I Was Awakened Underwater... by Golden Light

By Susan Ford Collins

I received a text message that severe thunderstorms were moving into our area. A moment later the sky opened and we seemed to be in the midst of a hurricane punctuated by flashes and crashes. My dog Honey was shaking. An hour later the storm had passed but the power was still off so I decided to walk Honey before it got dark. A quick jaunt around the block and we headed into my side gate and across the stepping stones in my banana jungle just as we had hundreds of times before. But this time was different.

Midway across the water, my right foot suddenly slid out from under me. There must have been algae on the rain-covered surface. The next thing I remember was the thunderous sound of the back of my head cracking hard against the edge of the round concrete stepping stone.

I wasn’t aware that I had fallen in the water until my eyes opened and I saw a bright circle of golden light with glistening air bubbles rising from my mouth to the surface. I realized in a flash I would drown unless I could raise my head and take a breath... now! 

Knowing how hard my head hit and the sound it made, I was unsure whether my arms and legs were still working. But with one life-intending push I lifted my head out of the water and breathed! The banana pond is 5 feet deep and the bottom and sides are sharp coral rock. How would I get out before I lost consciousness? I realized my shoe had fallen off so I rummaged around until I found it and began grappling my way out of the dark water. Once standing, I remembered I had my cell phone in a pouch around my waist. It was wet too so I couldn’t call for help… besides my husband was away on business and completely unaware of my predicament. When I got in the house, I lit a couple of candles to see how badly I was injured and figure out what to do next.

I pulled off my wet clothes and touched my hand to the back of my head and was shocked to see it come back covered with blood. And that I had “an extra kneecap” on my right shin… or so it seemed because of the rapid swelling in that area. Was I neurologically OK? I tried talking and I could. I tried moving my arms and legs up and down and they worked. I seemed to be mentally alert and functional but I was so used to speed-dialing people that I couldn’t remember their phone numbers, and it didn’t really matter because, with no power and an internet phone, I had no dial tone. Now what? 

I was focused on one thing… getting to my friend’s home 10 miles away. Barbara is a doctor and I knew she would know exactly what steps I should take. She had been my medical savior in the past so I was eager to get her input this time as well. I found Honey’s leash and made sure I had my wallet and medical cards, then climbed in my car and carefully headed south to where she lives. They had a new gate installed that afternoon so her first thought was, oh good, Susan’s here to see the gate. Then her teenage son met me at the door and noticed blood streaming down my neck. “Are you okay?” And I said, “No. I’m not, and I began to explain why I hadn’t called from home so they could come get me (the power was off), why I hadn’t called from my cell phone either (it went in the water with me). Then someone handed me an ice pack and a blanket and Barbara came up with a plan. She would drive me to the Urgent Care Center where she sometimes worked. I felt bad about sending her back to work after ten straight exhausting days, but this was a crisis and she assured me she wouldn’t sleep a wink if we didn’t get my injuries assessed.

When we arrived at Urgent Care, I felt safer. After filling out forms and handing over my insurance cards, we were guided back to an examining room and Barbara checked to see who the radiologist on duty was. A friend she deeply trusted so we both relaxed as the nurse took my blood pressure which is typically athletically low but had shot up to 202. The doctor came in and parted my still-wet hair so she could see where I was cut and whether I would need stitches. Yes, but first a CAT Scan of my head and a plain film of my suspected broken right leg. I kept saying, “No, I can walk fine.” But, by the looks of “that extra knee cap,” the evidence seemed to indicate otherwise. When Barbara’s colleague read the X-rays, and she glanced at them too, my right leg was whole and there was no bleed in my skull. Whew!

All that remained was cleaning the wound and stapling it closed. (Barbara said they look just like office staples. And they do.) The bleeding stopped and they gave me a tube of antibiotic cream and told me I could take a quick shower when I got home… one of the advantages of stapling she added.

