Let’s Get Cookin’

It’s that time of year, my favorite time of year. “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables. I agree. Presently, on a cool October morning, overcast, damp and chilly, I sit in a coffee shop in Downtown Napa, writing, sipping and getting things organized for the rest of the day and for the upcoming weekend. It is warm and cozy and smells divine in here. There is enough activity to be interesting, but not so noisy to be overwhelming.

Where I am enjoying my morning.
Where I am enjoying my morning.

On my list of things to do today is to dig up the pumpkin soup recipe I made, traditionally, for many years, before the kids went out trick or treating on Halloween. I always believed in family dinners and pulled them off on a regular basis, until both kids were in high school and we had multiple activities in multiple directions, every night of the week. So, even on Halloween, for many, many years, there was a family meal. We’d have my pumpkin soup and the kids would be off to trick or treat. I usually stayed home, dressed as Morticia from the Addams Family, answered the door and doled out candy. It was our tradition. My soup recipe comes from my favorite cookbook. I have many, many cookbooks. I love cookbooks, really good, quality cookbooks by esteemed chefs. I like to browse through them, given the time, especially when preparing to entertain. I read them like novels and sometimes I will find myself amidst a pile of cookbooks and half an afternoon has vanished.

My collection, and this is my pared down, minimalist lifestyle, essential collection.
My collection, and this is my pared down, minimalist lifestyle, essential collection.

My pumpkin soup recipe comes from my favorite cookbook, the one cookbook I always reach for first, my “go to” guide to all things kitchen. Fannie Farmer, revised by Marion Cunningham. There may be a newer version out there, mine is pretty faded, splotched and tattered from many years of use, but it is this book I love, no matter its antiquity.

My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook.
My all-time favorite, go-to cookbook.

My mom has her favorite cookbook, the Better Homes and Gardens one. She gave me a copy, too, when I went off to college, I think, but I no longer have it. My man has his favorite cookbook, always on the windowsill, at the ready, “The Joy of Cooking”, his “go-to “guide, that, and anything that Jacques Pepin said, ever.  No complaints, no complaints, he is a master in the kitchen and never have I been disappointed.

An old standard.
An old standard.
My man's favorite go-to cookbook.
My man’s favorite go-to cookbook.

There is a “neighborhood” wine tasting party in his neighborhood in a couple of weeks. Sadly, I won’t be there to attend, but he’d mentioned maybe making pumpkin soup, so, I thought I’d send him my recipe, I mean Fannie’s recipe, or Marion’s. The recipe I’ve used many, many times. We’ll leave it at that. The recipe I use calls for canned pumpkin puree, which is fine and, even by my standards, can be obtained in a suitably organic, sustainable variety. Otherwise, I’m not much of one for canned food. I buy organic canned tomato sauce and fire roasted tomatoes from Whole Foods for a fast, weeknight spaghetti sauce, but, generally, I prefer fresh. I thought I’d look up pumpkin soup recipes on my favorite “go-to” online recipe resource, AllRecipes.com, and I found pages and pages and pages of pumpkin soup recipe. I only wanted one, one that used fresh pumpkin, as an alternative to my recipe and the canned pumpkin puree. Pages and pages and pages, and many of them with many reviews and many stars, which would be my obvious selection criteria. I mean, really, who would choose to use a recipe that had only a few stars, or none, and only a few reviews, or none? My point, exactly.

Too many pumpkin soup recipes!
Too many pumpkin soup recipes!

So, today, at some point, I am going to gather up two recipes for pumpkin soup, the one I’ve used with fantastic results for many, many years and another that I decide on from AllRecipes.com, I’m going to tuck them into a sweet, romantic card I’ll find, no doubt, at Target, fill it with mushy musings, and address it to my Sweetie, far, far away.

Recipes. It occurs to me that recipes are much like life. Think about it.

