The Unspoken Code by Marja Norris – book review

Secret handshake. Good Ole Boys Club. Neither has anything over the network of women you will identify with in this book, The Unspoken Code. What I appreciated most about reading Marja Norris’ book was her way of making her points with no hint of poor attitude. Early in the book Norris describes what she calls the unspoken code. “The code is about understanding the behaviors that differentiate power players from the rest of the pack. It’s about exuding confidence from the inside out. It’s about building assertiveness and flexing communication skills and conveying a professional image.” If that sounds on par with jumping hurdles, that’s why this book was written. Marja Norris will be your coach while you learn your way through the process of aiming high and achieving higher. You won’t read a chapter and move on. This author understands the power of commitment and sums up every chapter with a list of Things to Remember and a Plan of Action. As a result of what you learned, what will you stop doing? What will you start doing? And we all know some of what we do is already beneficial so – what will you continue doing?

The Unspoken Code flows. By that I mean the author feeds her readers what they need to know and what they need to practice before moving on to the next thing. For example, she doesn’t bait you with becoming a power player until she directs your thoughts and actions to first laying the foundation.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Let’s start with the ABCs. Attitude, Behavior, Confidence

We could easily succumb to pressures around us and give up on choosing a positive attitude. Granted some folks are more naturally positive while others lean heavily to the negative. Still we choose our attitudes and we choose our reactions. Norris offers an excellent visualization exercise for creating a winning attitude. The truth is, “No matter what your circumstances, your attitude is a choice you make that affects everything you do.” Dovetailing with attitude is behavior which is a full cycle version of action, interaction, reaction. What does success look like? It looks a lot like good behavior: discipline, integrity, kindness, conquering fear. This leads directly in to confidence. “Confidence is being conscious of your power.” The author shares advice for overcoming Imposter Syndrome and an exercise in Creating an Aura of Confidence.  

Her chapter titled The Hole in Your Glass is Leaking intrigued me. You will instantly relate to the analogy when you read the chapter. We hold a glass in our hand with 6 holes, each representing an area of our life. Water fills the glass and no matter how hard we try, we cannot hold the glass in a way that keeps all holes covered. One is always leaking. The meaning threaded through this chapter is about living our life around our values even though we must choose to tend to one area rather than another as we scramble to multi-task. Learn about yourself as you also create a Master List based on techniques that work best for you. Remember the focus of this book is on helping you become who you want to be and have the life you want to have. It is not selfish to take care of you first. To be the best version of you, make self-care a priority.

Becoming an Office Power Player

You will learn in this section of the book, what the author experienced herself and learned from her business coach and from others. Immediately, we discover that men and women are wired differently. This means we think differently and see things from different perspectives. But here’s an absolute truth. “Despite our differences, men and women must work together effectively in the corporate world to get things done.” By the word ‘different’ we know that what starts out as differences can escalate into conflict, hard feelings, maybe a few grudges, a little gossip. Nothing good can come of that, certainly not the productive, power player that will grow your leadership and earn you a C-Suite position. Norris levels with women, “As women, to know this [differences] and understand that it’s about us shifting to fit the environment, in a healthy way is imperative.”

Dress the Part

I’m not a fashionista. Maybe you aren’t either. Whether you’ve got fashion nailed or not, the final chapters of the book are a powerhouse of tips, hints, and rules for how to dress up or dress down for the occasion. There really is a power look and even if there is no dress code, there are proper ways to dress. The author reminds women that they need to be conscious of what they are trying to achieve, what image they are portraying, and what motivates them to choose the outfits they wear. If you think the business suit has to be straight, navy blue, and unadorned, think again. Marja Norris says you can mix your personal style, fashion, and flare into your wardrobe, and this chapter on how to dress the part has strategies to help you attain the power suit look that looks like it was made for you.

“The code has gone unspoken long enough. You now have tools to handle situations you come across with strength and perseverance.”

–Marja Norris

This article first appeared on BizCatalyst360 in BizBooks.