On the ride back to Barbara’s, she told me how much better she felt now that the worst possibilities had been ruled out. I was blessed! I would spend the night at her home. Her younger son stayed at a friend’s house so I could sleep in his bed. I was exhausted and sleep sounded wonderful, but when I tried to lay my head on the pillow, a sudden new reality set in. The very place where my skull touched was the very place where the staples were, and turning my head to either side didn’t work any better. I had wrenched my neck too. It ached and pulsed. I drifted off for a couple of minutes but suddenly woke up in terror again.

I had left two candles burning in my house! I had to drive home and check! So I woke Barbara and told her I needed help turning off their alarm and finding my keys. I gathered up Honey and headed home with a clear agreement… I would call her as soon as I arrived home.

But when I got there, the power was still off even though I had been told it would be on by 9 pm. I tried plugging in my wired phone… a painful process involving moving the bed, bending down and plugging the phone connection in tightly so the circular cover would snap closed… but there was no dial tone. I kept praying for the sound of the AC going on, or the sudden burst of light from a lamp I may have left on when the power went off. But nothing.

At daylight I walked Honey, hoping to see a neighbor so I could use his or her phone but no one was up and no lights were on. When I started a second loop, a friend came out of his house to pick up the paper and I waved and shouted, “I need help.” I used his cell phone to call Barbara, but she had finally fallen asleep and didn’t answer. At least I had done everything I could to keep my agreement. An hour later the power came on and the air conditioner and those lights I had left on. And I could finally call to explain what had happened, that I was safe and OK. The candles had burned out on their own, leaving a long wine-colored trail of wax on the table as evidence.

Now I could look back and rethink what had happened. I walked over to the stepping stones to figure out how I had fallen back-first into the water. And one life-saving memory kept blazing in my mind… that bright golden light-filled image of glistening bubbles coming up from my mouth as I lay in shock in the water. The golden image that alerted me to lift my head and take a breath… now! I wondered where that golden light had come from. When I fell it was dusk and overcast and the banana pond was under a huge leafy sapodilla tree. Why wasn’t it dark when I looked up? With a chill I knew the answer… that golden light was Spirit coming to my rescue, empowering me to take action to save my life. Reminding me that I still had work to do. It wasn’t my time to leave!

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email susanfordcollins@msn.com

* For more on Committing to Outcome, go to Success Skill 7 in The Joy of Success or Our Children Are Watching.

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins

10 Responsibilites of a Highly Successful Leader

By Susan Ford Collins

As leaders, what is expected of us at work, at home and in our communities? What do those who follow us need so they can become successful... effective, efficient and ultimately creative? So they can bring forth the next generation of ideas, systems, inventions and innovations?

Here is a deep and sensitive look at what others really want from us. Isn't this exactly what you want from your leaders now... or you wish they had given you in the past?

A Declaration of Leadership... 10 Responsibilities of a Highly Successful Leader

1- We are responsible for being trustworthy leaders, for allowing those who follow us to have confidence in us until we can help them build confidence in themselves... self-confidence. We are responsible for protecting and educating them until they can effectively take over these responsibilities themselves.

2- We need to recognize when those we lead are ready for independence when they need more freedom, less control and supervision. We must sense when to shift from acknowledging compliance to our rules and regulations, to acknowledging their productivity and competition, their creativity and innovation.

3- We need to support them as they begin dreaming their own dreams—pre-experiencing desired outcomes along with them or suggesting others who can assist them in discovering appropriate first steps.

4-We need to communicate patiently and skillfully, making it safe for our followers to share their evolving ideas, likes and dislikes, choices and preferences—handling their “newborn dreams like tiny precious butterflies.” By respecting their choices now, we encourage them to respect others’ choices when they will lead later.

5- We need to provide expertise until we can find other experts to assist them, or they learn how to select and vet experts on their own.

6- We are responsible for updating their fears and disappointments, or finding experts who can. We need to regularly update old rules and limits that we set for them, helping expand their Safe Zone and contract their Danger Zone. And opening the door to The Potential Zone, the zone where they will create our future as well.