We are all trying to piece together a life for ourselves that ends up like a beautiful cake, the perfect crumb, texture, moistness, flavor, the loveliest icing, decoration, and garnish. There are as many lovely cake recipes as there are people on the planet, I’m nearly certain, if, ever, you could gather together every known cake recipe of all time. I mean, I have “The Cake Bible” and in my entire life I don’t think I could ever bake every recipe in that one book alone, though the idea intrigues me in a “Julie and Julia” kind of way. Food for thought, no pun intended, and you know, I am the Queen of Puns.

If I were to find the perfect recipe for the cake of my dreams and you were to find the perfect recipe for the cake of your dreams, I’m 99.9% certain we’d have different recipes and that our idea of the cake of our dreams would differ considerably as well. So it is with finding the recipe for our perfect life. We all have unique, individual ideas of what “our perfect life” would be, and even over time, our ideas are certain to change. Just like I may decide carrot cake with cream cheese frosting is my favorite, I may change my mind, at some point, and declare red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting my favorite. That’s okay, our goals, purpose and passions in life change like our preference for dessert, but, generally speaking, we have a few favorites we are always happy to see on the dessert menu!

If I were to make a carrot cake or a red velvet cake, again, there’d be countless recipes from which to choose, and each would be a different combination of different quantities of ingredients. Almost certainly, for carrot cake and for red velvet cake, there’d be common ingredients across a majority of the recipes; flour and sugar, for example. Again, so it is with building our perfect life, there are likely to be key ingredients we are going to want to include for best results.

So, if I wanted to piece together a perfect life, what would my recipe look like? That’s the first question, always, what kind of cake do I want? There are several ways to approach selecting a recipe, one is to consider the ingredients you already have on hand, the number of people you intend to feed, the cost, the nutritional value, another is to see a picture or read a recipe, and no matter the contents or cost, that’s what you want to bake!

With choosing the recipe for our perfect life, then, do we consider the ingredients we already have on hand? Or do we start from scratch using the pretty picture and yummy sounding recipe as inspiration? That, you must decide. Do the ingredients in your life, now, include things you want in your final recipe? Your home, your family, your career? Likely so. Or, are you in a place where you are gathering those ingredients up and don’t have them on hand, just yet? You see what I say?

There are going to be those secret ingredients, too, that all good cooks have, that ensure their success. A dear friend of mine, one I’ve known since kindergarten, is a well-known, successful pastry chef. She has always loved to cook and to bake, even as kids, she’d come over to my house after school, now and then, and we’d get out my Betty Crocker Cook Book for children and we’d whip up a batch of cookie dough. We’d practice our fractions and halve the recipe, or quarter it, and, once in a while, we’d even bake the cookie dough. Usually not. Anyway, she went on to enter the Napa Town and Country Fair cake decorating category every year beginning in high school, and she’d win. She decorated cakes for all us girls for birthdays and other occasions. She graduated to baking cakes, having attended a culinary program at a nearby community college, and, year after year, her cakes won at the local fair. She’d be asked to produce a recipe, which she had, in her mind and would have to transcribe it in written form to be published in The Napa Register. Every year she won, and every year, it was, essentially, the same cake recipe. Chocolate with a rich, chocolate filling and frosting. Her success was in the quality of her recipe, and she applied it consistently, and won. Consistently. She has since gone on to accomplish great things, I’ve seen her name listed in Gourmet Magazine a time or two, which considering the number of pastry chefs in Napa alone, is quite an accomplishment.

How it all started.
How it all started.

So, what’s your recipe? Mine includes the following ingredients:

Purpose

Passion

Values

Guiding principles

Roles

Goals

I decorate my cake with carefully selected ingredients, including:

Self esteem

Self-confidence

Self discipline

Inspiration

Motivation

Enthusiasm

Action

Every now and then, I have to adjust the ingredients a little, add a little more self-confidence and a little less action, or I may re-evaluate my roles and goals, but, in the end, the same key ingredients are always in my recipe. And that is my recipe for personal success, that’s how I piece together my perfect cake.

