Monday, November 17, 2014

Be Intentional With Your Life Soundtrack

Stevie Wonder in his "second home" Chicago - credit E. Jason Wambsgans
Ever think that what you hear, intentionally or unintentionally, impacts you greatly? I'm pretty sure I understand that what we "take in" - in any form, shapes who we are and how we see the world.  I'd like to specifically tackle music for a few moments.

Seeing Stevie Wonder on his "Songs In the Key of Life" Tour stop in Chicago drove home a few very important points about the impact of music in our lives. While I have been very intentional with what music my family and I listen to, I am convinced that that is an exercise we all should practice. Listening to Stevie for 3 plus hours reminded me of my childhood and the impact his music had and continues to have on me as an individual.

Songs in the Key of Life was playing in the background for much of my childhood years. Released in the fall of 1976, this critically acclaimed album really became the soundtrack of not just my childhood but really my entire life. Track by track, I've listened to throughout my years, each having different significance at different eras.

Some of these songs swept me back to simpler times, when I as 6 or 7 years old and my extended family congregated on weekends in the basement of one of my uncles homes on Chicago's south side. Just hearing the opening bars to Sir Duke send a chill up my spine and makes me physically smell smoke - all bringing good memories of "get togethers" and lots of talking, laughing and eating with my dad's side of the family. I can see my dad and at least 5 of his 8 brothers playing cards around a table across from the bar.

Other songs empowered me to get involved in politics early in my 20s while living on Chicago's north side. They served as a reminder from where I'd come to where I'd had the opportunity to go. Battling the contrasts of what I saw - always from a distance - growing up to what I was experiencing as a new young adult emboldened me to speak up and stand up for those whose voices were often not heard in the greater narrative of our country's story.

Yet others gave me hope for love.  Love that was true, lasting and real and thanks to Steve's pen - attainable to me. From his loving tribute to his first born to his excruciating descriptions of love lost or worth fighting for, love became something I wanted and something I already had. Songs inspired me to love myself above all else as a vehicle for experiencing love with others.

I am certain that because of this album, I have been very intentional about what music I listen to, even in the background. Words, rhythms, beats and harmonies seep into our souls. We have a responsibility to be intentional about every one we allow in.

Thank you, Stevie for the reminder.

Monday, November 10, 2014

3 Drivers That Hold #TeamBarreto Together

Portrait of a good team - #TeamBarreto established 2000

Over dinner this past weekend, the entire Barreto clan was reduced to tears of laughter several times simply because my husband and I feigned like we were smearing hot fudge on our bodies in the middle of a Red Robin restaurant. It was down right hilarious and even as I write about it now, I cannot stop smiling. I also cannot stop thinking about the fact that it's been fourteen years since we formed #TeamBarreto and I am so excited we are still going strong.

Fourteen years of marriage is a coup for both me and my husband. I did not see many successful marriages in my life as I grew up. There are a few in my family but those couples lived far from us and so I did not see the "ins and outs" of how they did it. On my husband's side, there were none. He always tells me he never saw or even knew anyone with a decent marriage as he grew up or in adulthood. We have come to know that our union is a blessing and there are few key drivers that make #TeamBarreto work.

#TeamBarreto Laughs.

One of the most important attributes of #TeamBarreto is our ability to laugh. We laugh a lot; as a couple, as a family and individually. We are all very light-hearted and goofy by nature and I believe it is one of the most valuable traits that keeps our team going. Even during the most difficult times over these past 14 years, this clan ALWAYS finds a reason to laugh.  Laughing is an Olympic event in our house. We compete to see who can make the others laugh more. And when one of us in down, we get down with them and find a way to bring a smile through tears. There are inside jokes and goofy nicknames for bodily functions. We have eye contact codes and even our own language. Laughing is our medicine and we keep the cabinet stocked.