7- We need to hold their outcomes with them, especially when they don't have the foggiest idea what to do next, when they get discouraged or fall into the depths of impossibility. We need to cheer them all the way to completion and greater creativity.

8- We are responsible for shielding their dreams from the cold drafts and scorching heat of others’ disagreement and overpowering statements of impossibility. We need to say things to them that they will need to say to themselves. Yes, you can. (Yes, I can.) You need to think of another way. )I need to think of another way.) Let's hold this outcome together until we can find other *Co-dreamers... people who will keep the details of your dream alive in their hearts and minds with you, people you can talk to when upsets and setbacks make you temporarily forget where you are headed. People who can help re-install the details of your dream destination and re-energize you as you set out again.

9- We are responsible for turning negative thoughts into positives ones by asking switching questions. If you don't want this, what do you want? If this doesn't work, what might work instead? If you don't know this, who might know it? Even when we disagree with their outcome in the moment, we need to encourage them to keep asking for what they want, from us and from others. And we need to celebrate their success with them when they finally get there... to attend their product launches, award ceremonies, weddings and baby showers.

10- As leaders, we are responsible for maintaining our health and balance—monitoring our food and exercise, feeling the effect it is having on our health, on our moods and emotions, so those around us will learn how to maintain their health and balance too. We need to remember that we are leading by example 24/7. We need to be powerful inspiring, happy, healthy models.

And, we need to extend the same care and sensitivity to other leaders and followers with whom we work and live.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email susanfordcollins@msn.com

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins

The 10 Responsibilities of a Leader... a Parent or Grandparent

By Susan Ford Collins

As the stages of life advance, the stages of our responsiblities advance too. From taking care of ourselves, to taking care of our spouses and businesses, to most exciting and most challenging of all... taking care of our children and our children's children. What is expected of us then?

First, we are responsible for being trustworthy leaders, for allowing those who follow us to have confidence in us until we can help build their self-confidence. We are responsible for keeping them safe and educating them until they can take over these responsibilities themselves.

Second, we need to sense when those who follow us need more freedom, when they’re ready for more independence. We must sense when to shift from acknowledging compliance to our rules, to acknowledging their production and competition, their creativity and innovation. And teaching them how to acknowledge themselves.

Third, we need to assist our children as they begin dreaming their own  dreams—pre-experiencing desired outcomes with them and assisting them in finding appropriate methods for completing them.

Fourth, we need to communicate patiently and skillfully, making it safe for them to share likes and dislikes, choices and preferences—handling their “infant dreams like tiny precious butterflies.” By respecting their wishes now, we encourage them to respect others’ wishes in the future.

Fifth, we must provide the expertise they will need until we can find other experts to assist them, or they learn how to select experts on their own.

Sixth, we are responsible for updating their fears and disappointments, for learning how to do this ourselves or finding experts who can. We need to regularly update old rules and limits we’ve set for them, helping to expand their Safe Zone and contract their Danger Zone. Opening the door to The Potential Zone, the zone where they will create our future as well.

Seventh, we need to hold their outcomes with them, especially when they don't have the foggiest idea what to do next, when they get discouraged or fall into the depths of impossibility. We need to cheer them all the way to completion and greater self-confidence.

Eighth, we are responsible for shielding their dreams from the cold drafts and scorching heat of others’ disagreement. We need to say things they will need to say to themselves. Yes, you can.(Yes, I can.) You need to think of another way. (I need to think of another way.) Or, let's hold this dream together until we can find co-dreamers who will nurture it with us.

Ninth, we are responsible for switching negative thoughts to positive ones. I know you feel you can't, but I know you can. What do you really want? How will you feel when you've completed it? What difference will it make in your life, and others’ lives? Even when they’re frustrated or disappointed in us, we need to encourage them to keep asking for what they want from us, and from others.

