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What does it mean to find the extraordinary within the ordinary?

One of my favorite quotes is by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of The Little Prince, among others), where he says: "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral."

Are you someone who sees rock piles, or do you see cathedrals?
Stone Pile

To find the extraordinary within the ordinary, you have to see it. And to see it, you have to look for it. And to look for it, you have to have your eyes open. You have to be open. You have to believe that within every rock pile there is a cathedral. Or, at least, the possibility of one.

Or, put this way, as Hamlet said "there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

Let's back up.

Think about your life, and the things contained within it. Let you mind roam across the landscape of your days... the people, the tasks, the places, the hopes and dreams, the fears.

How often do you sit in wonder at what's extraordinary in all of it?

I believe that everything can start to look like a simple pile of rocks, if we're not careful. And the trick there is that rocks are not bad, necessarily. A life filled with piles of rocks can be quite nice. Perfectly comfortable. Just fine. It's just...DON'T GET LOST IN A LIFE FILLED WITH FINE.

How many cathedrals might you be missing out on if you just settle on the fine rocks and leave it at that?

So, look again.
It's up to you to put some extra in the ordinary of your every day.

Where to start? Well... where are the places where you currently only see rocks? What are the rocks?
Here's something I've come to realize. Actually two things. First, this is not something you figure out and then never look back—this is something that needs reminding. A lot of reminding. And second, cathedrals aren't just big things. Extraordinary can happen in a breath; in a look.

For example, just last week I was cooking dinner and my five-year-old son Dylan was acting out in a steady and increasing stream of what we'll call... unproductive behaviors and challenged listening. And I was cooking dinner and I was tossing an equally steady and increasing stream of "nos" and "don'ts" and "Dylan!!'s" at him, until he finally just said "STOP IT, Mommy. You are being SO rude to me!" And I looked over, and saw his face flushed and frustrated and his eyes brimming with tears.

And in that moment I did stop. And I put one of his favorite songs on, scooped him up, and started dancing around the kitchen. And he quickly melted into my arms and buried his face into my shoulder like a baby. And when he looked at me again, it was with such love and connection. And it hit me like a jolt of electricity. He had needed me to see the cathedral within him, and all I was doing was treating him like a pile of rocks.
Smiling son

Extraordinary can happen in a breath. In a look.

You just have to actively and intentionally look for it.

How can you find the extra in your ordinary today?
diamond in the rough
For breakfast I had coffee, an omelet, some home fries, and bacon. Mmm... breakfast with friends.
Published in Breakfast Club

I'm grateful for the opportunity to host a Master Class on the topic of Strengths Based Leadership on Wednesday, April 19th from 2:30-4:30 pm during the BOOST Conference. In nearly 20 years of learning from and working for Gallup, I can't think of a more exciting and impactful topic to share with conference attendees this spring.

Gallup research proves that people succeed when they focus on what they do best. Each person has natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that can be productively applied. Knowing your unique strengths and putting them to good use not only feels good – it has been proven to meaningfully improve performance in a variety of ways, as recently summarized at Strengths-Based Employee Development: The Business Results.


Gallop 2


More than 15 million people have taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment since it was introduced several years ago. Learning about your strengths results is certainly a great experience, but it's simply the first step in a development process that continues well into the future. Strengths-based development continues beyond the identification phase as individuals take steps to integrate their strengths awareness into the way they view themselves. From there, real behavior change results in performance improvement across a variety of life and work domains.


Gallop 1


This Master Class is for you if you've never learned about your own strengths and would like to take the first step. It's also for you if you've already learned your strengths and want to learn from others along the journey. We will discuss best practices from educators within the room and across the country, leading to tangible takeaways that you can apply with yourself, your colleagues, and your students!

Hope to see you on April 19th from 2:30-4:30! Click here to register! 

Author and Masterclass Facilitator: Tim Hodges

Published in Breakfast Club

What does personal development have to do with professional development?
I've had many people ask me some version of this question.
In other words, why bother working on myself? I should spend my time working on my job skills, my staff, my responsibilities, my "stuff."
And, okay, I get that. Tending to others, as I've pointed out, gives me a purr for sure.
But here's the thing that I've come to realize (slowly and begrudgingly and after being repeatedly put in situations to remind me of it):
If you tend only to others and neglect yourself, you will start to wither and die on the inside.
Consider this.
What kind of flowers do we love?


