March 2020

Viewing posts from March , 2020

Your identity is being questioned

Most people associate their identity with what they do. You are a mother, father, project manager, engineer, scientist, artist, director, psychologist, etc. Yet, when circumstances change, people begin to question their identity. Suddenly, you feel lost.  If you start to do X versus Y, you somehow now have a different identity and don’t know how to act. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s take a closer look how this plays out. After thirty years, Sara retired from NASA as a project manager. She received countless awards for performance. She helped manage and put into orbit global satellites that tracked weather patterns across the globe. The research from these satellites informed international policy. Sara was proud of her accomplishments. As Sarah said her goodbyes, there was a fake smile present. While she knew it was the right time to leave, she didn’t know what was next. The gurgle in her stomach didn’t allow her to enjoy the abundant food at her retirement party. The smile protected her from talking since her throat was semi-closed from anxiety. Sarah felt the insecurity about the unknown permeate her entire body whenever someone asked, what will you do now? Her whole life has been tied to NASA. The next day, Sara met up with a non-NASA friend. Her friend, Kim, noticed something was off. Kim, asked Sara, what’s going on? You’re withdrawn instead of excited about what’s next.  Sara pulled up her head from looking down at her feet and looked Kim in the eye. I’m scared. NASA was who I am. Kim leaned forward in the deep green velvet chair and darted,  Bullsh*t, with a genuine smile!! Kim continued on, Sara, what made you a great project manager? Sara suddenly relaxed her shoulders and said confidently. I communicate extremely well with people. I see the vision for the future five years down the line. I troubleshoot issues that others never foresee. I kept a positive attitude in the office even when projects had major setbacks. Colleagues knew they could trust me. Kim replied back, Sara, listen to this closely. Here’s what you said. You’re a fabulous communicator, visionary, troubleshooter, positive, and trustworthy. This my, dear friend, is who you are. These are the values and traits that you bring with you anywhere you go. What you do doesn’t matter. As your circumstances change, your character comes to the forefront. Your character, ie, your identity, is not what you do. With these fast changing times, with updates by the hour, what you do is not as important as how you want to show up in the world. Your assignment: Part 1: Who do you want to become? Think of the values you want to embody, e.g., trustworthy, reliable, loving, etc.   Part 2: Pick the top 3 and rate yourself daily.   Regardless of what’s going on, I’m here for you and your teams. How can I best support you right now?  Wishing you an abundant, joyful and prosperous day! Lora Polowczuk Chief Energy Officer © Priority Retreats International

Power of Adaptation

Our world is experiencing exponential change. Twenty years ago, cell phones were only starting to become mainstream. Ten years ago, there were no smart phones or on-demand video streaming. Yet, you adapted. Eight years ago, our mountaineering expedition team headed to Ecuador to climb a 19,000 volcano. We were excited the day finally came. We had been preparing for over three months to train, figure out logistics and see how team skills would come together. Our crew of three were on different flights. Upon arrival, one guys’ bags didn’t arrive. He didn’t bring any of the key essentials onboard with him. Over $5000 in gear was suddenly missing in action. The good news is we had a couple days in the capital before we started our acclimation hikes. All else fails, he could likely do the first two acclimation hikes in his tennis shoes. Not ideal or fun or supportive for your ankles, yet workable to meet this situation demands. As we were departing for our first acclimation hike, he called the airlines again. Great news! His bags arrived. En route to our training hike, we swung by the airport. Not being able to clearly convey his needs in a foreign language, it took over an hour to find where in the airport his bags were.  Catastrophe avoided. Our crew of three successfully did two training hikes to 14,000 and 16,000 feet. Not too bad coming from sea level.  After the second training hike, we celebrated with a steak dinner sharing our stories of the past few days. Then, the next morning hit. Two of us were woozy. We felt odd. Then we threw up. And, again. And, again…. Food poisoning set in swiftly. The agony of preparing for three months to have this happen robbed our souls. Despite feeling horribly, we packed our bags to move to our next destination further in the mountains and sleep higher. An hour into the drive, Ronnie yelled pullover! His head barely made it out the door before he threw up. Upon arrival at our destination, he threw up yet again. Tonight, we were supposed to be packing for our 3rd and final acclimatization hike before the big day. For the two of us, there was no way we would make the 3rd hike. Gerald, the third guy on the team was unscathed and feeling fine. He packed his bags along with the guide to head up the mountain for a separate sleeping location at a hut higher in the mountains. The hacienda found someone who would drive us an hour to a clinic. By now, its pitch dark outside, in a foreign country, and I’m in an unknown part of the country. With broken Spanish, we arrived at the clinic. A man opened a small gated window on the door. Our driver translated our needs. This was after we drove to three clinics that were closed for the night. The doctors took some vitals and acknowledged his dehydration. We all have a destination in mind. Yet, circumstances can dictate where we actually go. Adapting is never easy. Here’s a few steps to take. Step 1, Accept the situation Step 2, Assess your response. Choose how you want to respond instead of knee jerk reaction. How can you respond from your best self? Step 3, Adapt by identifying the next best step to take. How can you stay true to your values when taking the next step? Step 4, If you feel pain anywhere in your body, breathe into it. Don’t allow fearful emotions to get stuck in your body, feel into the pain, experience it, and release it.  Too often, most of us have knee jerk reactions and think from only your survival only instincts. When you move past this aspect, you can think from your higher brain with rationale. This allows you to tap into your highest self and make clear decisions.  Wishing you an abundant, joyful and prosperous day! Lora Polowczuk Chief Energy Officer © Priority Retreats International

