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April, my wonderful Mindfulness coach, suggested I read “Wisdom 2.0“. It’s funny, because while I was going in the marketing work with DVQ Studio, Emily, my other wisdom coach, suggested that I attend the Wisdom 2.0 conference. So, when I hear things more than once, I think that the universe is trying to tell me something.

I’m still in the midst of reading this short book (which is jam packed with great ideas and suggestions), but I wanted to share my thoughts with you on what I’ve read and learned thus far.

Fact: Technology is here to stay. For better or worse, the Internet, computers, cell phones, tablet computers, etc., are not going away. According to the author (and in my own opinion) that in itself isn’t the problem. The challenge is to be more mindful when interacting with it. (Who among us hasn’t lost track of time playing a game online, on the computer, or on a phone?)

Here are my technology-mindlessness confessions. One recent, and the other several years ago.

Remember The Sims (pre-online game)? I was a Sims junkie. I played for HOURS, getting my Sims to be happy and keeping them on track for their jobs (insert irony), etc. When I played, I was oblivious to everything else: my physical upkeep, my friends, and my family. Sims players know you can tell a Sims’ mood by the color of the gauge above their head. I began looking for color indicators above the heads of actual people! I began to fantasize that I could change my friends’ and family’s behavior with a mouse click, just like the Sims.

Somehow my brain had melded my real world and my virtual world—and that scared me. I thought of gaming tools when I had to find a real-world solution to a situation. It was remarkable—and also crazy.

Like a smoker who finally acknowledges cigarettes are an addiction, I knew I had a Sims problem. And I knew I couldn’t quit cold turkey. I had to wean myself off, so I began to play with in a very mindful way. My brain knew what it was going to do before I began to play. I would say out loud to David, “I am going to go play The Sims now. I’ll catch you for dinner in about an hour.” To which he would reply, “Ok, we’ll see!” Then, I would go play with a timer set for one hour.

Before my mindfulness, when I started to get too caught up in the game, I noticed my breath slowed down a lot … nearly stopping at times. My shoulders would hunch over and I’d almost meld with my computer.

After mindfulness, if I sensed the melding point was imminent, I’d look away from the computer and gaze at a picture or an object on my desk. Then I’d take a deep breath and resume the game.

Mindful play allowed me to hear the alarm. (Yes, it took multiple trials before I could actually hear the alarm and walk away.) Sometimes I’d leave for an hour and then come back to see what my Sims had done in my absence (there was an auto-play session), and I’d feel compelled to “fix” all the problems that came up for my Sims. But, one day, I found myself coming back less and less. Reality became more and more interesting. While I still wished people walked around with a gauge over their heads, I began to notice that it bugged me more that my Sims were so easy to manipulate. That knowing their moods from a gauge wasn’t nearly as fun as seeing the expression on a person’s face (although, when a Sim gets really upset, it shows on their face). Or hearing a sentence in English rather than Sim language (it was a strange language).

All this to say that while the game was fun; real life was really more fun and more compelling. And, I haven’t played Sims once in 2012.

My second story is much more recent. I’ve begun to take walks after I drop Zola off at school. It’s a way for me to connect with myself and, in a sense, reboot my morning.

The other day while walking, I was entirely attached to my cell phone. Sending text. Writing emails. Updating and reading Facebook. For about half my walk, I was entirely in my phone. Not aware of anything but the sidewalk underneath my phone. I noticed my pace began to get slower, my breath began to get faster, my body began to feel less and less attached to my head and my eyes felt funny (like they were attached to someone else). It’s like I wasn’t me at that moment. I stopped, looked away from the phone. I slowly placed it back into my pocket and began to mindfully walk.

I began with a slow pace, staring down at the ground that seemed to be moving. Then, I looked up to the beautiful blue sky, which also looked to be moving. You know how it feels when you’ve been on a long train or boat ride? Well, that’s how I felt—very disconnected to the world around me. Really, the same feeling I had with the Sims game, only it wasn’t about clicking people, it was about the environment that surrounded me.

After about 10 minutes, my brain adjusted and my body felt normal again. I picked up the pace and kept walking, focusing on each step, on each breath and on each moment as it happened, knowing that the messages on my phone would be waiting for me on the other side of this walk. I completed the walk with a clear and refreshed mind and when I got back to the car, I went to my phone and answered the messages waiting for me. On my terms. At my time.

Although both stories are about technology, it’s not the problem. The problem was how I interacted with the technology. Was I controlling it, or was it controlling me? We must remember, technology was developed and created to make our lives easier. We are its masters, it is the servant. When the servant becomes the master (cue the Depeche Mode song), we run into problems.