Flower EP


We love flowers in full bloom, showering us with their full lush petals, their beautiful fragrance, their delicate stems. Not flowers that have lost all their petals and have shriveled up for the winter, leaving behind a crisp brown stick of a reminder of the beauty that once was.
Okay, harsh maybe.
But you get my point?
Full, lush beautiful flowers are absorbing the gifts of the sun and the soil and the rain and the bees and the butterflies and the hummingbirds and the loving gardeners that surround them.
So should you.
When was the last time you asked yourself: What do I need?
What do you need?
Personal development is about figuring that out.
Personal development says: hey, there, beautiful flower... time to think about yourself for a sec, here. Do you need more water? Do you need more warmth? Do you need company? What do you need?




The more you listen to the answers to that question, and—more importantly—the more you heed the answers to that question, the more fully you will bloom. The more fully you will be in bloom.
And do you know who that's good for? You, obviously, because you start to feel better...great... beautiful.
But everyone else too.
And there is the big AH HA! Of it all. The more you tend to YOU, the more you ultimately are tending to OTHERS.
Go figure.
Sometimes you have to be selfish to be giving.
Sometimes you have to look inward to be able to give outward.
Hey there beautiful flower. You need some water? Ask for it, please. We'll all be better for it.
How can you tend to you today?

For breakfast I had coffee. Lots of coffee.

Published in Breakfast Club

The students in our programs come from diverse backgrounds and face unique challenges in navigating the world they are growing up in. It is a privilege to be their guide in this journey called life. Many of the students we have in our programs are having experiences that may be similar to the staff working in our programs. The true challenge is being able to create an environment that supports the staff and students to feel emotionally and physically safe and not just survive but thrive in spite of whatever obstacles they may face beyond the walls of the space on a campus. This challenge needs to be met by reflecting and expanding your awareness as an educator and then demonstrated through your leadership. The key is to ask yourself – What is your identity? How does that allow you to connect with your staff and your students? Do you have an implicit bias that influences your attitudes or interactions with those that differ from you? Do you lead from a place of compassion?




In looking at my own journey, I have discovered that my own identity is "under construction". My grandfather came to this country from the Azores Islands off the coast of Portugal. He worked hard in seeking the American Dream. He did not teach us the language and we were exposed to very few elements of Portuguese culture. Although there was clearly a disconnect, he always said how proud he was to be Portuguese. While my mother is Portuguese, my father is a mix. I was raised without a clear connection to my Portuguese heritage through customs and traditions and only knew that the rest of what made me who I am was a mystery. There was never a discussion about what made up my cultural heritage. I will admit that this is something I have only recently begun to delve into and reflect upon. In 2014, I was asked to be part of a group of strong talented leaders who are women of color. As the women shared their stories I realized that I have not had many of the experiences they have faced. I am fair skinned so most people cannot typically identify what my ethnic background is. I have been asked if I am Native American or Asian, and then there is the comment, "well you are white – right?" The fact that I can pass as white has sometimes afforded me privileges in my life that I have come to realize through listening to the stories of my sisters. They have experienced blatant racism and discrimination based on the color of their skin. I truly have not. Through participating in the Sisters Inspiring Change, I have deepened my journey of self-discovery. This journey of self-discovery has empowered me to encourage others to dig deep to their roots since our identity shapes who we are and allows us to connect with others. It has helped me better understand how different life experiences can be from one person to the next and understand the importance of our roles in shaping the lives of the young people we work with.

I am sharing this very personal journey to urge you to examine your level awareness and compassion. In my experience, I have witnessed that awareness when teamed with compassion can be empowering. As educators and ambassadors of youth development we have the privilege and the power to continue to support the young people in our programs and support the staff to realize and share their own cultural identity. We can do this by serving as an example to those around us and through being mindful and intentional about the environments we create for students and staff. Now, more than ever, it is important that our programs serve as a safe space for young people where they are valued, accepted and celebrated for who they are. This can only be achieved if the staff in our programs have the same opportunity. Finally it is important to remember that each one of us has the power to make a positive impact. It is imperative that we engage in reflection to identify how we as individuals can create a ripple effect that supports not just one but all.


staff support


For breakfast I had a banana & protein shake.

Published in Breakfast Club

It is one day before the end of the year and most people are trying to figure out how to improve themselves for next year. We are working on resolutions that are usually long forgotten by the second week of the New Year. Yet, we still do it! Before we all go mad trying to convince ourselves that we need to lose weight, be kinder, be more organized, or just in general be better people, let's just all take a minute and ask, what impact did I have this year? What was the question?!? What impact did you make this year? Many times in our desire to want to become better individuals, we forget to stop and realize that even though we are not where we want to be, we still made an impact.

dr-seuss-quotes-38Instead of spending the next couple of days resolving to make changes, spend the next few days recalling the impact you made this year. My impact may not be as far reaching as your impact, but that doesn't make it insignificant. It was of the utmost importance to the person who was impacted by it. There is no scale to weigh that, or a planner to organize it minute by minute. I have learned that if we never stop to celebrate what we have already accomplished, and we are always looking ahead to accomplish more, then the things we have already accomplished become unimportant to us. When in fact, to someone they were momentous.