When you look at the ingredients list, though, each and every one of those ingredients are rare and somewhat elusive. Like making an exquisite cake, some of the ingredients may be very hard to find, very hard to come by. We often struggle with identifying our passion, but we must in order to find our purpose. We have to know our roles in order to be able to identify our goals. All of this takes time, a lot of discernment, constant consideration and occasional adjustment. Other ingredients will need to be continually replaced, refreshed. You’d never use old eggs or outdated cream in your cake recipe, would you? Likewise, my self-esteem, self-confidence, inspiration and enthusiasm need to be refreshed daily, for best results.

And your recipe may differ from mine in the source of your ingredients, though, in all likelihood, the same key ingredients will be there. You must have passion and purpose, you absolutely require values and guiding principles, and I can’t imagine a recipe not including roles and goals. None of these key ingredients are going to mix well and rise properly without self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline, and inspiration. And it all requires action, like baking the ingredients, otherwise, you’ve just got batter!

As we become comfortable in the kitchen, the recipes we use regularly are rarely written down. I’m fairly certain that most of the meals we cook, nightly, week in and week out are not carefully measured and read out of a cook book. We know how much salt, pepper, and smoked paprika we like on our pork chops, we aren’t measuring an eighth of a teaspoon of each, precisely, based on the written recipe. And I’m sure we all use slightly different amounts of slightly different ingredients. The results are all good, I bet I’d like your pork chops nearly as much as mine. My point here, is that our daily recipes, our most successful and relied upon recipes, are from memory, are so familiar and reliable that they are comfortable to us, and we don’t have to labor over specific instruction to prepare them. And, our daily recipes that we are so comfortable with, that we rely on for sustenance, regularly, are completely individual and unique, as each of us are as humans. We are all masters in our own kitchens, we all have our unique masterpieces. My Sweetie and I both love to cook, when he cooks he does things his way and the result is fantastic. When I cook, I do things as I’ve always done, and the results are wonderful, if I do say so myself. We do things differently for different reasons, based on different resources and preferences, neither of us is more or less right, just unique, just individual preference, just habit.

So, whatever you come up with, ultimately, as your recipe for your perfect life may contain many of the same ingredients as mine, but as master of your own kitchen, you may use a whisk where I’d use a wooden spoon, you may use Canola oil where I’d use EVOO. The results of both will be extraordinary, guaranteed, but unique, I promise. Put your apron on, read a few cookbooks for inspiration, and get cooking. Life was never meant to be just batter, but better. You can have your cake and eat it, too!

Scarlett’s Letter August 6, 2013

This day was so extremely ordinary I really don’t have much to say.

Yah, right, like that’s ever going to happen!

So my day went like this; I got up. I worked. I ate dinner. I watched Modern Family re-runs on Netflix and totally justified not working out. I was a little sore. And tired because I didn’t sleep well last night, and I had to get up so early this morning. So, I chatted on the phone. I read for a while. I am headed off to bed.

And I was a little disappointed with my day because of its complete and total lack of luster and sparkle. So what’s missing here? One can’t go wine tasting and skydiving and canoeing every day. Okay, so yes, one could, but not most of us and certainly not all the time. There is a time and a place for ordinary days. I guess, really, ordinary days make magical days all that much more magical. If magical were the ordinary then we wouldn’t know or appreciate what was magical. Do I make any sense here? Perhaps I’m having magical withdrawals. Am I addicted to magical? Is there a twelve-step program for that?

So, if an ordinary day is so ordinary as to make one feel disappointed, then what’s missing?

Two things I can think of right away; gratitude and self-discipline.

I have had ordinary days where I only worked and ate and read and slept and have felt accomplished and amazing. The difference between those hundreds or even thousands of ordinary days and today could only come down to the fact that I didn’t set aside that twenty minutes this morning, or for quite a few mornings now, to write down, yes, with a pen and paper, the things I am grateful for. This single, simple mechanical exercise really, truly helps put things in focus and brings more clarity to my purpose for the day, no matter how mundane.

