What We Wish We Knew

John: When I was 22, I got married for the first time, and wish someone would have told me that I was not emotionally ready to handle that level of commitment to another person. Sex, yes. Commitment no. When I was 24, my son was born, and I wish that I was less focused on me and more on raising him right, so he could’ve benefitted from my tutelage. At 25, I wish I would have cared less about what everyone thought about me, and focused more about what I thought about myself. I could’ve been happier. All of us have the tendency to be Monday Morning Quarterbacks, and look back on history with rose-colored glasses. The truth is, you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now because of all the decisions you made leading up to this point. Maybe I wrecked my first marriage, but I was able to grow from that, and have a pretty successful second one. Maybe I wrecked my relationship with my son, but I was able to repair it with him as he got older – and he was able to be where he is because his mom raised him. And let me say publicly, there was NO WAY I could have raised him as well as she did. She gets the credit. And maybe if I was less focused on what other people thought, I would not have been able to develop a ridiculously sick work ethic to work as hard as I can for what I want. Each year holds a few great lessons. The kinds that you must not miss, because you might not be able to recapture until two decades later. Damn sure pay attention.

Question for my three friends – what are the lessons you learned in your 20s that you didn’t catch until years later?

Jen: I have learned that increasing my overall knowledge ultimately multiplies how much I don’t know. I used to envision knowledge as something that is finite. Something that has a beginning, middle, and end. I was a card-carrying member of the “I’m a lifelong learner” club. By that I meant that I planned to learn everything there is to know about things that interest or are useful to me. For instance I would learn everything about drugs and the lifelong part would be learning about new drugs or new developments in the pharmacy world, etc. As I have grown in wisdom, not just knowledge, I have realized knowledge is infinite and ever-growing. Tackling certain subjects expands the mind and opens up more ’empty space’ to fill with new knowledge and ideas. I finally learned that there is a lot I don’t know, and that there will always be; and, moreover, that there will always be more that I don’t know than I do.

Molly: I am very thankful that social media did not exist in my 20s and that the lessons I learned at that time were not documented for all eternity! The biggest lesson that I learned in my 20s, but didn’t catch until later was that I do not have to drive full speed ahead all of the time. When I was 18 I had a plan for myself; go to college and graduate in 4 years, become a nurse, work for two years, and then get my masters degree as a nurse practitioner. I was on track until my first semester in my masters program, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I dropped out of school to move home to take care of her. Without the family emergency, I most likely would have pushed ahead, despite not being happy on that particular path just for the sake of “not quitting”. To me quitting equated failing, even if it wasn’t the right fit. I made the same mistake again at the age of 30, when I thought it was a good idea to work full-time, with one year old twins, and started my masters degree again. Life intervened again, when I became pregnant with our third son and was put on bed-rest almost immediately. I was on the right path, I was taking on too much. I was fortunate to figure out that a more realistic approach was to work part-time while I went back to school and had three boys under three years old. You don’t always have to keep moving forward in order to get ahead, and sometimes quitting can be winning.

Trish: This is an interesting topic John. I think we all can look back to our 20s and wish we did things differently. I think about technology. How in my 20s, I got my very first mobile cell phone, my very own email address, and was thrilled to connect to the internet using a dial-up modem. How exciting those times were!!! Who would have known that all these years later we have super high-speed internet and super smart phones!! Looking back, I really wish that as new technology was introduced, that I would have been less excited and set a healthy distance in connectivity. I find that like most, I am too attached to technology and too “connected”. In my 20s I didn’t realize how much self-care I had because of the lack of total connectivity. I work today to find a healthy distance from technology to recharge my own batteries.

Originally Published on November 16, 2018 on LinkedIn

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham

Dealing With Change

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour and Patricia Graham

John: I’m a fixed person. I like what I like when I like it. I get up at 4:59am. I am in my office by 6am. I leave by 6pm. At the gym, by 6:30, vigorous workout pre-planned from the night before. I am home by 7:15, for dinner, watch the Yankees, and then make my lunch for the next day. Saturday is similar to Sunday, with pre-planned routines. Needless to say, I love my rigidity. This goes for the majority of my life. I like new things, but when I am ready for them. My question to my other three friends is, how do you deal with change?

“How do you deal with change?”

