Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Friday, June 22, 2007

What's in a name?

Several years ago when I was a television and radio reporter, my photographer and I happened to be close to a bank robbery that was underway. The police radio in the car alerted everyone.

We parked the car and ran toward the bank, hoping to capture pictures of the robbers fleeing and possibly their arrest, since the gen d'arms were also on their way.

As I rushed down the street a girl about eight years old ran up to me.

"Colleen Patrick! Can I have your autograph?"

It hit me as both of us huffed our way toward the bank.

While few robbers have ever been filmed dashing out of the bank and/or being captured ... what difference would it really make to the lives of viewers to see this?

And how many kids want the autograph of a journalist? Especially a woman journalist? Especially .. me?

Aren't kids her age usually more interested in rock stars and movie actors?

More, the closer we got to the bank the riskier it was to have her there.

So I stopped.

My photographer yelled at me, angry. I don't blame him.

But there are thousands of bank robberies in the nation every year and one eight year old girl who might someday want to be a journalist and for whatever reason, on that day, think that being a smart, assertive woman is a cool thing.

"What's your name?" I asked as I took her pen and paper, writing a thoughtful note.

As soon as I finished, I ran double time to catch up with my photographer. "Gotta go! Good luck!"

I caught hell from my boss that afternoon, as I should have. He had every right to be upset that I trailed off a story, letting my photographer go it alone.

I think what made him angrier was the little smirk I had on my face as he scolded me. But I couldn't help thinking of the little girl who absolutely glowed just because I took a moment to write something I hope she found inspiring and scrawled my name.

Oh - by the time my photographer arrived at the bank, the robbers had escaped. No one was hurt during the heist and they were arrested later that day.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

With whom are you careful?

A recent blog posted by my best mate poet-writer-lyricist-protege John Beresford entitled Someone loves you brought up all sorts of thoughts for me.

In his blog, John wonders why it is we seem to put more effort into our interactions with people we don't know than for the people with whom we share our lives most intimately.

You know, we spiff up for someone we want to impress, then feel no compunction about doing nothing about our appearance for the very person who does the most for us - in fact the very person who has to look at us most of the time.

It reminded me of an agent who repped my writing and directing awhile back. At first I considered her a bit closed off.

You must remember by contrast, my life is an open book. I'm pretty transparent, though I seldom discuss my family or others in my life to protect their privacy - except when one of my coachees deserves praise or congratulations!

I'm not sure why she liked me so much - perhaps it was that unshielded openness.

A true maple leaf Canadian, she is very down to earth, modest and quiet. She and her husband have one child.

Knowing how protective she is of her family and personal life, I was incredibly honored to be invited to stay with her family more than once.

The home is impeccably decorated - simple but elegant - and she is a gourmet cook.

I finally realized what was so impacting and impressive about her and her relationships with her family and those close to her: she wasn't wary - she was careful. Careful about whom she lets into her circle because she is someone who does what she says she'll do.

She is thoughtful, giving her very best to her immediate family and others who become part of her extended family. In order to be able to do that, she keeps her extended family circle small.

People are not treated cavalierly in her world. They are treated respectfully and she expects the same in return.

Promises are kept. When she says, "Call you later," she means she'll actually phone you soon. It's a committment, not a careless remark. She expects the same from you.

She carefully chooses what she cooks for herself, her family and guests (our favorite foods!); then prepares it -- with love. I guarantee you her cooking is *amazing!*

Since I don't cook, I clean up and do dishes with love ... ;-)

Decisions are made with scrupulous consideration. She and her husband communicate about decisions regarding their child, themselves and each other. They both have demanding careers.

Their unspoiled child is also thoughtful, respectful and considerate. And successful!

One thing that also stands out: their caring, sensitive actions appear effortless and easy.

I felt so appreciated, cared for and esteemed when I was around them; and that door swung both ways. Not because it was expected, but because I wanted to show them my appreciation and gratitude for all they did.

They brought my relationship game way up, so I wanted to make myself and others feel that special and respected.

I was also reminded the way we treat others closest to us is generally a reflection of how we think of ourselves. How we treat others we care about is a pretty good barometer of where we are with our own souls.

The folks who share their lives with us intimatly or with whom we are closest in work or play deserve our best, our deepest caring and highest esteem.

I will *never* forget having a discussion with a co-worker who blew off a meeting with another coworker at the last minute because she had a personal problem to work out.

She just left me a message saying she wouldn't even be back in town for a couple days.

When I saw her I asked why she felt she could just blow off our meeting without finding another way to deal with her personal situation. It felt pretty disrespectful and as if breaking her word to us wasn't a big deal to her.

She said, "I knew I could cancel because it was *just* (coworker NAME), and we could always have the meeting another time."