Tenth, as leaders, we are responsible for maintaining our health and balance—monitoring our food and exercise and the effect it is having on us, on our moods and emotions, so they will know how to maintain their balance as well. We need to remember… we are leading by example 24/7.

And, of course, we need to extend the same care and sensitivity to our followers at work and in the world.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email susanfordcollins@msn.com

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…
the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

 $14.95 paperback  $3.99 eBook

www.technologyofsuccess.com or susanfordcollins *at* msn *dot* com

***

Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins


Becoming a Grandparent... a Hard to Believe Moment!

By Susan Ford Collins

Exhausted from a 14 hour day, I had been asleep for 15 minutes when a call from my daughter Cathy suddenly woke me up, "Mom, I think my water just broke."

Those words took me back to 31 years before. I had been baking cookies with one eye on late news, when a sudden gush of warm water rearranged our evening’s plans. Grabbing pre-packed bags, my husband and I immediately headed for the hospital and, in less than two hours, I was holding Cathy in my arms.

With that memory prodding me, I packed quickly and drove an hour and a half north to West Palm Beach, praying I would arrive there before the baby did, and rehearsing what I'd say if I was stopped by a state trooper.

But what happened to me didn't happen to Cathy. After two hours, anesthesiologist Dad-to-be Alan and I were still tossing and turning on lumpy cots in her room. At sunrise we took pictures of her sitting up in bed, ready and beautiful. But she wasn't in labor. The birth was 34 days early, so the doctors ran tests to determine her baby's maturity. Twelve hours later, the results were all positive. They would induce labor the next morning at six.

After 20 minutes on Pitocin, a printout of high spikes and low valleys confirmed that Cathy was in labor. Alan stood to her left, breathing through the pains with her. Her sister Margaret and I took turns on the right.

The pain increased and she needed anesthesia, but the anesthesia failed to work for this anesthesiologist’s wife… despite three painful attempts at correctly inserting the needle in her spine. My doctor-daughter Margaret and I winced as we watched her husband stand helplessly by observing a procedure, he had done successfully 200 times, go wrong on his wife. Having instantaneously assessed that jumping over the bed and jerking the needle out of that doctor's hand was illegal and inappropriate, he remained as calm as those circumstances allowed.

Cathy rose to the occasion. Focusing on her breathing, she managed herself masterfully for 12 grueling hours with only a minute between pains. As the baby’s head crowned, the obstetrician shouted, "Keep your eyes open!” On the next push, he helped Cathy reach down and deliver her own baby. At 5:47 p.m. Dylan's cone-shaped head and slippery supple body finally emerged, and Cathy pulled him up to her chest lovingly, gasping and sobbing as she glimpsed their new son for the first time. We all stood awed by the miracle of birth.

His waxy face looked exactly like Cathy's had when she was born—the same tiny nose, the same peachy complexion. But this baby was my daughter's, not mine. Our babies looked alike, but our deliveries were quite different. I had been taken off to labor alone, comforted only by a call button and overwhelming anesthesia. My husband paced the halls while my mother, recovering from electroshock therapy, sat limply by in the waiting room, knowing I was her daughter but not remembering my name.

As Cathy began to nurse her new baby, I reflected on the profound changes that had occurred in the generation between these births, changes in my life and my society. Today I can ask for what I want, and, even when I'm told No, I still hold my outcome. And I've long since learned how to avoid individuals who try to manipulate and control me—attempting to get their way by blocking mine.

But I hadn't known how to ask for what I wanted when I was Cathy's age, and even if I had, the hospital staff would have told me no. What I wanted didn't matter to them, bound by procedures, right ways and wrong ways, have tos and musts. So I simply did what I was told.

This birth was different. First and foremost, Cathy and Alan focused on their baby's safety and health. Second, they expected their staff to perform effectively and efficiently. Third, and most satisfying, Cathy and Alan had made choices. Dylan's birth was their creation. They had been preparing for months—visiting local hospitals to discover the one they wanted, interviewing obstetricians, pediatricians and delivery nurses to ensure their personalities would be compatible. Cathy had chosen a room with a sunrise view of the water.