Jen: Dealing with change is eventually inevitable – we can either fight or slowly lose, or we can accept it and adjust accordingly. As human beings, we are constantly changing, even the most stubborn of us are doing it at a molecular level. Some changes are optional, such as electing to take a new job. Some are not, like when we are forced out of a job. At the core, resistance to change is rooted in fear. Fear of the known, such as knowing chemo is required to treat a cancer; or fear of the unknown, such as not knowing where you will live after an eviction. These fears precipitate the ultimate sense of a loss of control, which can be the hardest part for many of us to overcome, myself included.  Imagine for a moment a ballerina performing turns- they can be any type of turn, but I like pirouettes and fouettes best, so I think of those. (If you can’t imagine or haven’t seen these, click here to see- starts at 00:40).

This ballerina is in a constant changing motion, but she controls it in one big way (yes, I realize there are dozens of other controls in play, just indulge me for a minute). Notice her eyes are focused on a single place and it’s not until most of her body is already turned that she whips her head around too and refocuses. She repeats this each time because she is trained to find the same constant point each turn. If she were to let her head spin around at the speed of her legs, she would quickly lose balance and fall out of the turn. Having danced as a girl, I recall that missing my focal point for even a single turn could render me unable to find it again, leaving me dizzy and in the floor. This example illustrates how I navigate change, by exerting control over other areas of my life to stay grounded. I remind myself of anything that I can control, even something small, like choosing what I eat. By doing this, I feel less “out-of-control” and manage thru the changes. If I don’t, I eventually fall flat on my face. Of course, I simply jump up and pretend like it was supposed to happen, relocate my focal point and keep on spinning.

“…there are two types of change; change you choose and change that is forced upon you.”

Molly: I agree that there are two types of change; change you choose and change that is forced upon you. I like change and I recognize I can easily get frustrated with the status quo when I feel strongly there is an opportunity for improvement. I enjoy solving problems rather than applying temporary fixes and I hate waste (especially my time).

When change is forced upon you, I (like a lot of people) try to understand the rationale behind the change. Unfortunately, not all changes can be understood, such as a natural disaster or a terrifying diagnosis. As an oncology nurse, I have had the privilege of seeing so many wonderful people face the life changing diagnosis of cancer with courage and grace. Courage, grace, and determination come after denial, anger, and questions of why me. Supporting my cancer patients through this process gave me great insight on how I want to face change that is thrust upon me. I let myself experience the emotions as I feel that is a necessary step in determining my path with the change. Then I can decide if I want to fight it, embrace it, or maybe warm up to it.

Trish: Great question, John. This is a very interesting topic. As Jen mentioned, we are constantly changing and the world around us is in constant change. This change occurs with or without our buy-in, and ultimately, it is how we deal with the change that determines whether we are dealing with loss or control.  I like to think of this quote, “Change is a process, not an event.” Somehow, this thought process allows for the element of time. Time to get from Point A to Point B. Some people adjust to change with speed and grace. The speedy graceful people are at Point B smiling and cheering. Other individuals are resistant to change and fight very hard to maintain the current status quo. You can find these individuals still processing the fact that there is a Point B that exists, and heck no, they don’t want to get there at all…let alone get there with speed AND grace! I think I am somewhere in the middle, but more toward the person on the fast road to Point B. Why am I a “somewhat speedy and graceful” change acceptor? I Maybe I don’t like to feel a sense of fear and loss and focusing on the excitement of something new helps me manage the change. The concept of viewing change to be a process and not an event allows individuals time for consideration. This consideration may make a speedy graceful person slow down and discover challenges that need addressing before getting to Point B that they otherwise may have missed. Viewing change to be a process and not an event may allow a resister time to consider opportunities rather than be steadfast in opposition. The next time I am faced with change and feel like I am on the too speedy graceful side of the bell curve or I am too far to the resistant side, I hope to stop, take a breath, recognize that the change is a process and not an event and decide the best way to get from Point A to Point B.

