Archive for June 2019

Saying yes to more

June 25, 2019

If you’ve been reading Better Hawaii, you may remember that last year, I accepted a new position at my organization. At the time, I was doing many of the tasks already, but I wasn’t sure whether I was ready to actually take responsibility for them. I’m a behind-the-scenes person, and this job meant I would be out in front.

I said “yes” because the company needed me, and also because I found myself thinking of the book “Do Hard Things” by then-teenagers Alex and Brett Harris. At odd times, their words spur me to step outside of my comfort zone.

For anyone who feels like they have to “fake it until you make it,” I want to share some of the changes I chose to make after that first “yes” – and what happens when you start saying “yes” to other things.

Yes to more learning. I’m a planner and a list-maker, so saying yes feels like running in the dark, over uneven ground littered with sharp rocks. To feel more comfortable about the new job, I read books from the library and took free online classes. Most online learning is self-directed, so you decide how much effort you put into them. The extra learning helped me gain confidence. It also kept me busy, so I didn’t have time for second thoughts.

Yes to more invitations. One morning, a woman called and invited me to speak to her group. As if I were listening to another person, I heard myself say “yes.” When I hung up, I was a little horrified. But I relearned a great tip: tell yourself that you’re excited, not nervous. The butterflies and racing heart are exactly the same, but your mindset is completely different. So I told myself (a lot) that I was excited. Another day, I was invited to a fundraising dinner that I would usually not attend, and I had an amazing time meeting people and being part of an inspiring evening.

Yes to more opportunities. My way to open myself to new opportunities, for my organization and myself, was to say a personal mantra a few times a week (or whenever I needed a boost). I chose words that remind me that I want to help my organization become more successful and I want to feel that I am giving back to our community. “I open myself to the world,” I would say with arms arching overhead. “I share myself with the world,” I say with arms circling forward. I can’t claim that my mantra makes good things happen, but I can say that I feel more appreciative when good things happen – when we receive an unexpected contribution, when the office chairs I needed where donated to us, when the right people ask to join us as staff or volunteers.

Yes to more time for myself. It’s easy to say “yes” to too many things, and sometimes I wasn’t as selective in the opportunities I accepted. I found myself overwhelmed and stressed. I realized that I had stopped doing a creative hobby that I really enjoy. So I made time to do it. After an evening at the studio, I felt more relaxed and more cheerful, connecting with friends who share a similar passion.

How do you respond to new opportunities and challenges? When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?

Trust, taking risks, and leadership

June 18, 2019

When I first started working at a small nonprofit organization, my job came with a lot of trust. No one clocked my hours or looked over my shoulder at what I was doing. I hadn’t earned that trust; it was given to me, mine to keep – or lose.

The trust was necessary, because I was handling all the day-to-day operations.

With that trust cane an unspoken choice: I could do the day-to-day job, to ensure that the organization ran smoothly. Or I could take risks and do what needed to be done to ensure that the organization grew. Both choices are good choices.

I chose to take a few risks. But to take risks and make changes, I needed to build trust within our organization.

Take time to build trust.

The best way I could think of to build trust was with communication. I became committed to giving people the information they need to do their jobs and make good decisions. It started with creating readable monthly reports for board members, sending updates and educational events to staff, and sharing good news with everyone.

One day, someone replied, “Awww. I needed to hear that today!” It was like a mirror-effect — I felt happy that I could brighten her day. Another day, someone raved, “I love my profession.”

Do what you say you’ll do.

People started coming to me with their problems. I could choose to think of them as complaints, or I could choose to think of them as people who want to make improvements in the organization – and who trusted me to try to fix things.

If I could help them, I did. If I couldn’t help them, I explained why and suggested options or gave them a timeframe for when I could tackle the project. Sometimes I tried to teach them to do things themselves, not just to save my time, but to show that I trust and respect their abilities.

Lead by listening.

People need to feel that they are contributing in meaningful ways, and I needed to trust that people knew their own strengths. I started listening to what staff and board members said is important to them, so that I could find ways they could help the organization that fit their interests and skills.

Looking back, I was working toward a definition of leadership that involves identifying common goals, helping your team gain the confidence and resources to achieve them, and trusting your team to lead.

Do you trust your leaders at work, in the community, and in government? Do you feel that they trust you?

Just for teens: de-escalating arguments

June 11, 2019

One morning, my husband and 12-year old son were arguing. When I entered the room, they were sitting at opposite sides of the table. I knew I couldn’t sit next to one of them, so I sat at the adjacent side. Then I waited for one of them to explain the quarrel, which involved a negative attitude, being unsocial, and school. As a result, my husband said that he was taking away a school opportunity.

I refused to get caught in the middle, supporting one side. Instead, I agreed that a change could be good, and I suggested that my son do his homework in another room.

My husband was the “complainant” in this argument, so I asked him what would change his mind. He said that he wanted my son to say “I’m sorry” and he wanted to see improvements in my son’s behavior.

Armed with this knowledge, I approached my son. Instead of telling him that he had to say “I’m sorry,” I asked if he really wanted regain the opportunity he lost. Once he said “Yes,” I knew that I could help him.