HUH? Say, WHAT? In very few words, she had discounted our coworker and the meeting more than if she had called people names and left the room screaming and yelling.

I responded, "I don't believe (coworker NAME) thinks of herself as *just* (coworker NAME). You didn't give me enough notice to cancel the meeting, so she still showed up and we had the meeting without you."

Which was the problem, but the absent coworker indicated it did not matter to her.

I realized this is the way she chose to treat her work family.

And it made me think of my agent/friend, realizing that she would never - never - treat anyone this way, nor would she allow them to treat her this way.

It gave me great insight into the coworker's relationship values - which I found untrustworthy - and the working relationship ended shortly thereafter.

In so many ways, we are members of several families at once.

How do you treat those with whom you are closest?

It's not the grand gestures that make the difference. It is the little things. The tender thanks for being you touch, email or card; making a favorite dish; the extra effort we make to create a warm connection or make a person feel seen, heard and understood.

I try to welcome people the same way my dogs and cat greet me - except I don't wag my tail or bark. They're always excited to see me and make it clear that in their eyes I am adored. I let them know the feeling is mutual.

Everyone who knows me understands what I mean when I say I like to treat people as well as I treat my dogs. *That* is a compliment! And of course, I like to be treated as well as they treat me!

It doesn't take a lot of work - just a little thought and understanding where our priorities lie.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Is the US really a "loveless" nation?

Mother Theresa reportedly said that she found America to be the most loveless country in the world.


Because of our priorities.

Wait. I think most of us would say that our family, friends and loved ones - or seeking a relationship/significant other - are at the top of our priorities.

I mean, perhaps the greatest evidence of our priorities is our daily list of things to do:

What do you have written down?

How many of them involve family, friends and loved ones - or seeking that special relationship?

How many of them involve work-related tasks or activities?

How many of them involve both - like having your kids or significant other attend an activity you ordinarily do alone and that they might enjoy?

Does your list of things to do look like this:

9am staff meeting
10am presentation for execs
noon lunch with advertising rep
2pm meeting with VP, sales report
5:30 squash with Bill/gym
6:30 dinner with department head
8pm concert with Beth

Or this:

8:50am call Beth - tell her how much I love her!
9am staff meeting
9:50am pick up flowers for Beth/home
10 meet with execs
noon lunch with Beth - arrange for family vacation
2pm meeting with VP, sales report
3pm arrange for kids' play day Saturday (my week to do this)
5:30 squash with Bill/gym
6pm make dinner with Beth
6:30 dinner with Beth and kids
7:30 help kids with homework (except Friday when we play putt putt golf)

Just a thought.

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Monday, March 05, 2007


What are your priorities?

Basically, we create priorities based on what we believe we have to do, what we believe we "should" do and what we actually want to do.

Pursuing our passion deserves our attention - do you make yours a priority?

To become great actors, writers, directors, stand-up comics, etc., growing artists need to make doing homework, finding time to audition and work a priority.

Note I say, a priority, not the main or only priority.

Everyone has a myriad of matters that need to be made a priority throughout the day - relationships, families, pets, children, home care, health matters, physical activities, and so on.

For me it's a matter of lining up tasks and activities on a daily basis - then reprioritizing them constantly throughout my day because there are so many variables and changes that can occur over which I have no power.

No two days are *ever* the same.

Someone needs an emergency coaching session, an unexpected meeting (via phone or in person) needs to take place immediately and lasts far longer than I thought it would, someone becomes ill, a friend needs a ride to the doctor, etc.

I've so many tasks that need to be prioritized daily, it's become second nature over the years.

When I prioritize I understand that some things on my list need and receive longer periods of time to complete - and others may just receive a few minutes (or even seconds).

When I prioritize I realize it's important to do certain things just about every day - even if it's just a few minutes.

That's the key - attending to things for just a couple minutes a day makes all the difference.

I recommend to writers I coach that they start with as little as ONE MINUTE a day. Do you realize how much you can write after months of just committing yourself to 1 minute a day?

Before you know it, one minute doesn't seem like enough so you bump it up to three or five - reprioritizing the other time or tasks in your day to accommodate those "lost" two to four minutes.

When he was just getting started, novelist John Grisham wrote in the mornings before going to work as a prosecutor for as many minutes as his schedule allowed - standing up with his laptop (or typewriter - I forget which) sitting on the top of his dresser drawers in his bedroom.

Often when I speak about making something a priority, I'm misunderstood to be saying that it should be catapulted to the top - as the #1 priority, when all I really mean is that it needs to find some time in a day's schedule - even if it's for a minute or two.

One thing about prioritizing - for me, it's like living in disciplined chaos. I feel like I have a little more control in this otherwise uncontrollable thing called life!

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