the way, I believe there can be compassionate pauses where we set intentions, reconnect with our hopes for the work, and engage our team mindfully. Whether you’re cleaning up data in your Salesforce instance or setting intentions for another database project, I hope this worksheet and mindfulness practice (both free downloads, below) will help you move into the work with more awareness and peace.

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Taking Care of Yourself at DreamForce

DreamForce is upon us. Thousands of us will be convening in San Francisco. I find the experience both overwhelming and fun: parties, events, sessions and so much more. There are blog posts galore about getting the most out of DreamForce. Salesforce even offers one: http://www.salesforce.com/dreamforce/DF14/journey/

However, I’d like to offer something a bit different, I’d like to talk less about the sessions and more about how to care for yourself at DreamForce. I mean, after all, if we don’t take care of ourselves, what is the point of attending?

Here are some tips that helped keep me sane at past DreamForce events:

  • Hydrate, choose comfort and lighten the tech – The campus for DreamForce is huge – http://www.salesforce.com/dreamforce/DF14/journey/. Be sure to bring good walking shoes. Your feet will thank you. Carry a water bottle with you; there are refilling stations all over. Leave the laptop behind and lighten your load.
  • Find space for yourself – You will be learning a lot of new things during the conference. It’s very important to find a space where you can digest all of this new learning. The DreamForce location is surrounded by beautiful parks where you can sit and relax. Take time to jot down notes and thoughts during these times of rest.
  • “I cannot attend it all” – This is your new mantra. Accept the fact that you will miss something, and that’s okay. There is so much happening, it is impossible to attend it all, so enjoy what you are able to get to and don’t worry about those things you think you are missing.
  • Enjoy the pause between sessions – Try not to jump right into work or something else if you find yourself in a lull. It can be easy to do, but take those brief pauses as a chance to recharge yourself for the next session. It’s your opportunity to just be.
  • SLEEP – Rest is critical for your brain to recharge and rejuvenate. Some may say to you, “oh, I can sleep when I get home”, but remember, you need sleep to retain and hold all that great information you are receiving. Don’t throw it away. I’m not saying skip the parties at night, but do plan to get the rest you need so you are refreshed the next day. I was known to take naps during downtimes so I could attend evening events.
  • Smile and enjoy yourself – Try to enjoy all the moments. Often at conferences we are so busy rushing from one location to another that we forget, we’re all here together with a shared purpose. Let’s enjoy this space with each other.

I hope these tips will make DreamForce an enjoyable experience for you — a moment that you feel like you were able to really enjoy, and learn something new at the same time.

Confidence: “It’s about being the little engine — I think I can”

“It isn’t about winning or being the best. It’s about being the little engine — I think I can”.

After reading The Confidence Code, by Katty Kat & Claire Shipman, I’ve come to realize even more how important it is to have a regular meditation practice and to include self-compassion in the mix more often. Read more

Hiatus

Taking a short hiatus, but we hope you enjoy the video

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!

VIEW VIDEO HERE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8VCsRHJsls

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.

 

Until We Meet Again

Until We Meet Again…

Postponing an adventure while in the midst of the journey can be a decision fraught with uncertainty. Recently, a client and I arrived at the mutual conclusion that it wasn’t the right time for their organization to continue their journey. It was a difficult decision to make, but the organization is going through a major transition and the team members are struggling with the changes.

As a Sherpa, I sensed something was going on, but couldn’t put my finger on it. The “somethings” included:

  • Removing individuals from the journey
  • Lack of response via email and phone
  • Lack of knowledge within the organization regarding the activities of each other
  • Failure to complete practice to be done between treks
  • Cancelling scheduled meetings
Back in my controlling days, I would have been quite upset at this disruption of my life. And to be frank, I got a little angry when I didn’t receive a call or email cancelling a meeting.

But very soon I realized that that everyone in the organization was undergoing something very challenging and tough – the dreaded “R” word: Reorganization. My Sherpa-sense was tingling as I intuited that things might get challenging. So, I began to prepare myself mentally for the unknown that lay ahead.