It had never occurred to me to look at rooms when I delivered, to find which ones I liked and I didn't. So when Cathy asked me to walk through the halls to check out rooms with her, I was constrained by a certain residual compliance. I had taught her to make choices and she was comfortable doing it—even more comfortable than I was at times.

Cathy and Alan chose to leave the phone turned on during labor so friends could check on her progress. Nurses came as needed, doctors did too. There was no secrecy, no separation or aloneness. Anyone could hold her hand. Anyone could brush her hair, not just genetic family but family of heart. The entire birthing process took place in her room. Alan and I slept there the whole time. Dylan stayed there too, his tiny rolling glass-sided bed always within eyeshot. We bonded as a family in those precious first days.

I had reached a new level—The Grandparent Level. My leadership responsibilities had expanded again.

The Grandparent Level

My children are now asking me how to raise their child—how and when to feed him, when and how to bathe and pick him up. I am no longer just parenting, I am teaching them to parent.

Cathy and Alan are temporarily dependent on me, not knowing how to handle their screaming child in the night. Not knowing what to do when a fever spikes suddenly, or a rash erupts painfully. Their phone calls have increased. Their visits have increased. And my perceived value has increased as well. Oh how I wish I’d known about this stage when we were going through the rebellious and unappreciative teenage years. The years when I was viewed as "stupid and out of touch.” The years when my only value seemed to be paying their way.

Soon we will be teaching Dylan how to deal with new experiences—which ones are safe for him and which ones are dangerous, which things he can reach for and which ones he should draw back from. What’s possible and impossible for him, temporarily. We are installing his “basic life program.” And we’ll be responsible for updating it as he grows.

By the second week, I began noticing Cathy's resistance to my input. Her self-confidence was building and she was beginning to feel competent again. I was already backing off, remaining nearby in case she needed me. Even when there was nothing she needed, I was busy holding the vision of Cathy and Alan as successful parents and looking forward to Dylan's creations and inventions, to what he will teach us, to what he’ll contribute.

For the 10 Responsibilities of a Leader... a Parent or Grandparent, go to the Resources page or The 10 Responsibilities of a Leader... a Parent or Grandparent.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email susanfordcollins@msn.com

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…
the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

 $14.95 paperback  $3.99 eBook

www.technologyofsuccess.com or susanfordcollins *at* msn *dot* com

***

Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins


But I’m Not Exactly Sure How

By Susan Ford Collins

An unexpected phone call stopped me in my tracks. The sound of my friend John’s voice immediately told me he was upset. What’s wrong? I asked. “My life is in chaos and I am calling to ask if I can stay with you till I get reoriented.” And of course, I said yes.

Once John settled in, he started going on morning walks with me so we could have some quiet time to talk. Around seven each morning, we hitched up my dogs, Mica and Mango, and headed out the gate. Within a few steps John started asking questions… not ordinary questions but big profound ones like… “I’m trying to figure out how to keep moving ahead in my life, but I’m not exactly sure what to do next.”

And I replied… first of all, let’s look at the word exactly in more detail. Because you are never going to know exactly in advance, any more than a farmer sowing a field of wheat knows exactly which grains will land on rock and which will fall upon rich soil, germinate and thrive. But if that farmer throws enough seeds, he knows some will prosper.

Exactly is about scarcity... I only have one seed and I have to make sure I put it in the right place, at the right time, in the right way. Well, that sounds plausible and prudent, but it simply isn’t ever possible to know exactly... in advance. When I talk to people who have been successful at realizing dreams, at leading successful families or building large companies, they laugh and chuckle when I ask them if they knew how to get there in advance.