My deadlines were national headlines.

There was excitement in the air, Obama, the first black male was elected president on Monday. Living in Washington, DC, at the time, was a historic moment. Most businesses were closed due to the sheer number of people flooding the subways and interstates for Inauguration festivities in the Nation’s Capital. Walking into the office on Tuesday, colleagues were smiling and cheerful. Then, the news slithered through the office the way a snake approaches its prey.   Fifteen people with boxes in hand were escorted out of the building. A bit of WTF, just happened was in the minds of all my colleagues. They were laid off. Their jobs ceased immediately. How can people go from zeal to sadness in a matter of hours? Looking at my own project deadlines, the clinical trial I was conducting would end in three months. Hummm. No new clinical trials had been assigned to me yet and I was only working on further strategy for the company.   Work continued on. Five months later, our clinical team met for our weekly meeting in the board room. The Vice President of Clinical took his normal seat at the end of the long oval table. He looked directly at the sheet of paper and began reading. He didn’t look at anyone in the eye. Suddenly, over our shoulder, we were all handed white envelopes. The Vice President read, “Each of you are receiving a severance package. There are three rounds of layoffs based on when your projects are ending. They range from six weeks to three months.” The young lady with short blonde hair across the table cried uncontrollably. She couldn’t keep it together. The VP continued, “Many of you were  supposed to go to our major industry conference to present clinical data. Those already registered can still go. I recommend you network. We will also give each of you a solid recommendation.” We looked at each other in shock and took a deep breath. What next? Yet, deep inside I already knew this was on the horizon. I was already touching base with my network, solidifying referrals, and getting my resume together. When you work in the pharmaceutical industry, a single clinical trial with bad results can make or break a company. Our company had bad results for the last $100 million clinical trial so we knew things didn’t bode well for the future. The product simply didn’t work. Ever get that feeling something is about to happen? I was in the first round of layoffs. I had exactly six weeks to find a job. The funny part is that I didn’t worry. I even continued on with my first summit attempt up Mt. Rainier over a long weekend. In many ways life continued on. How often do you worry and forget to enjoy the fun times in life when others aspects are unsettled? I hit the industry conference meeting and chatted with all the vendors and companies. Upon departure, I had interviews set up with three companies. In two weeks, I had a new job. Although, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. My prior work in vaccines and global infectious disease was highly sought after. The company I choose to work with was selected to run clinical trials for the 2009 H1N1 virus (swine flu).  H1N1 was quickly spreading around the country and the world. Clinical sites were selected were the biggest infectious rates were in the country. Ironically, we supported an Australian manufacturer so our meetings were either very early in the morning or very late at night. Not an easy schedule to work with. Soon the public and world was asking when the H1N1 vaccine would be available. Few people realize it takes up to six months to manufacture vaccines and another three to six months to test and analyze the data. The nation and world was getting sick and unlike the 24 hour flu bug, H1N1 hit hard and knocked people out of work for 3-5 days. Our deadlines became national headlines! How’s that for accountability? It was all hands on deck to pull and verify the data at our clinical sites. There was no distinguishing between associate, manager or director. We all flew around the country and did whatever it took to speed things along.   I travelled to the highest rate of infection site in the country, Kentucky. A week later, I was on our regular evening call with Australia at 7pm at night. Throughout the call, I felt woozy. I took my temperature and for the first time in ten years I had a fever of 103 degrees. Needless to say, I didn’t make it into work the next day. I did what you normally do when you’re sick, rest and drink fluids.  Months later, the vaccine was given out in priority to those who needed it. A few months later, the world and country forgot about what happened. Yes, in 2009-2010, people got sick a little longer than normal. Yes, a few people did die. The vast majority of the people in the world got sick and recovered after a week. The world did not close borders and quarantine. Some schools did close when many kids were home sick.  Most people don’t realize new viruses emerge every year. Even influenza virus mutates with the season. Stay vigilant, do not over react. Worry only throws negativity at everyone. Fear is not love. Love is taking the steps only you can take to regain health.  Do what you normally do to regain health. Eat right, don’t overexert yourself, and drink plenty of fluids. Wishing you an abundant, joyful and prosperous day! Lora Polowczuk Chief Energy Officer © Priority Retreats International