Reinvent Yourself: Make Changes for a Better You

By John R. NoceroJennifer RawleyMolly Downhour and Patricia Graham

John:    How someone can take this, one of the most ridiculous songs on the planet, and turn it into this, one of the most beautiful and brilliant songs ever, speaks to the power of re-invention. Major life changes are never easy, because your present self and its priorities, combined with the urgent matters of day, conspire to work against you. Choosing re-invention is never easy. When I graduated college, all I wanted to be was a disc jockey. I achieved that within three months of graduation. Little did I know that being a disc jockey meant eating potatoes, because that’s all I could afford with the meager pittance I was earning. Since that time, I have re-invented myself multiple times over. According to Webber (2014), many of dream of a future that’s very different from our present. We’ll live in Hawaii instead of Hackensack; abandon singlehood for family life; or paint murals for a living. But getting from here to there is hard, largely because some powerful psychological forces align against reinvention.

It’s in our nature, for example, to spend our energy primarily on today’s immediate concerns, to hold a distorted perception of our future, or, even if we’re future-focused, to keep chasing after what turn out to be the wrong dreams. Too often, we give up just when we need to push harder, and persist when we actually should quit. Yet without a more clear-eyed assessment of our present and our future, and a more effective approach to setting, pursuing, and achieving goals, we can end up with a future we really don’t want—in which we are sick, broke, lonely, or just plain unfulfilled. Major life changes are never easy, because your instincts and the urgent matters of the day work against you. But when you learn to focus on your future self, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.

Question for my three friends: What is the best re-invention you have ever had, and what advice would you give someone who is looking to reinvent themselves?

Jen:  If I asked someone else what they think my best reinvention is, I’d probably hear it was the transition from pharmacy to administration because it’s something that sticks out in my career. I think my best example goes back much further and is something that I had not really thought of as reinvention until writing this. I can remember a distinct moment in middle school when I consciously decided that I was not going to conform with “the system”. I’m against most things that are inefficient, and I saw my school life as a complete waste of time. At first, I honestly did not know for sure what I wanted to do or become, but I knew I had to get to college ASAP and tackle it quickly. I also didn’t have any immediate ideas of how to do it but I did take advantage of every opportunity to pivot that presented itself (and still do, perhaps more thoughtfully). When people ask me “how did you do that”, I usually answer with something to the effect of being in the right place at the right time a whole lot of times.

Back to 8th grade, my family moved mid-year and I was at risk of losing the high school credit for Algebra I that I was taking. The new class was at a different place in their book and I was not able to pass their most recent test which was used to assess me. The teacher suggested I wait until 9th grade “like normal”. I went to the guidance counselor and begged (literally, pleaded- tears and all) for a chance to prove myself. I struggled thru, barely passing that first quarter because not only was I behind in Algebra, I had always missed being taught fractions due to moving 13 times previously. Try doing any algebra without knowing advanced fractions. Even so, I managed to make it thru and get the credit. Let’s not discuss the gpa impact, because it really does not matter.

That single credit set me up for success. I went on to do 2 years of highschool and then when I was 16 I was a dually enrolled highschool/community college student taking classes on the college campus exclusively. When I was 17 I enrolled at FSU and started my official college career. I changed majors early on, and schools, ultimately graduating from pharmacy school in my hometown of Atlanta, and later going back to get my MBA. I sometimes wonder what might have been if I had gone with the flow and not fought for that ‘next level.’ I believe not only would my timeline have been impossible, I also would have risked losing my self-confidence and tenacity. I’ll never know for sure, but I’m glad for how everything worked out. I’m grateful for the people who helped me along the way and gave me those second chances-there were so many more besides the Algebra. I’ve never forgotten them, and I try to pay the favor forward whenever I have the discretion to do the same.

Molly:  I have two good examples of reinventing myself. The first was an example of circumstances pivoting my path. The year was 2007. I was working full time as the nursing supervisor over the phase I oncology clinical trials unit while taking a full patient and clinical trial load. My oversight included the research nurses, infusion nurses, research lab techs, and research coordinators (~14 employees). I was working full time, working on my master’s full time, and I had 18 month old twin boys. My mother was in poor health, requiring frequent trips from Arizona back to Maryland. My husband and I started a major remodel on our house requiring the four us to move out with our two dogs and two cats to a much smaller space. I was burning the candle at both ends to say the least. Then I found out I was expecting with our third son, a surprise and also a complicated pregnancy requiring bed-rest at 16 weeks. This was the sign from the universe to slow down! I put school on hold and took a position as a part time clinical trials infusion nurse upon my return from medical leave. This pivot professionally gave me the opportunity to finish my master’s program and maintain my sanity. We often want to do it all, but sometimes doing it all right now doesn’t make sense.