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Power Comes From Attitude

Have you ever made a commitment, then as the time approached you were overcome with fear or insecurity or dread? I know that feeling. What if, like me, the commitment was long term and you wondered how you would hold up through it and endure to the end? Maybe you haven’t been there and can’t grasp how that feels, but if you can, how did it turn out?

I think God gives us almost unlimited power to change how we think, how we feel, and how we act. I’m not convinced that if I can think it, I can do it, but with a strong blend of prayer, will, attitude, and action, I can change my whole perspective. That thing I labored over, dragged my feet toward, and even cried over – yes, that thing – I now look forward to the opportunity. Attitude is powerful.

I am not gifted in this area – but I volunteered to ‘help out’ as a child care provider during the hours of Bible Study. Young moms would then have a place for their kids to play while they spent time with other women learning about Jesus. For the first term, I kept thinking I would say I changed my mind – but that wouldn’t be right. It was a process, but fast forward to three years later and I look forward to the hours watching kids interact (flying trucks, tug of war over one puzzle piece, battle for sippy cups and goldfish crackers).   power-is-in-your-attitude-1

One of my (well-meaning) friends tried to talk me into resigning, but I decided to pray before doing anything. I took pictures of the room full of kids then I started praying for their safety and that everything I did would reflect the love of Jesus. I already loved the kids individually so I didn’t have to pray about that. I questioned my ability to keep them safe when using the slide and crawling over tables and chewing on toys and remember the flying trucks. I felt unqualified to keep them entertained for a full morning. On my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up, there was no hint of teacher. What happens when we are unsure? Do the sure thing.

I started thanking God that I was healthy enough to be the child care provider. I thanked God that I have a strong immune system – you can imagine why that’s important. I thanked God that he somehow chose me to play and be a substitute grandma for a dozen toddlers and preschoolers – Oh! And I thanked God that every week I have a helper.

Then you know what happened? I opened my Bible one day and turned to 1 Corinthians 16 and when I got to verse 13 it cracked me up. “Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” OK, God. I’m in! I can be courageous and strong. I can do this with love.

You know God didn’t do this just for me. If you dread the thing you said you would do, if you have fears that you are way out of your league, if you can barely pull yourself to the task – start praying. “God thank you that you made me just the way I am. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I don’t like it Lord, but I’m in it. Please either change my circumstances, change my commitment, or change me. Make my attitude like yours, Jesus. I trust you, God, to do what’s best.”

Stung!

Have you ever been stung by a wasp; a tiny little insect that flies joyfully and aimlessly through the air? Wasp stings can be painful and are often more dangerous than bee stings. Wasps don’t lose their stingers like bees and often repeatedly and mercilessly sting their victim.  The side effect could be redness, itching and – well pain. But for those sensitive to the venom, the effects can be much worse.

How often do we let down our guard and say things we are sorry for later? Jeremiah 15:8 describes how it feels to be hurt when he craves acceptance. “Why must I continually suffer such painful anguish? Why must I endure the sting of their insults like an incurable wound? Will you let me down when I need you like a brook one goes to for water, but that cannot be relied on?”

Reading that passage reminded me of the allure of the beautiful, playful-looking jellyfish.  In pictures, they look like a harmless blob of pudding, but the tentacles of jellyfish contain stinging cells that can cause extensive injury to humans and other animals. There is no escaping the sting and consequences of tangling with a jellyfish.  Once the trauma has occurred, healing will take time, even after the irritant is removed.

What happened to Jeremiah?  He was in agony in verse 8 of Jeremiah 15.  Here’s an excerpt of the rest of the story.  Verse 9 begins … “Because of this, the Lord said, “You must repent of such words and thoughts! If you do, I will restore you to the privilege of serving me.” Did you catch that? The Lord was giving it to Jeremiah straight. Without repentance, God couldn’t restore him to the place He really wanted Jeremiah to serve.” Then God continues, “If you say what is worthwhile instead of what is worthless, I will again allow you to be my spokesman. They must become as you have been, Jeremiah. You must not become like them.” Even in Jeremiah’s day it was easier to be pulled down into the pit instead of pulled up to solid ground. But God wants the best for Jeremiah, and says. “For I will be with you to rescue you and deliver you. I will deliver you from the power of the wicked. I will free you from the clutches of violent people.”  God promised relief, but Jeremiah had to do his part.Healing Words

My husband knows I love Clementine oranges, but hesitate to spend the money for them. He bought me a whole box so I could enjoy every bite of the sweet, juicy, seedless sections of fruit.  Do you know something even more remarkable about that box of fruit? The trademark and logo on the box. Bee Sweet ‘Stung by sweetness’ – a 1-second marketing campaign. Stung by sweetness – how often does that happen?

Words can sting, be caustic and the long-term effects can be torturous.  Or words can sting with sweetness. Sting with sweetness. I think Proverbs 16:24 has something similar to say about that. “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the body.”  How much better we are to choose our words to encourage and soothe. Proverbs 18:21 “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” The voice we use, the words we choose, and the character we portray are a manifestation of what we harbor inside.  Our reputation is built on deeply held values that shape our character and it shows up right where we are, living life out loud. Proverbs16:21 “A wise person gets known for insight; gracious words add to one’s reputation.” Words are often the leading introduction to the next act. I like the way Romans 14:19 describes our next act. “Work for the things that make peace and help each other become stronger Christians.”

Stung! Will our words be like the wasp and the jellyfish?  Or will they be stung by sweetness?

Advent Week 3 Theme: Joy – Unspeakable Joy! Literally unspeakable.

What I love most about the Advent scripture today is that it talks about reconciliation, peace, and waiting on the Lord. But it also reminds us to recognize the power of God to do the impossible. We have to believe He who has all power to do great things, uses people who have unremarkable lives, but unshakable faith.

The Bible says God doesn’t call the qualified who have everything figured out and mastered; God qualifies the called who have a teachable spirit and solid belief in His sovereignty.    Nght in Bethlemen 2012 k39

Have you ever been speechless?  I mean really speechless? Zechariah was. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were old and childless. In their day, it was a sign that you were inferior and had missed God’s blessing if you grew old and never had children. Imagine how Zechariah felt when an angel came to him and told him he and Elizabeth were going to have a baby. Zechariah had just been chosen to be the priest which was a blessing in itself, but he was also given the inside scoop about the Savior coming to Earth. Zechariah seemed to be more in shock about his ability to start a family at his age than he was about God coming to Earth. Because of his doubt, he was unable to speak the entire time Elizabeth was pregnant.

Luke 1:14-25 (NIV)

He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”  The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.  When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

When his time of service was completed, he returned home.  After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.  “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Everyone thought this was a “Strange Way to Save the World” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBCVIJBB7o4  by 4Him

How secure is your security blanket?

Yesterday we learned about Lucy. Don’t you love Linus? Let’s learn from him today.

We are a blanket family. I’m literally mesmerized by stores where walls breathe thick towels, floors are spongy with throw rugs, and blankets spill off shelves. Blankets, though, entice me most and even though my family laughs at me, they are all blanket people too. I have a ‘grandpa’s rag tag quilt’ every piece of it stitched together by a cherished friend, Sandy Joyce – homemade contentment.  Walk into my house, it doesn’t have to be winter; it doesn’t even have to be a cold spring, or cool fall. In any season we cocoon in plush, wraparound blankets – the ultimate comfort zone.  I think blankets are like comfort food for the soul.

I wonder if that’s why I love Linus. You know, the philosophical character in the Peanuts gang whose blue blanket seems to be part of his anatomy. Linus is rarely without that assurance of security clasped in his arms. He is faithfully devoted to it.  Snoopy’s frequent quest is to persuade Linus to give up his blanket, and sometimes he stretches the limit just to the line of possession, then Linus realizes his adoration and dependence on his blanket and pulls back before Snoopy can claim victory.