#TeamBarreto Lives Within Their Means

To an outsider, it may seem like we Barretos "live it up." Hotel stays in the city, memberships to city museums and the many travel adventures would lead someone to think we spend lots and lots of money. We do but we also sacrifice and forgo many, many other things. If you've ever been fortunate enough to be invited in our house, you've seen our hodgepodge of garage sale and second-hand store furniture.  If you've ever complimented me on something I'm wearing, you've heard how I got the $399 BCBG brand new sequin skirt for $24 from the second hand store in Wicker Park or how I scoured the clearance rack at Nordstrom Rack to get the yoga outfit for under $10.  We Barretos live within our means. We shop clearance. We Netflix more than we see 1st run movies. We eat out every two weeks versus every week. We have a budget and every one knows how it works and what priorities are on it. In the time since I started my business, we've even lived below our means, just to be safe.

#TeamBarreto Honors Their Values

Our team works well because we have aligned ourselves around our values. Be it "kindness rules," "find the fun," "travel always" or "try something new",  #TeamBarreto honors its values in our daily lives. For example, we love to travel. We have always loved to travel and even in the transition from my large corporate salary to building my company, we kept our travel desires alive. We had to make sacrifices to ensure that our value of "travel always" remained even as it was slightly more difficult to execute. Day-to-day, we take deep breaths as we interact keeping in mind our "kindness rules" value. Rarely, do you hear screaming in our house and you certainly don't hear disparaging name calling or negative talk spewing at one another. We all agreed that we want to honor our differences another way - no negative talk toward each other.  We also make it a point to find the fun in all situations. Recently, we were faced with an extremely trying few weeks and it was awesome to see every member of the family "finding the fun" in our hardship.

While there are no guarantees in life and I cannot say for certain that nothing will happen to our team, I do know this - we are a solid team because of the aforementioned attributes. We have made it this far by holding on to those traits and buoying each other through the storms that life has pushed our way. We will surely have a shot at 14 more years and beyond because we know and honor what got us to this point.

What holds your team together?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Faith + Preparation = Success

7th generation daredevil, Nik Wallenda set two Guinness World Records last night in the skies of my favorite city on the planet. Viewership and social engagement stats are still coming in overnight but it is safe to say that #SkyscraperLive and #NikWallenda were the hottest trending topics in the last 24 hours. Alongside the stunt and all the hype was the topic of his faith in God, Pastor Joel Osteen and the pre-event prayer. Lots of chatter last night and this morning on TV & radio about Nik's faith in God and his conversation with God as he executed his stunt live on The Discovery Channel for the world to see.

As a person of faith, I love Nik Wallenda's display but not for the reasons you think. Yes, God has given him a talent and a platform on which to exhibit his faith. God was absolutely instrumental in the success of Nik's world record attempt. But here is the nuance that I believe many miss, even those who profess deep faith:

Nik's faith was strong and secure because he was prepared.

Over and over in the last 24 hours, I've heard Nik Wallenda say that he'd practiced, trained, studied and readied himself for this opportunity. He was at peace as he walked on that wire because he knew he was ready.

How often in life are you READY for the opportunity when it presents itself?

As an entrepreneur, this hit me over and over in head witnessing this worldwide, death defying spectacle. That is what I strive for every day when I wake up. Am I prepared for an opportunity that may come my way? Have I studied? How much training must I do today to be prepared tomorrow? What skills need to be sharpened to get me closer to my goal?

My faith in God is tremendous. I acknowledge (and am eternally grateful for) the way He has blessed me with my very unique talent set and personality traits that set me apart from my competition. But it is not my faith in God alone that makes me win each day. I get up each day walking toward those blessings and the opportunity to exercise those talents He bestowed upon me. I am not waiting for the phone to ring, I am making it ring with every ounce of planning,  preparation and honing of my skills and abilities. Just as Nik Wallenda was not banking on his family history of high wire walking or that God was going to miraculously walk with him across the wire, we all must take hold of the calling we have in life.

Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians:1:11 (New Living Translation)

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.

It is clear that there is effort expected on your part in that verse. God "enables" you to live a life worthy of His call by giving you talents, abilities, skills and desires to execute against. He give us the power to "accomplish" those through discipline and preparation.

Today, I am fired up again to continue my walk toward changing the world, one relationship at a time. 

Thanks Nik Wallenda for the reminder.