As to self-discipline; carrying through with one’s intentions, based on roles, goals and guiding principles, on a daily basis, reinforces one’s self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. I know it is impossible to accomplish big or ongoing goals in the course of one, ordinary day. But few days should pass without some forward motion. Today passed with very little forward motion and the justification that my intentions for self-improvement today were not all that vital. Had I followed through with my intent of doing some sort of vigorous physical activity, I am quite sure I would have felt a genuine sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.

Self-discipline also comes into play with setting aside that special, quiet time each and every morning to write those important thoughts down; things we are grateful for, our “ONE thing” for the day, and thoughts and intentions towards our effort to evolve. Falling out of this practice, much like not going to the gym, undermines my self-esteem. I thrive on the quiet, contemplative exercise of focusing my thoughts, my cares and my intentions. I also thrive on a good, hard work out. That I haven’t really been doing either, regularly, has to be one of the reasons for this funk.

Tomorrow is a new day and one that, no matter how ordinary, I intend to sprinkle some magic into with gratitude and a little self-discipline.

Dang it, I didn't do this today.
Dang it, I didn’t do this today.
Dang it, I didn't do this today.
Dang it, I didn’t do this today.
Dang it, I didn't do this today.
Dang it, I didn’t do this today.

Ready, Set, Go

Are you ready?

Ready for what?

Anything. Everything.

The Center for Disease Control recommends we be ready for anything; earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, the latest strain of the flu, a zombie apocalypse (not kidding http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm). For each of these, they have suggested steps, measures, that we should take in order to be ready. I call this a plan.

We need a plan for all things in life. Big and small. I teach this in several of the classes I deliver at work. And although the plan of which I speak is specific to that particular facet of the profession, I use real life examples to drive the point home. For example, you plan what you wear each day based on the weather and what activities you think you’ll be participating in. Am I right? When you want to go on vacation, you plan your destination, your departure date, your return date, your transportation, your lodging, your activities. Am I right? Without these plans, we’d show up at work wholly inappropriately dressed, or worse yet, undressed, which I think may be a career limiting move, unless of course you work in the adult entertainment industry. When the first day of your vacation arrives and you show up at the airport without a ticket, or at your destination without hotel or campsite reservations, you’ll probably end up with a stay-cation instead. Plan equals readiness.

So, what is your plan for today? And are you ready? If you plan to run a few errands after work, there is no great amount of preparation required for that, I suppose. But lets say a friend calls and says “I have tickets to a concert and so and so can’t go, do you want to go?”, and lets say the concert is one you’d really, really like to see. Are you ready? Just like unexpected, bad things in life that the CDC warns us to be ready for, there are many good, wonderful and unexpected things in life we should be equally ready for.

If you are lounging around the house, un-showered, clothes not laundered, bank account empty, and your friend calls with those concert tickets, are you going to miss your chance to go because you aren’t ready? That would be a shame! Would you have regrets?

Personally, I prepare for each day like I have the most amazing plans in the world. I get up when I should, I eat, I shower, I get ready like I’m going somewhere, and even if I end up working at home all day long, I feel great, I look great, I smell great and if someone calls with concert tickets, I just have to grab my purse and go. The CDC would be proud if concert preparedness were something they were worried about.

In being “ready” every day, as I am, I find I am much more likely to go out into the world after work and socialize, or do something good for me, like work out at the gym or go to a fitness class, or call a friend to go out for a glass of wine. Moral of the story, I feel terrific all day and I’m more likely to have a stupendous evening, too. All because I am ready.

Let’s take this one step further. If a friend you cherish, but hadn’t seen in a very, very long time called and said, “I’m nearby, can I stop by for a visit?”, how ready would you be. Even if you’ve taken my advice and YOU are ready, are you ready for a visitor?

