Awesomeness in the World Libby


Here are the top five things I love about summer:

  1. Relaxation: Once school is out, it seems that everyone – kids and adults alike – has shifted into relaxation mode. It’s weird – I see it in parents, co-workers, friends and myself. It’s like a switch has been flipped and suddenly people slow down and are friendlier, not any less busy, really, but with a different laid-back type of attitude. I love it and it’s contagious!
  2. Daylight:  It’s so awesome that it stays lighter out longer – it makes it seem like you actually have time to get things done (maybe that’s why we’re feeling more relaxed!). I’m pretty sleepy in general, but having it still light out at 8/8:30 gives me the extra boost I need to stay up until 9 or so…night owl – hoot, hoot!
  3. Music: Not only do I hear music everywhere – in the downtown common area, out of houses, in cars – but it’s all the catchy stuff. I think they wait until summer to release the catchiest, ear wormiest of pop, and the oldies bring back those summer memories from long ago.
  4. Food: Summer has great food – all that fresh produce, seasonal beers and drinks, grilling…awesome! And when it’s hot, it’s hard to overeat – it’s a lot easier to eat healthier in the summer (which is helpful for getting into that bathing suit).
  5. Family: Whether they’re your blood relatives or friends that feel like family, summertime is always the time when gatherings happen organically, when busy people can come together to relax, eat, and listen to music into the evenings…it’s fun and friendly.

What are you doing this summer?  See you at the pool!

– Libby Bingham

Awesomeness in the World


Driving home earlier this month, I caught an NPR piece on the Swedish Number and it’s quickly become one of my favorite things EVER. The idea was simple – let the people of Sweden represent the amazingness that is Sweden by connecting them directly with potential tourists. What a brilliant idea to promote tourism within the county. When I got home, I found that in addition to NPR, The New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post and countless others had already been talking about this for a couple months. How had I missed this fantastic story???

What I love so much about this idea is the basis that human connection is the best way to do almost anything. In a world where we live in front of screen after screen, chat for help and order things to be delivered by drones, going back to the basics of the telephone seems quaint. Why not a flashy social media campaign? A catching slogan? A contest? Because in the middle of all this noise, we’ve forgotten how powerful it can be to simply talk with each other. There were apparently no scripts or talking points given – just instructions on how to log into the system and be available for calls and see where the conversation takes you.

It got me thinking – how else could we connect and who else could we dial? Dial a new parent to check in and see how they’re coping and provide some adult conversation? Dial a senior who may not have many visitors? Dial someone who loves cooking when your mid-recipe and need a quick substitution for an ingredient? Dial a local for a great restaurant recommendation while traveling? Where else could we go back to human interaction for a fun twist?

On the Job

The Gift of Communications

I’ve had several conversations lately that have taken me back to my undergrad classroom. One of the most memorable lessons I have from college was from a communications course. Our professor talked about how we envision our own messages – wrapped up in beautiful packages and neatly presented to the other people in our conversation. We imagine they’ll open that box and see our message just as we intended. And more importantly, we imagine they’ll see it just as we see it, since that’s how we packed it and presented it.

But we all view what’s in the box differently. We can experience the same content, but we apply our own lenses of experience to that message. We assign intent and motive, and each message is colored by those that have come before it. Each message is received differently based on who’s opening that box. We may have similar lenses, but no two people will experience anything exactly the same.

It’s a powerful reminder that our words can carry a lot of weight, but the context of what’s around our words matters a great deal. How are you presenting your communication gifts?



On the Job

Sharing Our Experiences

There’s nothing like a little travel to provide a fantastic change in perspective – different cultures, unique landscapes and new daily adventures. And it’s fantastic to experience and even more fun to share – as long as you’re not holding people hostage with a thousand slides of the same Yellowstone buffalo taken at every angle. My husband and I enjoyed sharing our vacation over social media along the way and have hundreds more photos that we’ll have for ourselves to remember our trip to New Zealand and Australia. As we settled back into our daily routines, my husband was asked by someone he works with if he’d share some of his photos at their next all-staff meeting. It seemed like an innocent enough request, but it got us both thinking.