As you reflect, many feelings may arise in you. Feelings of pride, happiness, inadequacy, or even failure. You may be struggling to realize the impact you had, or realizing that all you did was truly overwhelming. Whatever the case may be, do not fail to accept that you made a difference in someone's life. Whether it was the strong willed child that always manages to convince the entire class to rally against you, or it was the man who is homeless that you treated as an equal, your actions have started a chain of reactions in their lives. Many times we never see the entirety of the impact that we make. We are not afforded the opportunity to see the difference our one kindness made. That is why we must not lose heart. Every day we have to choose to make an impact, despite how we feel, or the circumstances in our own personal lives. There were people who did that for us. Individuals that never gave up even though at times we may have seemed like hopeless cases. Every day they chose to impact our lives knowing they may never see the end result. They made an impact! What kind of IMPACT will you make? Reflect using these questions:

• Do you have an effect on your students, co-workers, peers? Why?
• Do you influence your students, co-workers, peers? How?
• Write down the name of an individual that made an impact on you.
• Why did they make an impact on your life?

For breakfast I had ½ cup of oatmeal, with 2 scoops of vanilla protein and cinnamon. One cannot forget my faithful cup of coffee.

Published in Breakfast Club

Recently I recovered from a pretty intense back injury. (I have accelerated degeneration in the discs of my upper back and lower spine areas). The injury prevented me from exercising for over two years. I consider myself a strong athlete and competitor in many sports. The news of my injury was hard to digest and felt terrible. When I incurred the injury, I was not only physically impaired but something happened to me mentally as well —my confidence went downhill.


I had a lot of recovery work to do. After over two years of physical therapy and a lot of patience, I was able to slowly navigate my way back into the physical fitness scene. But I noticed something new, an unfamiliar tentativeness. I became so anxious about aggravating the injury that I wasn't really committing to the workouts. I began to make excuses for myself ('just take it easy ' or ' I'm so tired, I better be careful' or 'it's ok not to do it today, you can try again tomorrow'). And then guess what happened? I knocked myself totally out of the game. I felt defeated and stopped trying.

julia blog 2

This past summer, I climbed back on the horse. I had to explore new ways to work out. I had to commit to a softer exercise regimen. This was new. I could no longer run five miles, play beach volleyball three times a week, or take a kettle bell class. Instead I had to explore — find the challenge and threshold inside a slow yoga class, inside a boring swimming class or inside a repetitive spin class. It seemed to be working...kind of. But still, I noticed something else — I wasn't giving it my all. I was holding back. As if I didn't want to really be there. I was fearful. That feeling of tentativeness was still lingering. Even though my back was functioning at 95%, mentally I was not giving myself permission to move into the zone. Therefore I was not maximizing my potential. And that got me thinking about my job....

julia blog 3

The parallel I am about to draw is between my fitness-life and my top capacity at work. Both appear different each year, quarter, month and day. And sometimes I catch myself holding back on the job. Obstacles, challenges and wins occur in my field all the time. The one thing that's constant is me. The values are the same — I am in career that I love and am passionate about. I also need to care about myself physically, love my body and stay passionate about my health in order to make an impact. Passion, love, impact.

Some questions that help me 'come back' when I have a block at work or when I am questioning my work habits or when I am not present 100% or when I feel like I am only half way there are: Am I thinking creatively? Am I speaking up in meetings? Am I supporting our mission to the best of my abilities? What more can I do? How am I serving youth thoughtfully? Where is my voice in the work we do — how can I be heard? Am I taking the right risks? How am I serving the cause and supporting the company? The questions go on. My mind races constantly. But these prompts get my wheels spinning.

Now when I am on the bike in my spin class, looking at the clock instead of focusing on my workout, I realize I am taking myself out of my own game – So I say to myself: "Julia! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? Let's fix this! The only way for you to heal and grow is to proceed with all you've got— don't hold yourself back anymore, work it out, stick with it, plow through, push for excellence! Find your maximum potential!"

My body will never be the same as it once was: young, strong and resilient. However, I keep learning (always a student) that it takes hard work to reinvent myself and still maintain impact and integrity. I have to do something each day, challenge myself and stop holding back. I may have downfalls, but my recovery has to do with how fast I stand up after being knocked down.

julia blog 4

For breakfast I drank a protein shake with a banana, chia seeds, hearts of palm seeds, flax seed, almond butter blended with water. And a cup of coffee with low fat milk and Stevia. Cheeseburger anyone?

Published in Breakfast Club


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