The idea that life is laid out in a straight line is a limit because life isn’t straight. It’s more like a maze. So every once in a while, it’s valuable to relook at your relationships and career so you can have a good laugh over how little you had to do with how it all happened. How divinely it occurred.

It’s not as much about making opportunities as seizing them

Let’s take you, for example. How exactly did you come to manage 110 people at Quotron? Was it a straight-line or were there all kinds of bends and twists and turns in the river, backwashes and crazinesses that got you to that point?

As we stopped and started with the dogs, John told me his life story in fits and starts, darting ahead and then circling back again, trying to piece it all together. Then, neatly ordered and assembled, I played it back to him.

So, John, when you grew up you attended a technical high school in your neighborhood. Your grades were OK, but, according to you, not great. Then you went to a community college where you signed up for electricity and electronics with computer science as a minor. But the computer screwed up and majored you in your minor. So the truth is a computer chose your major for you, and you did quite well, much better in fact than you had in high school!

When you graduated from college, you couldn’t exactly have known that The Burroughs Corporation would be on strike and, in an extremely tight job market, the only job you could find would be replacing striking workers. So, even though you didn’t like being a scab, you took the job and spent the next two years getting some experience under your belt and onto your resume. Then, because you were injured in a car accident and couldn’t drive to meet clients for several weeks, Burroughs sent you to attend a conference on technical writing and taught you a new operating system.

Next a headhunter called just when you were sick-and-tired of getting high praise but not getting rewarded for being the “Dirty Harry, always working long hours, pulling rabbits out of hats, keeping impossible customers happy” kind of guy that you were. So you worked for Digital for two years, handling the most difficult accounts in your branch, and started to notice that besides technical skills, you also had people skills and so you kept moving up. But what finally got your goat was you trained someone so well that she made supervisor before you did. And, outraged at the unfairness, you quit. When they asked where you were going, you told them, “I don‘t know. I just won’t work here anymore.”

Next you called a couple of headhunters, one of which found you a job at GE... with the big raise you’d been looking for… plus a company car. Yes, you loved the money, but you hated the work, which quickly taught you another life-changing lesson. “Money’s nice but I also want to enjoy my job.” Six months later that same headhunter called again and set up an interview with Quotron... the right job plus another 50% raise. Soon a manager was promoted but the assistant managers who worked for him weren’t qualified to fill his shoes. So they made you assistant manager and, within two months, you were manager of the biggest, most-high-profile department at Quotron. And, interestingly enough, the clinching factor in that promotion came way back when you were at Burroughs, when you had a car accident and attended a course in technical writing and learned a new operating system. These were the very skills that landed you this job.

John, my purpose here is to shoot the word exactly in the head and prove to you, here and now, how absurd needing to know exactly in advance really is. Absurd? Yes, absurd. Complete idiocy!

So here’s the secret: Throw in enough seeds to assure a prosperous crop. Keep taking action and using accumulating feedback and knowledge. And, right from the start, know that you will never know exactly where you’re going, or exactly how you’ll get that. And realize the best parts of life are those computer glitches that guide you, those strategically-timed strikes that provide unanticipated jobs, those phone calls that come out of the blue, those people you bump into just when you need them, those courses you take because of an accident, those managers who get promoted at exactly the right time—all the puzzle pieces you weren’t looking for when they were lowered into your lap unexpectedly.

The intention to get to a specific destination is a huge prayer. God, I can see this, hear this, feel this, I can even taste and smell it, but I don’t know how to get there. Please help me find the way.

Yes, its’ true. If you pin down the destination, God will provide the transportation. So, here’s the bottom line... you will never know exactly how to get to your dream... in advance. You just have to keep praying and dreaming and taking appropriate action. You just have to keep responding and trusting and believing. You just have to keep accepting divine guidance.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email susanfordcollins@msn.com

THE TECHNOLOGY of SUCCESS Book Series… compact, concise and powerful…

the perfect toolbox for today’s “always-on” global world.

$14.95 paperback$3.99 eBook

Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins