If we consider our lives as a blank canvas that is painted over time, clearly, your painting will be different from mine.  Everyone’s painting would be unique because no two lives are the same.  Even identical twins may lead vastly differing lives.

I like to imagine the universe as a mosaic of all our awesome life paintings. To create our own masterpiece, we must “become fully.”  We must paint our best canvas by identifying and leveraging our strengths, blend them with our passions and skills, and be able to self-lead or navigate the world so that we plug a hole in the universe.  The universe will not be complete unless each of us paints our best canvas and manifests our unique value proposition.

Now, as one of my former executives used to say, let’s not be confused.

This is:  a) not easy, b) a lifelong journey, and c) a combination of internal and external work.  The latter part is especially challenging for people in the west.  We are often more comfortable acting out than looking in, being told what to do rather than mapping our own course, and emulating others rather than embracing our authentic selves.  Doing is easier than being, but it doesn’t work  –  I know from personal experience, and I struggle with it every day.  So, what is a busy, high achieving, totally wired, motivated person supposed to do?  Unplug – just a little.

Becoming fully requires that we up our game in understanding what’s going on inside of us.  It means making more time for reflective learning, quieting the mind, and sitting.  Sitting?  Yes, sitting – in silence. Answers to our life questions, like butterflies in a garden, come to us when we are quiet.  You cannot chase a butterfly.  You must sit and let it come to you.  The same process works for exploring our inner world. Insight, understanding, wisdom – they come to us when we are quiet.

See the photo above?  I shot it about this time last year in the beautiful upper peninsula of Michigan.  It was completely quiet except for the trees whispering with the wind. The beautiful colors reflect only where the surface of the lake is calm.  Reflection requires stillness.  When is the last time you chose to be completely still?

When we “do the work” of exploring our inner and outer worlds, and make connections between them, we find courage and confidence that we might not have had otherwise – and that helps us paint our canvas in new and unexpected ways.  We become at our best when we need it most.

One of my clients was let go from his job at a high tech company.  Of course, this was an upsetting and disruptive life experience.  However, we’d already been architecting his success plan, and he felt more confident in his job search as a result.  But the best part of the story is the ending – not only did he land another job –  he landed one in an entirely different field – HR!  He leveraged his great relationship building strengths, his belief in doing the right thing, his gift of influencing and supporting others.  By doing the internal and external work, he found a role that he could pursue with passion and energy, and he communicated it with confidence and clarity in the interview.  He didn’t just get another job – he plugged a hole in the universe.

The Strengthsfinder assessment helps us map our internal world – and then we better understand why we behave the way we do. Taking it isn’t enough – reflecting on your customized results and linking them to your external world is a great way to add paint to your canvas.

Want to try an exercise this week?

  1. Pick one strength from your Strengthsfinder Insight Guide report, and find the description or line that most resonates with you. (Haven’t taken it yet?  Go to
  2. For the next seven days, read that line in the morning before you start work and again at the end of the day when you’re done.
  3. Then (and this is the hard part) set the timer for 10 minutes and sit in utter silence (no tv, radio, people, dogs, cats, kids, etc.) Close your eyes, relax your body and mind, and breathe slowly.  When your “to do” list pops into your head, and it will, encourage yourself to “just rest.” And let it go.
  4. At the end of 10 minutes (which will feel like 2 hours), just jot down whatever comes to mind. One line, one paragraph, whatever.

I’m going to focus on this statement in my report, from my #1 strength, Ideation:  Your desire to be the champion probably stimulates your creative thinking.  This description appeals to me because I am championing a new initiative in my job – and there is lots of gravity associated with getting it off the ground.  So I want to “noodle” on it, sit quietly, and see what “insight butterflies” land on me!   If I learn anything dandy, I’ll post a comment.  You can do the same (and you have to register to share a comment because we had an issue with an evil spammer – I’m learning about the perils of having a public blog!)

Steve Jobs said we are here to put a dent in the universe.  That was his point of view as seen through the lens of his own strengths – denting the universe is how he measured success.  I get that.   However, I also see value in each of us becoming fully so that we can help complete the universe.  Let’s do it together, and support one another along the way.


    • Hazel

    • 11 years ago

    What a great idea. I would think that some people would find it much easier to follow this advice than others. I know that I can sit and ‘be’ very easily – my father described it as me stepping off the world and watching it go round when I was a child. I think this is deliberative at work. I can’t imagine some of the people I know slowing down enough to do this.
    From ‘Adaptability’

    A strict routine, even as you describe here is hard for me, but I will try. Can I have my quiet ten minutes in the morning? I am more open in the mornings, and less pressured.
    I think I can do the ‘being’ part, but connecting with the universe is my personal challenge.

    • Hazel

    • 11 years ago

    hmmm… formatting odd… I misused the html tags, and the part missing is…

    Not being bound to a strict timeline or action plan frees you to deal with problems or take advantage of opportunities at the moment they arise.

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      Hi Hazel!

      So I love your sharing of Adapability because obviously, it would be hard to follow a strict timeline – and I practically gave one to you! :-) But that’s okay – there is no real formula here. There is only your own experience. What is it like to be on a merry-go-round? I know what it is like for me, I don’t know what it will be like for your – your experience will be different. So adjusting times, “adapting” it to make it work for you – I don’t discourage it, I encourage it! By all means, sit in the morning (I’m too busy ideating in the morning, and I projected my own lens upon you – forgive me – all of you!)

      Being is simply accepting where you are, who you are, in this very moment, and knowing that the same is true for everyone else and everything else. (this is my 2 cents.)

      I find it interesting that you wrote you have trouble connecting with the universe because I don’t see it that way at all. In fact, you help so many people connect with your expert management of social business tools… But I accept it’s how you might feel. Let’s see how this process unfolds for you – can’t wait to hear your experiences, Hazel!

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    • Maureen Monte

    • 11 years ago

    I have had a couple of realizations as a result of noodling on my Ideation strength, and championing “stuff” – going way back, I see now that this was at the core of my success. I think I saw it as a recent development, but it isn’t. When I worked as a systems engineer in the 90’s, one of my clients called me Joan of Arc. I thought it meant I defended the little people (they were smaller companies I was supporting) but in hindsight, I can see that it meant that I was fighting for them – I was their champion, and it’s true. I’ve championed other initiatives, raised money for a good cause (nearly $90,000 for a hospice group), started my own business (the ultimate choice to champion something!) and the list goes on. So it’s been fun to look back over my work life and see it. What about you? :-)

  2. I like to imagine the universe as a mosaic of all our awesome life paintings…me, too – how beautiful! Thanks for being there with a palette of colors and a brush!

      • Maureen Monte

      • 11 years ago

      I know! Imagine if we could see that the person next to us, who is driving us nuts, is actually playing an important role with their own mosaic… knowing that they fill a gap, just as we do. And then there are those who are struggling to figure out just what they do best, and who they are, and what makes them happy… it is a huge project completing the universe, but it’s an awesome, fun, HUMAN thing to do. :-) Thanks Vicki!

      1. Oh, what a wonderful invitation to a delicious way of seeing the world and our partners in it! Thank you.

          • Maureen Monte

          • 11 years ago

          Wonder who taught me to be “more tolerant”? :-) Remember when i asked you for help with the fellow from India? You said, “He’s probably longing to be recognized, just like the rest of us…” So true!!

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