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U & Improved Leadership Training: You, Only Better

November 16, 2010 started off as an ordinary day in my life as I once knew it: A hazy blur of flying fingers and unfocused energy. Armed with caffeine and the soft blare of the local news in the background, I set off on my morning ritual – a flurry of emails, Facebook, tweets, blog postings, finishing off an article that was due three days ago and starting a load of laundry. After all that, it was just 7 a.m. and as I sipped on my third cup of coffee and finally got to writing down the day’s to-do list, my internal chatter was revving up like a tired beast in the pit of my belly – No one appreciates how hard I work, I’m tired, I’m annoyed, I’m resentful, I’m getting cranky and it’s only 7 a.m., I don’t know why I do this, I need a vacation – Calgon, take me away!

Sound at all familiar?

By that Friday evening, I was sitting at a conference table across from 14 people whom I’d never met and would be stuck with for an entire weekend. My thought? Great. Just great. I have way more laundry to do, calls to make, more articles to write and an unfinished to-do list. This is the last place I want to be.

Little did I know this was the first step in a series of events that were about to change my life, bring all sorts of good mojo to my marriage and my business, turn my self-defeating attitude upside down and bring my dreams from the someday recesses of my mind to squarely and purposefully in front of me.

November 16 was the first U the Leader class at U & Improved and through some kind of universal miracle – and a timely invite from someone from within the training team – I was among the first to experience something amazing.

Mind you, I agreed to be there purely out of journalistic curiosity and not because I’m any sort of self-help, motivational circuit junkie. In fact, I tended to be skeptical of what I considered a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that feeds off people’s internal fears and insecurities. The “Secret” lives inside us all and it’s our job to dig in there and root it out. Right?

Some time around 6 p.m. as the group sat quietly chatting and getting acquainted, a commanding bald man dressed in a sharp suit walked in the room and barked out a series of military-style orders of what was to happen next. The 15 of us stole surprised glances around the room, looking, I suspect, for an ally in what was suddenly becoming a weekend of great unknowns.

This was our first lesson in Leader: Trust the process.

U the Leader is experiential training. You sweat. You might cry. You will yell. You might see your greatest fears reflected in the eyes of another person. You’ll be challenged in a way that might make you uncomfortable. At one point in the process — and this happens to everyone I’ve talked to who completed this class — you may think that this is not for you.

And then something blossoms inside you. It occurs at different times for different people throughout the weekend. It may start as just a tiny seedling that continues to grow strong and steady or it may suddenly sprout up in full bloom like a budding flower.

For me, it happened that Saturday night. The 15 of us had just completed a process as individuals and as a team that sealed in a powerful and meaningful message that I can only describe as life-changing. A flower took bloom.

On graduation day, just 36 hours after that first jolting introduction to our trainer, my heart felt as if it was going to leap out of my chest with appreciation for the beauty and gifts I was given in my life. My husband (aka, the Spa Boy) was in for the biggest hug of his life.

What happened to that resentment I swallowed every morning with my coffee? Leader made me realize that while sure, I’ve hit some bumps and potholes in my life and one dark detour that I thought I’d never escape, they have made me – ME! And I’m kind of awesome. Anger? Completely useless. Love is way more fun. Annoyance? I GET to be amused at the annoyances that unfold in my life. Laundry? It can wait – at least until after I call my dad and tell him I love him. And Calgon? Hugs are better.

I have since earned my unofficial master’s degree in that I’ve completed the trio of courses that they offer: U the LeaderU the Communicator and U the Warrior. The latter two of which, I experienced with my hubby and can only say wow, wow, WOW! U & Improved itself has since blossomed an empowering community with an expanding curriculum, from get-your-feet-wet classes to the more intensive leadership weekends.

The bottom line, these classes have allowed me to look at my life’s work with a renewed passion and enthusiasm that had gotten buried under a pile of powerless chatter. I’ve looked at my professional and personal relationships with a new appreciation for authenticity and operate from a place of positivity and empowerment. I’ve tapped into my true dreams and aspirations and molded them into concrete and attainable goals. I have bonded with a new family of people who I can turn to when those little internal monsters rear an unwanted head. I look at life through a new lens.

And, yes, I went on a vacation!

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