The type of self-care no one talks about

Every night Abigail walked into a cluttered house. Daily mail piled high on the kitchen island. She thought, one day, I’ll go paperless. This constant stream of paper every where distracted her every time she looked through the room. There was no sense of peace in coming home from a long day when this made her even more restless.  She pulled the plastic off a microwave dinner while chuckling to herself, nothing beats an already cooked chicken and macaroni and cheese dinner with ingredients I can’t even pronounce. As she ate, the bloating came on quick and her mouth dried up from an overly salty meal, maybe one day, I’ll get healthy. She quickly unzipped her pants to let her belly expand.  Even only if, Abigail had the energy to workout. Then, maybe then, she’d stop buying new clothes for her 5 pound weight gain every 3 months. Her closet was exploding with clothes in various sizes. With little time to organize, clothes that no longer fit were thrown into the back of the closet.  Friday rolled around and with no energy she turned on the TV for some mindless activity. Out of nowhere, the loud, high pitched commercial woke her up. Abigail turned into a trance as the commercial spoke only to her. Across the screen  “SYSTEMS….SYSTEMS give you freedom.” A light bulb went off in Abigail’s head. Her mind started racing. She ran to the kitchen and grabbed the back of an unopened piece of mail and started scribbling on the back. She thought, YES! A system to go paperless. A system to organize the closet. A system to get healthy meals delivered weekly. It’s time to hire a housekeeper, she blurted out at the top of her lungs! Yes! Yes! How come I never thought of this earlier. She tried to not beat herself up and stay in this new sense of resilence. Three hours of her personal time back time was worth way more than a housekeeper would ever cost. Every month, she created a new system to get healthy and organized. Bit by bit, she felt a renewed sense of energy. Her house went from an almost hoarding appearance to clean, refreshed, and simple. And, with simple eating choice changes, Abigail started losing weight without even exercising. Her confidence grew as did her energy levels. Self-care is more than bubble baths and massages. Taking responsibility for how you truly want to live is self-care. Some of you complain about the “maintenance” tasks. Yet, if you flip your perspective, you can recognize that these so called “Adulting” activities is what gives you the freedom and energy to live and pursue life on your terms.  Companies scale and grow because they have systems in place. Want to be more and do more? Get your own systems in place. 

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Chinese Proverb

Wishing you an abundant, joyful and prosperous day! Lora Polowczuk Chief Energy Officer © Priority Retreats International