I happen to know, first hand, that most American homes don’t look like the homes portrayed on most television shows. Life happens and life is messy. My mom is known for having a spotless house. And while she does do a great job house cleaning, what most don’t know is, if you say you’re going to visit, she is rushing about fussing over the house until the second she hears footsteps on the porch. While there will never likely be a dirty ring in her toilet, there will be piles of newspapers, coupons, and mail on chairs, tables and countertops. The prospect of visitors totally stresses her out because she is never ready, to her satisfaction. She begins to freak out about an announced visitor weeks before they plan to arrive, and her house is really quite clean, but for the paper clutter. She vacuums more than anyone I know! I swear she has a holster for her Windex bottle! But she is convinced she isn’t ready for visitors to the point where she will turn down spending time with me, or her grandchildren, because she is “behind” schedule preparing the house for her eventual guests. To me, this is a shame. If you insist on a spotless house, keep it spotless, to your satisfaction. Be ready. Be set. So you can go!

My house used to be far worse than that. With a cluttered lifestyle, a husband who forbid anyone from touching his piles and piles of dusty papers that accumulated for years on end, and two children literally immersed, about two feet deep, in all the “must have” toys, and me working nearly full-time and leading various youth groups with my remaining time, my house was usually a disaster the CDC would have difficulty devising a plan for. For a while, when the youth group meetings were held at our house, I had a housekeeper. This translated to me scurrying around the morning she was due to arrive, before work, dealing with mountains of toys, paper and clutter so there would be surfaces exposed which could be cleaned. This was stressful, frustrating and expensive.

My philosophy has totally changed. First, I have been on a mission to de-clutter my life. This year, with my W2, I handed my CPA a stack an inch high of Goodwill donation receipts. And I am not done. With another move in progress, I intend to discard much more. I throw away junk mail before I even enter the house. What statements I still receive in paper form (damn them!), I shred, I manage all of my accounts and payments electronically. I take publications electronically, too, and those few I don’t, I toss after reading them (though I may scan an article or recipe here and there first).

This is beneficial in another stress reducing, always ready, respect; I can find things when I need them, like my W2 and all those Goodwill receipts! The time I save by having a plan, a system, a little organization and a wee bit of discipline has been a real boost! I have more time because I’m not always searching for things, and I have way less stress because when I need something, I know exactly where it is!

And, life has become a bit simpler, by design. I have de-cluttered my schedule a bit, though I thrive on being busy, and seek to have activities outside of work daily, I do plan for that extra five minutes after my shower to clean out the tub, that two seconds every day or so to swish a brush around the toilet, that two minutes every week to wash the mirror and countertop. I set aside ten minutes every now and then to chase a vacuum around a room. I hate dusting, so rather than setting aside time to occasionally dust, I just rid my life of things that require dusting. I can run a rag over shelves and tables without anything impeding my progress, and I am done. I do my dishes immediately after I eat, rather than saving them up for when I need that pan or dish. I wipe down the stove and counters, routinely, as part of my dishwashing task. I take the garbage out every night, run the dishwasher every night, and unload it in the morning while my coffee is brewing. I probably add twenty minutes a day to my routine, but my house is ALWAYS ready for visitors. And I totally enjoy my time at home, however brief.

I try to put things away, where they belong, and my only likely slip up are shoes. For as much as I love shoes, they tend to be discarded somewhere in the house soon after arriving home. I remove them in the car, too. I love shoes. I love buying shoes. I love owning shoes, but I don’t really like to wear shoes. I’ve been making a conscious effort to take them off and put them away, so things are better, but it used to be that you could walk through my front door and see several shoes scattered about the house randomly. And my kids are the same way, so when they lived with me, we were ankle deep in shoes we weren’t wearing! Now, if shoes aren’t put away where they belong, you’ll likely find them under my desk or under a chair in my bedroom. I’ve become slightly, just slightly, more disciplined.