Of course we’re happy to share our trip, and admintidly, New Zealand and Australia are far enough away destinations that they’re not as common as some other adventures. However, my husband and I certainly aren’t the first people to travel and we won’t be the last, but no one else at his organization has ever shared their vacation pics at a staff meeting. We’re sensitive to the fact that we’re lucky we can travel – not everyone has the time or funds for a trip like we just took (and we definitely stretched on both fronts). We also don’t think that travel is the only thing worth sharing. We all do lots of things outside of work that are interesting and don’t want it to seem that some are any one thing is more important that any other.

There isn’t anything wrong with sharing a few vacation pics with your team, but I wonder what else we’re missing. I think it’s great my husband was asked to share his unique experience, and I hope it’s the beginning of much more sharing, of travel and beyond. I love the idea of sharing vacation photos, but also kids’ accomplishments, volunteer experiences, unique skills and hobbies and celebrating personal milestones. We’re the sum of many, many parts, and bringing all those parts to work helps us be better employees and colleagues. How are we as leaders encouraging our teams to share what’s important to them outside of work?


Speaking of sharing, here’s a little Sydney love
Inside My Head Karen

Carefree or Careless?

I have a memory. I was a little girl and my mom was going to the grocery store. I asked her if my friend and I could go to the park and play in the wading pool while she went to get groceries. She agreed and dropped us off.

When we arrived, the park attendant told us we couldn’t play in the water with regular clothing. We needed a bathing suit.

My mom had already left so now what are we going to do?

I had a great idea and thought we could walk over to my neighbor’s house and swim in her pool. My plan was to call my mom at the grocery store and ask them to page her and I’d let her know where we were – once we arrived at my neighbor’s.

Off we go, walking. We walked and walked. At last, arrived. I called to leave a message at the grocery store, as planned, but they couldn’t locate my mom. This didn’t faze me. And we continued with our plan to swim.

Yep, that’s my story.

Imagine my mom’s rendition! The panic. The fear. Is her little girl safe? She’s responsible for my friend, too! She doesn’t know where I am. She couldn’t find me. What thoughts were racing through her head?

My perception of who I was as a child is a bit of a footloose kid. I didn’t think through my decisions fully. I would go with the flow. Adjust. Adapt. Roll with the punches. To not be fazed was normal. My lens was full of adventure and wonder. I was the “okay, sure” tag-along. I wasn’t the leader; I was definitely the follower. I would get lost in my imaginary world and create worlds that didn’t exist. I created pretend stories. And ever since I can remember, life was good and I was blessed with a carefree nature. However, I wasn’t passive and docile. I had lots of energy. A tomboy. A handful, sometimes…

Thinking on this memory, was I carefree or careless?

I’ve been thinking about the paradox of these words. And my answer is, “Yes, both.”

I would imagine from my mom’s perspective, I was completely careless. But from my perspective I was carefree.

My mom’s lens might be: “Karen was not thoughtful of how her behavior affected others.”

My lens is: “We’ll figure it out. All will be well.”

My mom’s lens might be: “If Karen would have taken a bit more time to think through her options, we wouldn’t have experienced this gut-wrenching fear.”

There is a price to being carefree. The reality is, it’s a paradox. With my carefree nature, I also have a careless nature.

For example, I’ve had to replace my mobile phone three times in one year. My phone drops from my hand and falls out of my bag because I won’t take the time to care for it properly.  In the last 3 years I’ve broken 7 phones. That’s a 7:1 ratio compared to my friends.

Carelessness vs. Carefreeness. They co-exist in my world.

I don’t want to forfeit my carefree spirit for the sake of over-thinking. But I do want to be carefree with more thoughtfulness.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on








Awesomeness in the World Karen


When strolling on the beach, it’s not uncommon to greet someone with a smile and be greeted in return with a smile. A word describing this kind of interaction is reciprocity.

Last week, I needed to focus and get some work done efficiently. Sometimes I get a bit of cabin fever because my office is in my home. I love working from home but, by the afternoon, I sometimes need to relocate to get those last few hours of work completed.

So I took my computer to a great local restaurant, Rimel’s Bar and Grill DelMar, which is walking distance from my home. I ordered a glass of wine paired with delicious calamari and ahi poke. I sat in the corner of their bar area and set up camp: laptop, notebook, pencil and… eraser (have to write in pencil. KT does a loooot of erasing…).