What do the Sims and my morning walk have to do with Database Sherpa and specifically, databases? Technology. Remember in the old days when we had to collect information or addresses and names in a hand written format? Technology has streamlined the process, but it can also cause stress, as we try to master the database.

At Database Sherpa, our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat. You are less stressful because you are the master; you drive the intention of the database and build it to be what it needs to be. Then walk away. No more and no less.

An effective database will not overtake your every waking moment (like the Sims or my cell phone). An effective database, just like our minds, should be fully present in this moment. And as its master, we remain separate, mindful of time spent with technology. On our terms.


Maria Montessori and Database Sherpa

My husband, David, and I have had long dialogue about what type of education we should provide our daughter Zola. Would it be a traditional public school, private, boarding, etc.? Although we are both products of the public school system, we wanted to be conscientious in making a decision for our daughter.

I started by learning about many education methods, and the one that stuck with me throughout all my readings was the world of Montessori. I found myself drawn to the methods that Maria Montessori put forth and was fascinated by the ideas and concepts she presented. First and foremost, they fit well with our parenting style, so the decision has been made to send Zola to a Montessori school.

Now, what does this have to do with Database Sherpa?

While I was reading this as a parent, I also found myself excited by her methods as a Sherpa. What appealed most to me was the fact that children cannot and shouldn’t rely on an adult to solve problems or resolve conflict for them.

WOW, isn’t that the truth? I have to resolve all my own conflict in life. Not my mom. Not my dad. Not my grandparents. ME! So, why not start children learning this at a young age? Seems perfectly logical to me.

When it comes to databases, somehow, we believe we can have someone else do the work for us. That we can just turn everything over to someone else for him or her to do. While there are many consultants that are fantastic at building databases for organizations, it’s still not quite as thrilling as doing it yourself. It’s a core value of Database Sherpa to help organizations help themselves.

Another interesting value of Montessori is the belief that through mistakes and failure, learning takes place. A child may work hard at spelling their name or a word, but the key is that they are working. They may fail 10 times over, BUT, when they do figure it out, the joy is palpable. This is another core value at Database Sherpa, encouraging failure in our clients to gain knowledge and understanding. This is crucial to success of database development.

Active participation is important as well. Montessori believed children should and could dress themselves, make decisions for themselves, and act appropriately with little guidance. This participation with active guidance provides a wonderful learning environment. One that is safe, nurturing and compassionate.

I find it very interesting that I am drawn to these “beliefs” not only in my personal life but also in my professional life. It makes me very happy that I can have these halves of my life blend so well.


Self Mommy… Letting Go!

Being a parent of a toddler, I sometimes find myself doing for my daughter. But, most of the time I let her do it herself. As she likes to say, “self mommy”, which translates to, “I got this mom”. I’m encouraging her to be an independent being. One who feels like she can take on anything that life throws at her. While it’s difficult to watch her struggle, fail or succeed without me, I know it’s necessary. Even at the tender age of three. She needs to learn to do it “self mommy”.

The other day, after receiving an email from a Database Sherpa client asking a very specific question: “How do I find the IP address for a user?” I found myself typing a very specific answer “Click on this… then do this… and then you’ll see the IP address. You can do this when you find it and then ask them to try again… blah, blah, blah…” Then, my daughter popped in my head saying “self mommy”. I realized, in that moment, I was enabling bad behavior. Reliance on me! I needed to help the client, no doubt, but I didn’t need to spoon feed the answer (like I don’t need to put on my daughter’s shoes for her). I saved my draft and began composing another email which loosely said something like: Think about it like this, where can you find the information about each user in the database? So, my long winded email, that would have been printed out and followed like any directions, turned into a single question. Like when my daughter asks me which foot a shoe goes on, I ask her “is that the left or right shoe?” Knowing that might lead her down the right path. That was my hope with the question I composed.

I know that such emails can be frustrating to the receiver, so I also wrote “I’d like you to be able to figure this out yourself because it will give you the skills you need, long term, to answer these types of questions without me. I know you can do this as you’ve been so good at finding things and figuring this out with such little guidance on my part. You have the ability, just take your time and look at all the places it could be. It will be clear then. If you’re still struggling, shoot me an email and I’ll give you another hint.” I had already thought of my next hint too (just like I do with my daughter).

No response. A few days passed, still no response.

I found myself having serious doubts…

What if she’s po’ed at me for keeping the answer from her? Really, this was an easy question. Maybe I should have just told her how to do it! Dang, sometimes our brain can be quite a nasty creature.