As a Sherpa, my job is to help the journey continue, even when it is stalled. I reminded them to contact me to reschedule meetings when needed. I encouraged them to work on their internal issues before seeing me, so that they could better communicate with each other as well as with me. And above all, I tried to help them deal with the changes they were experiencing as we continued to build the database.

Yet with all my encouragement, accommodation and support, an overwhelming sense of dread permeated every conversation. So at the start of our last trek, I let them talk about their progress – and everyone reported that they were behind. Very, very behind. I even heard, “I’m so behind that I don’t even want to think about it. I haven’t done anything with this project.” That was my cue to gently guide them away from this journey for the time being and let them work out their internal changes.

So, while each expressed that they felt torn, and their collective belief that the database they were creating would relieve the pressure they were feeling, they also realized that they didn’t have the time or energy to devote to the journey. As we talked, we came to a collective understanding that although they are eager to learn and grow, it would be best to put the journey on hold for a few months.

At the end of our conversation, I sensed a collective sign of relief, like an out breath after you’ve been holding your breath for a while. It made my heart lighter. The journey hasn’t been cancelled, merely rescheduled.
Compassion not Control

Compassion, Not Control

Any one who knows me (or reads this blog) knows my first business was called Hopper Business Solutions. Although Hopper was much more controlled, it had less focus. My journey with Database Sherpa has been a little different from Hopper. But, I wouldn’t be where I am with Database Sherpa if it had not been for Hopper, so I am grateful for past experiences.

But, I’m not going to write about the past. Instead, I want to talk about something that’s different this time around; both in the way I operate the business and how I function as a business owner. It’s this: it takes a family to grow and build a business.

Although the initial idea was born in my head, it was not without a lot of input from my Sherpa partner, Veronica Beck. And while neither of us can exactly remember what she said or did, it made a huge impression – enough of an impression to drive me to create a mission, a vision and values that are quite different from most businesses. And the difference is this: instead of putting compassion off to the side, we’ve made it the heart of Database Sherpa. It is one of our core values!

Veronica created this beautiful diagram to show the importance of compassion to our business:

Sherpa Precepts and Values

Equally important are clients. They give me an opportunity to experiment with new ideas and methods. They give feedback freely and encourage this work. For example, while learning about a new product for importing data called Apsona. I suggested to the client that we try it out during our importing trek. The client was amendable so, we learned Apsona together. Consequently, my other clients will benefit from my co-learning experience. Clients who are willing to experiment and learn with me are the main reason Database Sherpa continues and thrives. They allow us to keep moving forward.

Now others are embracing our “compassion-centric” model. Freya Bradford, the newest Database Sherpa team member is a client-turned-Sherpa who is helping define the business logic model and outcomes to measure (yes, we want to measure our work), as well as encouraging the work to go farther and broader. She would love to see this model and process scale broadly because her vision is big and so is her heart.

And another addition, Mary Davis, is also encouraged by this work and has gotten herself involved. Mary is tightening up our documentation and organizing it to make it accessible to other consulting companies wishing to transform their business into a more Sherpa-like practice.

In comparison, during my Hopper years I was a total control freak. I didn’t trust others to do the work. Now, I honor the gifts, time and love that each person brings. Instead of dictating rank and position, I let each of them define their role and allow the definition to be written by them. I love it! It’s so free form and wonderful. It’s like a true family.

I know that part of this transformation is because of my age, but it’s also because of the teachings of Hopper. I learned how tiring being controlling could be. I learned that it’s much better and wiser to let things be and to let go of the feeling of having to “own it all”. That each of us owns a piece of this wonderful model and process. That through this hard work together, we create a family and community of like minded individuals who desire to see things done in a new and different way.

I am so grateful to everyone who continues to support, nurture and love Database Sherpa. I know that without all the support, things would still move forward, but I must say, it would not be nearly as fun!

Karen Henry & Zola

Friend and Mentor: Karen Henry

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.

Getting It

Getting It

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.)

Hopper was my inspiration while a Computer Science major at Michigan State University. I was one of only a handful of women in the program, and I found it helpful to have a model to look up to. I wish she could have been more than inspiration. I wish she could have been my mentor. Fortunately, I found Geri Larkin.