I once heard a theory, from my son who was taking high school physics at the time. The theory is that there is only so much mess and so much neatness, and when something that was messy is made neat, something, somewhere else is made messy. I know this was true for much of the time when I was raising my family. The clutter and mess throughout the house; shoes, papers, toys, books, mail, clothes, would all be gathered up from the common areas and shoved into the usually somewhat clutter free master bedroom. The door would be pulled shut, and company  would arrive shortly thereafter. The house looked neat, the master bedroom was a mess. How this occurs, globally, though, I don’t really know. And now that my life is neater because my kids are grown and have moved away, and there isn’t a husband in the house, I wonder who’s life I caused to become messier? Is that how the theory works, or am I missing the it? If so, whoever you are, wherever you are, with the messier house, the messier life, I’m sorry.

For me, I have found that less mess equals less stress. I enjoy my free time at home more, I am happy to have people stop by, I am always ready. I am always set. I am always good to go. Well, mostly. By focussing on always being ready, by taking small, routine measures, I find I have so much more time to pursue activities I enjoy, both at home and out and about. I am way more productive, too. When I have some project for work, or back in school, and the house was messy, one of the methods of procrastination I would employ, to avoid the project, would be to clean things up, a bit, first. Funny, though, when my house was chaos with kids and the husband and pets and all, I’d procrastinate about cleaning house by working on projects instead!

Less mess. Keep it straight. That’s all there is to it. I know I make this sound really simple, but shouldn’t it be? And if it isn’t, perhaps simplifying a bit is in order. I find the simpler life is made, the simpler life becomes. You are in charge of that, by the way, and only you. But that’s a topic for another day. As the CDC suggests, take measures now to be ready. As the Boy Scout motto goes, “be prepared.” Plan for it. Plan for anything. Plan for everything. Ready? Ready. Set? Set. Go!

 

Scarlett’s Letter – My Walk in the Desert

Today marks the end of Lent for those who observe this tradition. Whether religious, or not, this season of spring is a season of renewal, and an excellent opportunity to awaken and grow along with the buds and the blooms.

I started the Lenten season a bit unprepared, hastily deciding I’d walk in the desert by moderating some of my behaviors. I decided I’d “fast” by limiting myself to one square of dark chocolate a day, one tablespoon of butter per meal, and one adult beverage per day. I may have also mentioned something about sticking to a single serving size of peanut butter, as provided on the label, and not shopping for peanut butter based on the comparative generosity of the serving size on the label.

Forty days later, I stumble out of the desert, prepared to come clean on how my “fast” went. I rocked the butter “fast”! I went whole days without butter, and probably got close to using three to five tablespoons per week! I did have to make a couple of trips to the market for EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), though. Chocolate? I did alright, better, anyway. Of course, my interpretation of “one square” may have varied slightly based on just how generous the squares were for the different brands of chocolate I consume. I did very, very well with the peanut butter, too.

What does that leave? Adult beverages. Yes. Well. Let’s just say I kept staggering out of the desert and into an oasis where I would enjoy one or two extra adult beverages per night. Not every night, but several times. What can I say? I am a sinner. I repent. Not. At least I’m honest! After all, there was the vacation to Alaska, which accounted for many of the transgressions, about ten consecutive days worth, to be exact. The other fifteen or twenty transgressions, I have no excuse for. I’m just a bad seed.

The lesson I take away from this walk in the desert; we all have areas we hope we can improve ourselves. By setting goals and working towards them we almost always make some improvement, we learn a lot about ourselves, and we affect change. Failure is human. Failure to achieve a goal within a specific timeframe is not failure to achieve the goal. Some goals we set for ourselves may be too aggressive, the timing may not be right, or we may not be truly prepared to attempt that goal with fervor. That doesn’t mean we should give up entirely, simply adjust the timeframe or modify the goal and take it on in smaller bits.