Then, in the back of my head, I hear my daughter saying “self mommy”. I listened to the doubts and said back, “let’s see what happens. I can always explain to the client what I was attempting. I like to let things play out and learn from them later.” My doubts listened and I blew them away during my meditation.

Our call came about two weeks later, I was doing a lot of doubt blowing! On our call, she started with explaining why she’d asked about the IP address. She had a user that couldn’t access the database and she thought it was because the system wasn’t recognizing his computer’s IP address. Anyway, she had gotten my email and decided to put it aside for a few days and enjoy some vacation time. When she got back to it, she thought about it and decided to try a few things. While in the database system, she found herself in the user section. So, on a whim, she clicked on his name and sure enough, she found out his IP address. And, in the process, also learned it wasn’t the IP address, but rather a wrong password he was typing. Once she realized that, she reset his password and he was in the database in no time.

As she recounted her ordeal, I listened to her and realized that she was happy…not upset, HAPPY. She had figured it out. She had done it “self mommy”. After our call, I digested what had happened and what I learned.

So, my learnings are that (1) even if I think I can help with a simple email, it may not. That’s okay; (2) it’s important to give the client challenges along the way. It’s not about spoon feeding, but it’s also a fine balance. Sometimes I might need to spoon feed. It’s about compassion.; (3) I like to help others, I like to see them succeed, but I also have doubts about Database Sherpa; (4) this was as much work as giving her the answer.

Then, when thinking about the client, I realized she learned much as well. That: (1) it’s good to take a break, walk away and come back with a new perspective; (2) her original reasoning was incorrect, it wasn’t the IP address; (3) resetting the password for a user is easy; (4) she figure things out herself, without me!

Look, as a Sherpa, I want to continue to grow and learn. All of my clients do as well. This was a win-win situation.

Well, except for my doubts. They were not so happy, but they will return and try again… they always do 🙂

So, just like when I watch my daughter dress herself, I felt joy and heartache at the same time. Joy that my client is growing and learning without me and heartache that they will need me less and less. I’ve grown to really enjoy our talks together and one day, I know the talks will cease and they will not need me anymore. But, that’s a post for another date!

Letting go is never easy. Frankly, it’s one of the most challenging thing in the world, but it feels good. Knowing that I was some small part of the learning and the growing. It gives me great joy. It’s what compassion is all about!

Facing fear… fighting back

I have always been a very cautious and practical person. It’s not my nature to run into things full bore without having a plan in place. I always looked at this as being fearful. Fear of failure.

During yoga, I find myself coming back to that feeling. Fear of failure. So, I try that handstand, but I can’t get up. It’s not so much what others think of me, but what I think of myself. I can get into that self-loathing place quickly. That fear keeps me from trying or pushing myself forward.

Then, the question becomes: How can I ask my Sherpa clients to be fearless if I cannot do it myself? That’s a really good question. What can I do to face my fears? Another good question. One way I have faced my fears is to fully embrace the Database Sherpa model, to the point of being a little nutty about it (if you meet me, be prepared to hear about it!). Another thing I’ve done is to hire a company — DVQ Studio — to help me brand and develop the model (more will be unveiled as it is developed). Finally, my good friend, Veronica Waters, is now an advisor to this work. So, I’ve put my reputation, money and friendship on the line.Why? Because, I’m not going to hide from my fear anymore, I’m facing it head on! Is the fear gone? No! I see it from time to time, visiting me again and again. I let it sit for a bit and then blow it away. Goodbye for now, I’m sure you’ll be back!

This way of fighting back is a process, but one that will better equip me to help the Sherpa clients fight their fears. And it’s already working on changing me and how I work with my Sherpa clients. The most current Sherpa project brought me to the place of learning about resources available to use after the project ends. This particular client was given specific work to accomplish using the Google Group, to find answers to very specific questions. They were tentative and fearful at first, but I explained that I only wanted them to look and find. So, with that knowledge, they faced their fear of the unknown.

After visiting the Google Group and finding the answers, they looked around further (you know how that happens when you are searching on the Internet). What they got was so much more than mere answers to questions (which had been my hope). At one point in our conversation one of them voiced, “I could even answer some questions.” My immediate response was, “go ahead and respond next time; see what happens.” She giggled with delight at that suggestion and said, “oh, now I get it – I can get involved and help too. They need me and my time as well.” Now, she faced her fear, saw what she could do and now feels empowered to do something about it. WOW, that was pretty awesome.

With the support of my good friends at DVQ Studio and my special advisor, Veronica Waters, my confidence level has been given a boost and I feel like a better Sherpa.

Who knows what will come next?!