It was my first time visiting this restaurant. I’d been wanting to check it out. (I’ve only lived in the area for 6 months)

As I looked around, I see that I’m the only one working. Every guest was socializing and enjoying vibrant conversations. Great vibe. I was happy I chose this place.

In the mix of head down and fingers on the keyboard, I’d glance up on occasion to enjoy some people watching.

The server, at first, didn’t know what to think of me. She was polite and not accustomed to having someone with their laptop working in this fabulous dining facility.

I smiled. She half-way smiled. I asked her a few questions about her menu. She answered politely.

As the time went by, she’d check on me, ask me how the food was or if I needed anything else. Each time I warmly smiled, engaged her with friendly light-heartedness, and let her know I was appreciative of her service.

By the time I paid my bill, she had warmed up to me. Her smile matched mine. Her friendliness matched mine. Her comfortableness matched mine.

Reciprocity is a wonderful gift we can freely share with every human on this planet. It supersedes all language barriers, all cultures, all lifestyles; igniting environments of human-kindness.

What is your favorite way of expressing reciprocity? We will each have our own unique expression. Live yours every day.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Inside My Head Karen

4 Reasons We Get Upset

I was recently asked, “When we’re upset with someone, is it because we see our reflection in their behavior?” Sometimes, yes, but not every time.

There are four reasons we get upset with people.

  1. They mirror us.
  2. They hurt us.
  3. They harm us.
  4. They offend us.


This one’s a tricky one because it takes swallowing your pride to admit you see yourself in their behavior. How do you know if the annoyance, the nuisance, the irritation is a reflection of you? Ask yourself, “Have I ever acted this way?” Although you may have answered with a small, whispering “yes,” a yes is still a yes (sorry to break it to you). If you can identify ever so slightly with the negative behavior, find a position of understanding before resolving. If someone is reacting emotionally to you, and you have in the past reacted emotionally to someone else, how did you get over it? What did you need to help you resolve? Then offer that same helpful resource in resolving this conflict.


Hurt is a normal part of relationships. Your feelings can get hurt. You may feel misunderstood, rejected, overlooked, ignored, dismissed, patronized, insulted, provoked, challenged, the list goes on. This is normal. Being hurt is the lowest form of offense. We get upset if the car in front of us slams on their breaks, or we spill coffee on our shirt or the dirty dishes are still in the sink. If you experience hurt – good news! – it’s fixable and resolvable. Stay in it and figure out how to amend the situation. Avoid phrases like “You are” and “You never” etc. If someone hurts you, share the specific story of what hurt you. The story, not how it made you feel, is key to the resolve. If you only share how you feel it comes across as accusatory.


If a human being speaks threateningly to you, is physically aggressive, verbally aggressive, demoralizing, bullying you, demands submission, dominates you with fear, calls you names, and so on, you are in harm’s reach. And you need to seek help and you need to be rescued. Here’s the good news: you can stand up with confidence against aggression of all forms. You are a delightful human being worthy of love, respect and honor. You have one life to live, and your life is not at the mercy of a mean oppressor. Aggressive behavior is very intimidating and can quickly paralyze our thoughts and our ability to express our thoughts. You have a voice and your voice matters. Even the slightest verbal statement will liberate you. You can start with a simple phrase such as, “This is not okay with me.” Please seek out help.


When you feel a human offends you, find out why their behavior is offensive. For example, if they are making racial discriminatory comments, then yes, that makes sense that you’re offended. If it’s not that blatant, then perhaps they are offending your personal core values. For example, if your core value is that your words and actions match and people can count on you, but you have a friend that is unreliable and not following through on their commitments, then your values are offended. To resolve core value offenses, share your experience or story and share what is important to you and what you value. Find that shared value and try again.

– Karen Thrall

*also published on

Awesomeness in the World Melissa

Are You Having a Good Time?

From a New York Times essay titled “The Myth of Quality Time” by Frank Bruni:

“People tend not to operate on cue,” Bruni writes. “At least our moods and emotions don’t. We reach out for help at odd points; we bloom at unpredictable ones.”