Think of goals much like a football game. The coach calls for a play and communicates it to the quarterback. This becomes the quarterback’s “goal”, for sake of comparison. As the defense lines up, the quarterback may have to reevaluate his goal and adjust his plan. As the snap is made and the defensive and offensive players begin to move into position and adapt accordingly to the other players movements, the quarterback, again, may have to adjust his plan to achieve his goal, or adjust the goal entirely. Our goals are no different. Adjusting the plan or modifying the goal is not a failure. You still have a chance at making a touchdown, if not this play, then maybe at least you’ll gain some yardage! Keep playing!

While my walk in the desert, my fast, was triumphant with a few of my intentions, I know where I need to reflect and focus some additional energy. We all have similar intentions and encounter similar difficulties. It would be in our best interest to keep working at it, even though the fast may be officially over, we may have exited the desert into a lush garden, the goal still exists and still has validity. Keep walking.

Like a Boss

What is a boss? I always think of a boss as a leader, right? Or a manager. Someone in charge, someone making decisions and directing the actions of others. Someone who knows what the goals are and has a plan for achieving them. Someone qualified. With authority. Someone we respect. Someone we are supposed to obey.

There are good bosses and bad bosses, and I’m sure we’ve all had both in our work experience. What makes a boss a good boss? They lead with certainty but with patience. They are firm, but not harsh. They are clear, concise and reasonable. They clearly define expectations, boundaries, rewards and consequences. They are respected. They lead by example, they provide guidance, resources and encouragement.

Who is the boss? The boss of you? It should be you. You are “in charge” of everything you do or don’t do. So, what kind of boss are you? Are you a good boss? Do you know the goals? Do you have a plan for achieving them? Do you lead yourself with certainty and reasonableness? Do you have clearly defined expectations, boundaries, rewards and consequences for yourself? Do you seek out examples to lead yourself by? Do you have a resource for guidance and encouragement in your leadership role of yourself? This may, at first, sound a little absurd, but it is all quite necessary if we are to lead ourselves into evolving into the person we hope to become.

Whether we work or not, whether we are self employed or work for a company, large or small, someone is in charge of what we do, how we spend our time, and what we produce. There are all types of “bosses” in this world, in and out of the workplace.

Think of parenthood. Parents are “bosses” of their children, and boy oh boy, some are good, some are not, and the result is usually pretty evident.

My daughter was telling me a story about a poor parenting example she witnessed. She saw a toddler, probably about two years old, the child was whiny and fussy and eventually escalated into a full blown screaming tantrum. The mother was paying the child no attention whatsoever until the shrieking was well under way, then she sent the older sibling to the vending machine for a 20 ounce bottle of Dr. Pepper for the toddler. This pacified the child. This is horrifying on a couple of levels; one, no one should be drinking soda, in my opinion, it is merely type 2 diabetes in a can. Certainly, a two year old should not even know what a soda is, let alone “require” one for pacification. Secondly, the mother did not even attempt to communicate with the fussy toddler, to lead, direct or guide the child, she simply gave the child what it wanted without even a discussion.

I know, all children get fussy and whiny and will have screaming tantrums. Mine did, though rarely. I spent a great deal of time talking to my children, even well before they could speak. I always spoke to them with respect and treated them with dignity. I didn’t use baby talk, I didn’t “mince words”, I used the same calm, compassionate but firm tone, inflection and vocabulary I did with the people in the accounting department I managed. My children knew the expectations, the rewards and the consequences for their behaviors, and they always excelled at vocabulary in school!

I have had many bosses over the course of my career, many good, a few bad. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to perform satisfactorily for a “bad” boss, I’m sure you can agree. When expectations are incomplete, unstated or unclear, much time is wasted and there is a high degree of frustration on both sides of the equation. A boss with a volatile temperament makes for a very stressful work life. A boss who is apathetic and allows his entire department to underperform is, perhaps, even worse.

So, if you are your own boss, how are you doing?