My son is competitive. When he thinks he is right, he has a hard time letting it go. So I framed these arguments with his father in terms that he could relate to. I told him that when you’re facing a stronger “opponent” and you can’t win, your best strategy is to de-escalate the situation. It doesn’t make sense to win the “battle” (the argument at the time) but lose the war (the opportunity or privilege). The key is to admit that someone else is right, not that you are wrong.

Here are the three strategies I suggested that my teenage son could use to de-escalate arguments:

Distraction. Agree with the facts, and then distract with a related idea. For example, “You’re right. I didn’t really talk to them. They are going on a trip, and I should ask them about it next time.”

Retreat. Agree with the facts, and then make a strategic retreat. You can’t argue with someone if you aren’t there. For example, “You’re right. I should finish that assignment right now. I’ll go my room to get started.”

Redirection. Agree with the facts, and then redirect the conversation to things you could have done or even should have done. By admitting that you are vulnerable, it could make someone feel a little sympathy for you. For example, “You’re right. I did that. I felt uncomfortable that it made me say things I didn’t mean.” Or “You’re right. I didn’t do that. I felt nervous/upset and I should have done that.”

There’s a fourth strategy teens could use, but I didn’t suggest it because it could easily backfire: Humor. Agree with the facts, and then make a small joke about it. It can be really effective or it can make someone even more offended if it’s perceived as sarcasm. For example, “You’re right. I must get it from mom” with a sheepish smile is very different from “You’re right. I must get it from mom” with an eye-roll.

Do you enjoy arguments or are you a peacemaker? How do you respond to conflict?

Three summer reading programs in 2019

June 4, 2019

“Did you know the summer reading program started?” I asked my 12-year old son. “We could win a trip somewhere.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere,” he said disinterestedly.

I tried a “big challenge” approach. “They want to reach 13 million minutes this summer.”

There was a small spark in his eyes, but he wasn’t ready to commit yet. “What other prizes are there?”

“Does it matter?” I asked. “Just tell me your title, author, and number of minutes.”

“Okay,” he said.

Whether you’re interested in winning prizes, winning books, or just challenging yourself to read, there are three free summer reading programs to choose from.

A Universe of Stories: Hawaii Public Libraries

Children, teens, and adults can explore a Universe of Stories. That’s the theme of the 2019 free Summer Reading Program at the Hawaii Public Libraries, which runs June 1 through July 13, 2019. There will be six weeks of free space-themed movies, entertainment, and activities for all ages. Register today at to track your minutes for you and your family. The more minutes you read, the more you’ll help us reach our goal of reading 13 million minutes in Hawaii – and the more chances you’ll earn to earn entries into a grand prize drawing: a trip for four anywhere Alaska Airlines flies, courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

Summer Reading Adventure: Barnes & Noble

For grades 1-6, Barnes & Noble’s free Summer Reading Program gives young readers the opportunity to earn a free book! Just read eight books this summer, record them in the Summer Reading Journal, and write down which part of the book is your favorite and why. Then turn in your completed journal to Barnes and Noble at Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. You could pick a book about the Mount Rushmore Calamity, My FANGtastically Evil Vampire Pet, or the Race to Space: Countdown to Liftoff.

Summer Reading Challenge: Scholastic Read-a-Palooza

If you think 13 million minutes isn’t challenging enough, kids can participate in the free Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge. Between May 6 and September 6, 2019 kids can enter log their reading minutes, unlock digital rewards, and access exclusive videos and book excerpts. Plus, when participating kids collectively read 25 million, 50 million, and 100 million minutes, Scholastic will donate books to kids in need in the United States. On May 29, kids already reached the first milestone of 25 million minutes and unlocked the first book donation!


What books are you looking forward to reading this summer? How many minutes will you read?

Have a wonderful summer filled with books!

“The Travelling Cat Chronicles” by Hiro Arikawa

June 1, 2019

Our cat Oscar wasn’t much of an adventurer. He was more of a hide-and-stalk kind of cat. Through he flew in an airplane to get to Hawaii, his short time in quarantine made him stick close to us when we brought him home. I remember how he bravely ventured outside one day, and climbed up on a rock to look down on the yard.

I thought of Oscar when I read “The Travelling Cat Chronicles” (2012) by Hiro Arikawa, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel. It’s a humorous and poignant story about friendship, appreciating the good in life, finding where you belong, and celebrating love.

Nana, an intelligent and mannered stray cat, is adopted by Satoru. They recognize their good fortune in finding each other. Through Nana, we watch Satoru’s life unfold through visits with childhood friends and a reunion with his aunt as he searches for a new home for his beloved Nana.

Cheerful, friendly, optimistic Satoru sees his life as full of love and appreciates everything he has. Through Satoru, we come to see that we cannot change our circumstances, but we can change how we react to them. And through Nana, we come to see how one generous, kind person can impact others.

It is beautifully written, with charming, delicate illustrations, and it made me cry.

“Our last journey,” Satoru tells Nana, “let’s see all kinds of amazing things, let’s spend our time taking in as many wonderful sights as we can.”

The story is a celebration of a man’s life– and a reminder to appreciate the open-hearted people in our own lives. You may cry too.