The second example of reinventing myself was when I chose to leave my job as the clinical trials program director that I helped build. While I loved the mission, my colleagues, and the patients, it no longer fulfilled my passion. When I was notifying my contacts of my departure and who would be taking over my responsibilities, one of the vendors asked if I would ever consider joining their team. As a nurse, I had primarily worked in hospitals and direct patient care roles. This was really outside of the box and my comfort zone, but I was intrigued. After several conversations we put together a job description and business plan where my role was focused on helping clinical research sites be successful, thus ultimately helping patients. (I will always be a nurse at heart.)  This was new, exciting, and had so many opportunities; many are still being discovered daily.

Whether being forced to see the obvious setup for disaster or choosing to take a calculated risk, both reinventions worked out for the best. The last reinvention even led me to #FourFriends.

Trish:    I believe that a person doesn’t necessarily “reinvent” oneself, rather, that person discovers a new aspect of their qualities or talents that were untapped or underutilized or they change the way they’ve “always done” something. I also believe that in order to “reinvent”, there has to be a driver, a significant reason or challenge that brought the reinvention or discovery about and I’ve had a big one happen to me recently.

Since my teens, I’ve had difficulty in communicating with my mom (does this sound familiar to some of you?) and just learned to live with her forgetting a name or getting flustered when given too much information at one time. My friends from high school were always referred to as some other name or a new name. For example, I had a couple of friends named Mark. One she called “Pontoon Mark” (because his dad had a pontoon boat business she knew about) and the other she would substitute some other like sounding last name with his real last name, despite my correction of the last name over and over. As I grew older and my “more type A” personality traits came forth, trying to coax her how to give me the quick summary of a long story or how to use her smart phone became increasingly more difficult. She knows me more than anyone and knows full well that I am not the most patient individual, so she mostly approaches discussions with me in an uptight and nervous way, trying to be quick (but fails miserably), or tells me a story out of chronological order making it difficult for me to follow.

I am blessed that my 70+ mother and 90+ grandmother live two houses away from me. We lost my father almost 8 years ago and my mother is caring for my grandmother (who just turned 95 this summer!!). As you may expect at that age, my grandmother’s health is steadily failing and several weeks ago, I was with her alone and she asked me to be more patient with my mother. My grandmother said, “You know she mixes things up. She has that thing where you switch two letters or numbers around…” and I said, “Dyslexia?!!” and she said, “Yes. We had to go to the school when she was little and had to switch schools to get her better help and we had to work with her at home, too. But don’t tell her I told you because she never wanted to be labeled or be looked at differently…” Oh my goodness!!! Now I knew she mixed things up, but didn’t know it was due to dyslexia.

This revelation changed everything for me in dealing with my mother. Everything finally made sense. How my dad did all the math in the family, how she would suggest that I write lists, show her how to do something instead of providing her instructions, and she would repeat phone numbers back to me two and three times, “Yes mom, that’s what I said, Jenny’s number is 867-5309!”

This was groundbreaking knowledge that I wish I had YEARS ago. I knew that I had a huge driver to reinvent myself on one of the most unsolved and longest challenges in my life. I immediately changed the way I spoke to her. My language became simpler, slower, and with way less information. I showed her rather than told her and I began writing phone numbers down for her instead of repeating them 3 times over. Better yet, I just went ahead and put them in her smart phone for her.

I spent time thinking about how I’d been communicating with her in my adult life and came upon this…I figured out that many of us bring our business language in both content and speed home with us and expect that our non-hustle business-world families hear and understand us all the time. As leaders, we want the short and sweet, get-the to-the-point fast, and options as opposed to opinions. My mother is a phenomenal woman. She is smart, sassy, and funny as well as the kindest and most loving non-judgmental person I know. She well deserves my understanding and my “reinvented” self. I am still in the process of my reinvention and I think it will take a long time, but things are going great so far at a tough time. Maybe she thinks it’s the wine?! Who knows. The best part of my reinvention is that she has no idea that “I know” and I intend to keep grandma’s revelation a secret.

Oiginally published on LinkedIN on 9/20/18 see it here

Coming Out Slingin’

By John R. NoceroJennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham

John:    According to Goeke (2018), in the early 1960s, a Manhattan comic book company was on a roll. They had just created a slew of characters that quickly became popular among fans. But when they wanted to create yet another hero, they got stuck. They already created the strongest guy in the world, someone who could fly, and now were thinking, “What else is left?” As they thought about what to do, one writer looked up and saw a fly crawling up the wall. He thought to himself, “Wow, suppose a person had the power to stick to a wall, like an insect.” That writer was Stan Lee, and he created the best superhero Marvel ever made.

Spider-Man does something that no other magic savior can – bring the realm of heroes down to Earth. He’s a teenager in way over his head. If he doesn’t learn fast, he won’t be a very useful guardian. But the more he practices, the more he’s forced to sacrifice his relationships, even his dreams, to do what he needs to. Sound familiar? That’s the pain of anyone trying to accomplish anything meaningful. As a result, Spider-Man is the most relatable superhero of all time. This connection runs deep.

Question for my three friends: What was the time you were in way over your head but came out slingin’?

Jen: This week I had a reminder of a notable time I was in over my head – a home renovation. We sold our mountain home a few days ago, after owning it for almost four years. We purchased the property when it was in a decrepit state following a foreclosure. The house could only have been described as ugly; it had good bones, but that was all. We purchased it for the land it was on- 2.5 acres on the side of a mountain west of Asheville, NC. After diligently searching for months to find something, we were excited to make an offer and turn it into a cozy mountain home. We were also thrilled with the price tag which allowed us freedom to renovate without going bankrupt.

We spent the first several weeks making it safe to sleep in and the four of us stayed in a single bedroom and shared a bathroom for over a month. The kitchen, laundry, living rooms- every space, was completely torn out or otherwise non-functional except the master suite. My husband and I did most of the cosmetic work ourselves and we outsourced electrical, plumbing and dry-walling.  It felt like each time we would gain momentum we would have a setback. We struggled with hired help that would show up for several days and then suddenly disappear. Later on, we would sit on projects waiting for pay day. I made a major mistake with paint- I bought all semi-gloss instead of flat or eggshell and painted two massive living areas with high ceilings before I realized I could almost see my reflection (and every single imperfection) on them. Nothing about the house was square, therefore everything we did had to be modified to correct it. Not a single cabinet, tub, piece of molding, or flooring fit without effort. I worked full-time at the hospital thru it all and I recall many nights working until very late painting, installing floors, grouting and literally putting blood, sweat and tears into our home. We were both exhausted and there were days we could barely move from the work.

After about six months, we were at the point where most of the house was livable and within nine months we had it fully decorated. We left some work for future, specifically a fourth bathroom and the kitchen (which we had cosmetically upgraded but ultimately planned for an overhaul much later). We spent countless hours in the yard, which was much larger than we originally thought and overgrown. Each time we cut the grass, we would mow an extra row outward eventually realizing the property had once been magnificently landscaped. Once finished, we lived happily and comfortably until I had an unexpected job transition about two years ago. We had been undecided about selling it, but ultimately it was too far for a weekend getaway and we had to admit it. We listed it last month and had five offers in the first week.  It was bitter-sweet, but closing on the house, and this chapter of my life, has been amazing. I am so glad we never gave up, that we fought thru the challenges and finished the renovation. Now, we are able to take the hard-earned equity and move on to our next big thing! We don’t know what that will be just yet, but for today, it’s a sense of accomplishment and peace which is more than enough for now….and I think it passes John’s “coming out slingin'” test.

Molly:  Rather than sharing a story about myself, I’m sharing a story of a real super hero who came out slingin’. It was the summer before my senior year in college and I was a nursing extern at a children’s hospital. My patient was a 10 year old little girl, who had be set on fire by her father. I learned in morning report that her mother and brother were killed in the fire. She had already had 10 surgeries by the time she was my patient that day. My assignment was to do her full body dressing change. She had no legs beyond her knees, her arms were webbed for future skin grafts, and she only had one forearm with a few fingers. Her face was badly burned, missing ears, a reconstructed mouth, and only a few patches of hair. I was devastated by her suffering physically and emotionally and overwhelmed with my task. I didn’t know where to begin other than to gather supplies and pre-medicate her for the dressing change. Sensing my struggle, she tells me to start with her legs and work my way up. Her counsel was for me to go slowly, but steady and not to stop. She told me she would cry, but to keep going until I was done. She walked me through the whole thing and was basically taking care of me. Never mind the fact that I was there to take care of her! Once I was finished with the dressing change and had cleaned up, she looked at me and said, “I’m going bowling today, so you better pick out something cute for me to wear”. I was not about to let her down. We agreed on the perfect outfit which included me tying matching bows in her hair. I had always known I wanted to be a nurse, but this brave girl gave me the determination to come out slingin’ just like she did for me that day

Trish:   On somewhat of a whim, I bought myself a motorcycle. I didn’t go small. I bought a never-owned 3-year old, cherry red metallic, all chromed out 1731cc V-twin engine, 650-pound plus beauty that was smiling at me in the dealer showroom. She was beautiful, and she reminded me of my dad.

When I was young, my dad owned a red Honda chromed out motorcycle and he would take me for rides quite frequently. I sat on the back, holding on to him wearing my very own shiny helmet and we would ride and ride. I lost my dad over 7 years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. He taught me many things, but he didn’t get around to teaching me how to ride a motorcycle.

So, I got this gorgeous beauty in the garage (it was ridden home for me). I bought all the gear and I had to go classy, of course. I bought a shiny black helmet and black patent leather riding boots. I got the gloves, goggles, had a crash bar (uh- I mean, highway bar) installed and I was ready to roll. I studied the motorcycle permit book and passed my test on first go around. I signed up for the State of Georgia DDS beginner motorcycle training class and showed up all pumped up.

I was the only female in a weekend-long class of 10. I figured we’d be in class all day on day 1 and learn to ride on day 2. Nope. Brief introductions and then out to the practice tarmac. Helmet on, boots on, gloves on. Get on the practice bike. I followed along getting the bike started, learning the handlebars, clutch, throttle, and brakes. I was so fine, right up until I had to find the power band on the throttle and go. I realized that I was in way over my head at that point. I was too excited about the thought of riding all this time that I didn’t realize how hard it was to learn!! All 9 guys were already on their return route and I was still at the starting line trying to figure this bike out (a small-size 250cc Honda Rebel!) I was so scared and embarrassed. I had to learn to ride this thing! I had feel close to my dad again, to understand what he meant by the unique feeling it was to ride a motorcycle. The freedom and exhilaration. I was shaking, embarrassed, and scared after stalling the bike for the umpteenth time. Now the 9 guys were on their second to third return route. Despite the trainer’s patience and reassurance, I almost pulled that helmet off and threw down my gloves. But I didn’t. I took a breath, thought of my dad, found that power band, and made my way back and forth on the route. I graduated from the riding portion of the class with only a few points taken off for my slight out-of-bounds figure 8 and one wrong answer on the written test.

I got my official license a week later and came home and took my monster bike out for a 2-hour ride around my development. It was way easier to ride than the trainer bike and I got to feel “that” feeling my dad spoke of. I was way over my head at the time I signed the dotted line and bought that bike and didn’t realize it at the time. When the learning got real, I almost caved, but I came out slingin’! Two-finger throw to those of you who ride…

Originally published 9/28/18 on LinkedIN see it here

Simplest Way to Improve Your Life

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham

 “What’s The Simplest Way To Improve Your Life?

John: The simplest way to improve your life is to change your perspective and do something different. That’s it. You need to have a willingness to walk away from anything that does not suit you or your terms. That sounds selfish, but it is part defense mechanism, and partly because I don’t ever want to devalue myself. I am old enough where I should work with the best people and roll with the best people, in both my professional and personal life. If you are not the best to me, then you can roll with someone else. People are like seasons. Sometimes they leave and that’s okay – they leave room for something better to come. Sometimes they come back and your relationship is even better than before. That’s fantastic. I see myself as the driver of my own fun bus. If you want to jump on, great, you can ride with me. if not, that’s great too. If I can’t give you love, then I need to move it along. Either way, I still win. This is the absolute simplest way I know to make my life better.