Are you an apathetic boss? You want to lose weight, get fit, be happier, achieve certain personal, professional or educational goals. Do you have a plan you expect to follow? And do you hold yourself accountable for making progress towards those goals, according to the plan? Do you let yourself underperform, to the detriment of your goals, your desires, your dreams, your life?

Are you a volatile boss? Do you get mad at yourself for falling down on your goals? Self loathing is a terrible thing. Have you ever caught yourself saying “I hate myself?”

Are you a disorganized boss? Do you provide yourself with the goals, the plan, the guidance, the resources and the patience and counseling necessary to grow and achieve in the manner you hope for? Or do you just kind of plug along through life without direction?

Truthfully, not many of us are very good bosses of ourselves, or we’d all be trim, fit, happy and rich, right? Not many people really consider the necessity of being their own boss in just the matters of day to day life, but this is probably the one, single most important form of leadership we need as individuals. Without our own leadership, it is very difficult to grow and perform to the degree that other leaders in our lives expect.

Take note of people you may know that are successful at work or successful in other aspects of life; sports, hobbies, charitable ventures. They tend to have certain qualities that those who aren’t as successful lack. Self control, high self esteem, self direction, self discipline, confidence, organizational skills, time management skills, self-motivation. How many of these qualities include the word “self”? That means, quite simply, they are relying on their “self” to be the boss, to lead.

To be “like a boss” then, we need to develop those traits, characteristics and habits that allow us to become more in control of ourselves, to have a higher self-esteem, to be more self-directed, to have more confidence, better organizational skills and time management skills, to be more self-motivated.

Most of these traits, characteristics and habits begin with setting clearly expressed, measurable goals and an outline of a plan to move towards them. Most of theses traits and characteristics rely on replacing poor habits we may have with good habits we desire, and on being firm, clear and accountable for our own actions.

I have spent the last several years delving into my own “self-management style”, I have seen very satisfying change and growth and evolution. I often catch myself asking myself “how are you going to feel if you let yourself down?”. I’m not unreasonable, but I do truly feel bad about myself if I disappoint myself by doing or not doing something I expect of myself in order to accomplish my goals. But I don’t let a temporary setback completely derail me. If I disappoint myself by not working out one day, I don’t just stop working out, I pick up where I left off the next day. If I indulge in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream on Tuesday, I don’t wait until the following Monday to “start my diet” all over again. The moment I set that spoon down, we’re back to eating healthy, wholesome and reasonably. I may give myself a pep talk, but I don’t beat myself up. I manage myself with compassion, but with firmness.

I don’t hate myself, ever, for disappointing setbacks. I love myself, always. I love myself enough to know that I deserve to be managed well. And, by loving myself, I am able to love those in my life genuinely and authentically. Self love is critical.

Many tend to think of loving oneself as vanity or conceit. Far from true. If you do not love yourself, you are setting a very bad example for those around you. If you do not love yourself, why should anyone else love you? Seems harsh when put to words, but think about it. You expect others to love you, but you don’t even afford yourself that respect. If you are self loathing, it is impossible for others to fill that void within you. You trudge through life with that void and it is perceptible to those around you. They may not be able to identify that you are self-loathing, just that you are not lovable. To be loved, you must be lovable. To be lovable, you must be loving, to yourself, firstly, else you don’t really know how to love others, to love at all.

Additionally, when you love yourself, you take care of yourself, you manage yourself. You don’t rely on others to do those jobs. This is a sign of respect and love for those around you. When you love yourself, you are naturally happier, again, to the pleasure of those near to you.

Where to begin? Start with a few goals and a whole bunch of self reflection on what changes you have to make to achieve those goals. Then begin to hold yourself accountable for progress. This isn’t something you do on January 1st then forget about, this should be something you discuss with yourself on a daily basis. That’s what a good boss does, makes the goals part of the daily agenda and part of the company culture, then provides loving guidance, direction and resources necessary to achieve those goals.

So, it’s time to get down to business. Like a boss.