I can relate to Linus; not just because he is captivated by his blanket, but because of his passionate belief in his need for it.  It’s not the same, but Linus and his unshakable faith in his security blanket paints a picture of the unshakable faith I should have in the God who patiently reminds me in Jeremiah 32:17 “Oh, Sovereign Lord, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you!” The issues I face, the questions I have, God has already decided the outcome. He asks us to pray, to ask in His name, not because He needs our help, but because we need that connection with the Sovereign Lord; we need that blanket of faith surrounding us; to be immersed in it like the lifeline that it is.

The conflicts of this life and the complexities of relationships are exhausting. I find myself starting a project but derailing to reach for my phone with every version of the Bible in searchable text, craving help from the King. I spend a lot of time in the Old Testament where the culture is nothing like ours, but the people were human and fractured just like us. One verse speaks of that in Deuteronomy 17:8 “If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the Lord your God will choose.” At this time judges were the decision makers, but they followed the direction of the Lord God. I keep reminding myself that God requires so little of me. I love the way He instructs through Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God.” That’s all He wants from me – to be faithful and obedient before God.

When I feel perplexed and uncertain, when I’m exhausted from the struggle, when I’ve reached the end of myself, I can be like Linus and grasp onto the Lord, my security blanket, because he isn’t just powerful, he is power. And God is not of questionable character, nor does he ever make mistakes.  Right now, I’m praying for protection from the enemy of my soul who wants nothing more than to see me descend into the pit.  As I was studying and reading, and foraging for reassurance, I turned to Ephesians 1:20-22 in the Message. “All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.”

At age 5 I learned “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3  The same God who David wrote about is the same God of today. Malachi 3:6 says “I the Lord do not change.” God is who He says He is, never changing, always watching, forever acting, and His power is not diluted regardless of the number of projects He’s working on.

This next verse has nothing to do with security blankets, but it gave my spirits a lift and became my favorite Proverb for today Proverbs 20:28 “Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure.”

Comparison is the Opposite of Contentment

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning

Sometimes I struggle. Does that ever happen to you? Struggle? If we put our list of struggles side by side there’s a good chance there would be no matches, but we would all have something on our lists.011214_2029_OneWord1.png I have a lifelong infatuation with the word ‘why’; not so much the academic, ‘Why does that formula work when this one doesn’t?’ but the practical, ‘Why did this happen when it’s not at all what I expected.’  We’ve all been there, navigating the speculative ‘What happens now?’

You know, Gideon went through that same litany of defeat when nothing seemed to be going the way he envisioned. For one thing, did you know that Gideon’s reputation was not ‘mighty warrior’, but was instead ‘weakest member of the weakest tribe’? This was serious for a warrior who was in charge of leading soldiers in battle. Do you think Gideon had ‘why’ on his mind? In Judges 6:12 & 13 “The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”   “Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us?”

Docile, frightened Gideon was carrying the burden of a nation and because he destroyed the altars of the false god, Baal, his life was in danger. I’m thinking Gideon asked ‘why’. The story continues in Judges 6 with Gideon confronting the Angel of the Lord with this argument, “The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.” It sounds like Gideon was struggling with ‘Why did this happen?’ Is this a lot like our struggles today? Do we concentrate so intently on activities we can’t do to the detriment of those we can? Do we so obsessively crave what we have lost, we disregard what we still have?