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.”

Thank you Geri, for “getting me” long before I did. 
compassion at the heart

Compassion is the heart of everything

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.
At the heart and seat of each of these quotes is compassion. Compassion to yourself and others in the world. This is the key to everything in the life of a Sherpa.
What I have learned is that even if this path is lonely.. even if the world feels against me at times… I will stay true to myself. I will instill a deep sense of compassion every day until it is threaded in every aspect of my being.
If any of you follow this path, know that I will be right there with you… creating that thread of compassion throughout the world.
So, until October, I bow deeply to the light that shines brightly in you.
breaking your rules

When you make the rules, it’s okay to break them.

I don’t live by the rules, but I do live by the process. And rules are part of the process. I think processes are important (unless following them gets me stuck in my thinking.)

That is, until I came upon my latest Sherpa project.

Let me set the stage and explain a couple “process rules” we have at Database Sherpa:

  • A client cannot be in crisis mode. Looming deadlines cannot cause undue stress on the individual taking the trek.
  • When we help organizations build a brand new database, we guide them through the learning process. We don’t build it for them.
  • We use the buddy system. We Sherpa at least two people in the organization to build their database.

Yep, I broke my rules. I helped a client who a) was in full-on crisis mode, b) was working with a fully built database created by someone else, and c) was the sole administrator of the database.

But ask my toddler Zola, and she will be the first to tell you (or show you) that rules are merely guidelines. So I said, “yes” to Lauren of the  Women’s Resource Center in San Diego. Lauren is in a new position within the organization. Although she’s been there for 5 years, this role is only 1-1/2 years old.

Women’s Resource Center was using Donor Perfect, but a board member recommended a switch to Salesforce.com. Lauren agreed. Unfortunately, Lauren was not involved in the creation of the Salesforce.com database. Although she was involved in the importing process, she wasn’t able to get her hands into the database and was left out of some critical decisions that needed to be made.

In order to help Lauren, I broke several of my own rules:

  • Lauren is the only user of the database. (I broke the “buddy rule.”)
  • She had an existing database. (I broke the “new” rule.)
  • She wasn’t involved in the creation of the database. (I broke the “guide them” rule.)
  • She felt overwhelmed by her lack of knowledge. (I broke the “crisis” rule.)

Why did I break my own rules? Lauren had a very specific task to accomplish without a lot of other distractions, and she was very enthusiastic about the prospect of learning.

When I first spoke to Lauren, she was quite overwhelmed and felt she was in over her head. She had also been told that the initial import hadn’t been done correctly and the data needed to be re-imported.

She gave me access to her existing database. (What an experience, to see the data already in there!) Spending time in her database, I realized that the data was imported quite well and only needed some minor tweaking. And on top of it, during the process I would have an opportunity to show Lauren some other important Salesforce.com features that she was unaware of.

As she explained the situation, I assured her that the data had been imported “okay,” but needed a little tweaking. The relief in her voice was immediate! And during our first trek, she confided that after that first call, she had a good feeling about Database Sherpa. Her stress levels had decreased dramatically and she was excited to get into the database and learn on her own and with guidance.

I knew this journey would be shorter than my other journeys as it required me to only teach Lauren exactly what she needs to know right now. This allowed me to break my own rules.

Our first trek went great. Up to this point, we had not spent much time talking to each other or getting to know each other. I learned that what she really needed and wanted was to be guided through her existing database that she is needed to use.

As I was documenting our recent trek and preparing for our next trek, a thought popped to my mind: Database Sherpa is much more than just developing databases. It’s about building confidence and providing a unique level of support.

After our call, I knew Lauren would be practicing her new database skills. No, Lauren did not offload all of the work onto me. Instead, she now has a Sherpa who is coaching, guiding and helping her as she builds her skills and confidence. Our journey is just beginning.

Yes, rules are made to be broken. I’m excited to work with Lauren and the Women’s Resource Center of San Diego. Breaking the rules will not only help her, but will also help me strengthen and grow the processes at Database Sherpa.