This line was referenced on the NYTimes homepage as a lead to the greater essay. It resonated with me instantly. I get along wonderfully with my parents and siblings. I’m always a little shocked when I find out friends don’t communicate with a sibling who is only a few years older or younger. However, when scheduled family times approach on the calendar for upcoming weekends, or worse, holidays, I find myself dreading this time. I panic a little. I wonder where we are going to eat, will the restaurant have food my mother likes (she’s vegan), will they have beer that my stepdad likes (only stouts these days), what will I put on the itinerary (what if they hate it), and how many times will we be insincere. We’re tough on each other, but we all bruise easily. The phrase “you can dish it, but you can’t take it” should be our family motto. I certainly heard it enough growing up.

I love the suggestion that “…our moods and emotions [don’t work on cue].” I’m persistently anxious when my parents are in town. I ask them if they are having a good time upwards of 5 times a day. And I know that must be obnoxious, but I just want to make sure they are happy, when, in reality, I’m making everyone stand on their tiptoes to force a good time.

I need to think of ways that are more spontaneous to show them how much I love them – more than mundane texts, and more than the weekly phone call. I need to ask them about their days, their passions, and what they want to accomplish in the next year. I need to surprise visit them on a weekend that is very much unplanned. I need to finally ask my sister why her nickname for me is Regina.

Back to Bruni. I wrote the above paragraphs before reading the essay. Now, having read it, I encourage you to read it as well but if you’re short on time below is my favorite excerpt:

“With a more expansive stretch, there’s a better chance that I’ll be around at the precise, random moment when one of my nephews drops his guard and solicits my advice about something private. Or when one of my nieces will need someone other than her parents to tell her that she’s smart and beautiful. Or when one of my siblings will flash back on an incident from our childhood that makes us laugh uncontrollably, and suddenly the cozy, happy chain of our love is cinched that much tighter.”

– Melissa Grant

Inside My Head

Always On and Always Connected: What Does It Mean?

I got my first cell phone in college, back when Nextel phones were still a thing and I paid by the minute, paid long distance charges, and certainly didn’t text. And I only bit the bullet after a stalled car made me late for work and I didn’t have a way to let them know I wasn’t going to be on time. This was strictly an emergency phone (though perhaps the definition of emergency shifted as the cost of my minutes went down…but I digress). About 5 years after that, I got my first smart phone through work and I’ll admit to being thrilled because as a young professional, it was a sign that I was important (the naivete of youth is adorable, isn’t it?). Fast forward to 2015, and 92% of adults in the U.S. now have cell phones. And don’t even get me started on kids having phones…

This leaves us facing etiquette challenges that just simply didn’t exist ten or fifteen years ago. The Pew Research Center, a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, recently released a report, Americans’ Views on Mobile Etiquette. It’s fascinating stuff.  I share this not to reminisce about the good ol’ days before cell phones ruined our lives or propelled us into the greatest technological era of all time (depending on your view), but I do find our attitudes interesting when it comes to the appropriateness of using our phones.

When asked for their views on how mobile phone use impacts group interactions, 82% of adults say that when people use their phones in [social] settings it frequently or occasionally hurts the conversation. Meanwhile, 33% say that cell phone use in these situations frequently or occasionally contributes to the conversation and atmosphere of the group. Women are more likely than men to feel cell use at social gatherings hurts the group: 41% of women say it frequently hurts the gathering vs. 32% of men who say that the same. Similarly, those over age 50 (45%) are more likely than younger cell owners (29%) to feel that cellphone use frequently hurts group conversations.

And while those 82% said that using phones may hurt the conversation, 89% of adults who own a cellphone say they used it at their last social gathering. 89%. Yowza. Yet, before we mourn the loss of personal connection, of those 89%, 78% reported using their phone for what Pew termed a “group contributing” action: posting a video or photo about the gathering, sharing something that happened, looking up information to contribute to the conversation or connecting with someone at the gathering. My, how the times have changed from Zach Morris’ Saved by the Bell phone…

The report goes on to talk about always being connected, the types of activities for which we use our phones and how much usage we tolerate in different public spaces. As you would expect from a research study, Pew simply presents the facts. They don’t chastise us for our behavior, nor credit cell phones for bringing us together across the globe. Rather, they present the information and let you decide what it means to you. And it’s certainly had the wheels of my brain turning since I read it. What does your connectivity mean to you? And what do you think it says to others?