Sometimes we need a little reminder that comparison is the enemy of contentment. We need to take stock of what we have now and begin a new inventory to build on. It’s true that many individuals have lost much of their past inventory and rebuilding from what they have now is devastating. The truth is though, what’s gone is the past, what remains might be crumbs but they are the morsels to start rebuilding. Focus on what we have, not on what was lost. Unsure? Of course we are unsure, so was Gideon. Remember he had just shown his skepticism when he reminded God that it seemed like He had turned his back on Gideon’s people. So let’s continue Judges 6:14 “God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. I have sent you, haven’t I? The victory over Midian is already yours.” Can you just hear Gideon? Ha! “You’re kidding right? Me, my master? I’m going to save Israel?  I’ve got nothing – no strength, no power. Look at me. My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.” Gideon was focusing on what he didn’t have’; what he couldn’t do, but God had a plan that far exceeding any that Gideon could imagine. Verse 16 “God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”

The story of Gideon doesn’t end there. He did go on to defeat the enemy. We can go on to defeat the enemy too. The enemy that gets inside our minds, and worms its way to our heart and makes us feel like we have nothing – absolutely nothing. But when we listen to God he says “My child, “I’ll be with you. Believe me ….”

Here’s the path to overcoming the enemy of defeat. Don’t worry. It changes nothing.  Remember God is by your side. Ask Him to be your guide and protector. Start reminding yourself of what is good, lovely, honorable, and brings you joy. Did you start an inventory of what you can do? Do you have a ‘thankful’ list? There is no such thing as perfect. Perfect is just a word, it’s not a state of being. So let’s not expect perfect but let’s expect to be so persuasive in our thoughts that our hearts and attitudes catch up. What we think eventually gets to our emotions. We choose.  Better or bitter.  Sunny or cloudy.  Peace or conflict. Joy ….. choose joy.  It’s the better deal.

And I choose this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tezG4LRNzw&feature=g-vrec

What to do in Michigan when it snows

I was thinking about how beautiful summer has been after the long, unforgettable, treacherous months of winter.   I remember taking a picture of our deck wondering if we’d ever again wear t-shirts instead of parkas.  On that day nearly all the wood on our deck was exposed except for a telltale strip of snow to remind me that spring had not yet sprung. Then the very next  morning – a totally different story. I’m a generally positive person, but looking out at the snow covered trees with accumulations of the now too familiar white stuff clinging to the driveway and blanketing every inch of yesterday’s grass, disappointment hit me. Really? Is there no end to these deep freeze temperatures and haven’t we had enough snow?

Reminder #1: It is God, not man who controls the weather. Politicians have no impact on whether the sun shines or the snow falls. Even the best meteorologist has no control over weather patterns. They can assume, they can forecast, they can present colorful maps in shades of blues and reds their predictions for what to expect, but God has the final say. Look what it says in Psalm 147 as I skip around the chapter in the Living Bible. “How good it is to sing praises to the Lord!  He covers the heavens with clouds, sends down the showers, and makes the green grass grow in mountain pastures. His joy is in those who reverence him, those who expect him to be loving and kind. Praise your God! He sends peace across your nation and sends his orders to the world. He sends the snow in all its lovely whiteness, scatters the frost upon the ground, and hurls the hail upon the earth. Who can stand before his freezing cold? But then he calls for warmer weather, and the spring winds blow and all the river ice is broken.”

Ready for spring NOW

I want spring, I long for days when the sun shines down for hours and warms the earth so flowers grow and grass turns green. I couldn’t stop looking at my lilac tree yesterday and wishing to see the delicate purple buds burst into blossoms. Like you, I’m praying for temperatures far above freezing that last more than 24 hours. Reminder #2: Then God whispers in my ear “I made the skies above and the earth below. I commanded everything and they came into being – all creatures on earth and in the ocean depths. Fire and hail, snow, rain, wind, and weather all obey me.” Psalm 148.

Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake. And God has to send me a good dose of reality. Reminder #3: Psalm 29:10-11”At the Flood the Lord showed his control of all creation. Now he continues to unveil his power. He will give his people strength. He will bless them with peace.” Be patient, God is in control, He will give us all strength to endure this obstinate winter. And look what he promises as a reward. “He will bless them with peace.”

I don’t know about you, but I could use some resolute power and uncompromising peace. Isaiah 26:12 “Lord, grant us peace; for all we have and are has come from you.” Even the weather. It’s tough, but I’m thanking God for the weather because I know that He is controlling it, and that brings peace to my heart.