Jen:  For me, improving my life simply was not always simple because I didn’t believe it possible. I had to first learn and implement some fundamental principles and then the floodgates opened for me. Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily and serving others is life changing for me. Doing these two things results in immediate fulfillment like nothing else.  Whenever I feel down or upset about something, I seek out opportunities to find someone to thank, give a compliment, or ask if i can help them with something. Sometimes, when larger scale service opportunities are presented I am inclined to excuse myself as being “too busy”, and sometimes I do turn them down. However, I can honestly say each and every time that I have participated in a service venture, I leave wondering how I could ever have considered not going. I have energy, enthusiasm, and feel genuinely good about myself and the recipients.

“Regardless of the situation, expressing gratitude daily

and serving others is life changing …”

Some of my best memories and life-changing moments happened while providing service. My favorite was after Hurricane Katrina, while I was a pharmacy student in Atlanta, there was an opportunity to serve the thousands of displaced families from the areas hit. I worked with a team to temporarily set up a disaster clinic in a shopping center parking lot. We put hundreds of fold out tables and thousands of chairs all over and provided immediate medical screenings and prescriptions. Not only was it fascinating to see the work of many produce life changing (and even potentially life-saving) help, I was able to practice pharmacy in a way I haven’t since. Declaration of disaster laws allowed pharmacists and other medical professionals to practice at the height of our skill-set and beyond what our licensure typically allows. I learned so much in those few days. I went back and forth from doing patient screenings and prescriptions to running into the Kroger pharmacy and filling them. We provided all the services for free and several businesses, including Kroger who was my employer at the time, helped pay the bill. I also recall Chick-fil-a providing meals for everyone. That’s the great thing about service and thankfulness, they are endless as each prompts the other and can cause a domino effect. My few hours working as a pharmacist intern allowed me to serve others, better learn my craft, receive kindness from others such as the food, and thanks from those I helped. There is no feeling in the world like when I handed a mother of a small child anti-seizure medications they had left without, seeing the relief in her eyes and hearing her tearful heartfelt thanks. It made me feel like I changed her world, and it changed mine. If this isn’t life changing at its best and most simple, I don’t know what is.

Molly:  I love the topic “simplest way to improve your life” (as if it was ever that simple.) We all have responsibilities and basic needs that need to be satisfied for survival. With that in mind, my recommendation to improve your life is to surround yourself with positive people and minimize toxicity. For me, that means working with people that share my passion and support me as a colleague and friend. One of the core values in my company is locking arms to achieve goals together. I love that we are there for each other, even if we’ve never met. Just hearing the heart-filled stories about co-workers showing up for each other in times of need can give me the boost I didn’t know I needed. I look forward to our company newsletters to read and see pictures of my co-workers locking arms with each other and the community over and over again. When you work full time, work culture is everything. To improve your life, do a double check to make sure your work environment is the right fit for you and a positive one.

Trish:    I have an ongoing war with my brain trying to figure out just how to improve my life. I’ve been convinced…for a good while now…that if I can simplify my life, it will be a grand show of blissful happiness. My epiphany occurred several years ago when I was working on writing a thank you note and I trashed several versions because I was trying too hard to convey just the right message. I know we’ve all trashed a few thank you note versions, but I take my gorgeous must-be-monogrammed-stationary seriously and messing up even one piece ticks me off! Okay, so, back to the epiphany. My significant other was watching yet another one of my complicate-all-things-in-life-scenarios and he said, “Trish! Just write something simple-stupid!” With that, I knocked out a simple and effective thank you message and didn’t waste one more piece of my precious stationary! I remembered that “simple-stupid” came from a mentor of my significant other. The mentor said that leaders should approach every easy and difficult situation with simplicity in mind. He called the technique “simple-stupid” to remind himself that it is stupid to approach any situation without simplicity first.

As “simple-stupid” as this sounds, I find it hard to remind myself to approach daily life with simplicity. Instead of working hard to remind myself, I made a metallic gold sign that says, “Keep Life Simple” and hung it in my kitchen. I look at this sign daily and it helps remind me that I am not alone in my quest to improve my life and we all struggle with over complicating things. From writing thank you notes, having discussions with poor-performing subordinates, making sure the kids have everything they need for school, to finding time in your own schedule to just breathe for a moment, we must find ways to remind ourselves daily to simplify. Hmmm. Maybe I should ditch the fancy monogrammed stationary for a cute pack of dollar store thank you notes. It’s the simple and meaningful message that counts, right?