Sshhh don’t tell your brain ears this effective communication tip


When my kiddos were little I told them about our brain ears. You know, the ears that are buried deep inside your brain that aren’t so smart.


The ones that hear you (or someone else) say ‘you can’t do that,’ ‘you’re not smart enough,’ ‘there’s no way you’ll succeed at that,’ ‘you suck at math,’ or ‘better quit while you’re ahead you foolish person you.’


While brain ears are really good at listening, they’re not good at deciphering the flotsam from the jetsam, the good stuff from the bad, the true from the daft & outright absurd.


Worse still they have a direct line to our brain & so they are very good at convincing our brains of nonsense.


Enter crisis of confidence, crappy self talk & other untruths.


On another note can you guess what the following are reactions to?


  • Pull up the proverbial draw bridge & arm the cannons
  • Flee & hide in the closest closet
  • Cautiously peer out from behind a curtain
  • Stand tall & confident (wonder woman arm bands optional)
  • Fists ready, eyes ablaze & anger erupting
  • Curious question marks dance above your head
  • Eyes & ears wide open




Yep. Depending on who’s doing the talking, how they’re saying what they’re saying & what they’re saying, our reactions are as varied as the animals in the Maasai Mara, here in Kenya.


Words come into your brain & your reaction depends a lot on not just what they are but how they’re said. From fight or flee to flight or faint to face saving or face off.


So what’s a real ear (as opposed to a brain ear) to do?


Pay attention to the third, little known type of communication that often has wayyyy more weight than the other two.


You probably know the first two.


  1. Verbal communication – these are the actual words you use when you communicate


  1. Non-verbal communication – this is how you hold your body (e.g. how much or how little space you take up), what your face is doing while you’re communicating etc.



Do you know the third one?


When I’m teaching trainers I demo this third one. I’ll use the same words (verbal communication) & hold my body the same way (non-verbal communication) but I’ll completely change up the third method.


Every.single.time the third technique wins out over the actual words I’m saying.


That is, 100% of the time, people put wayyy more importance on this technique than my actual words or body language.


Can you guess what it is?


Here’s an example.


Listen to this 20 second clip & then listen to this one. Pretty obvious now right?!


  1. It’s called para verbal communication – it’s everything about what I’m saying except for the words. It’s how fast or slow I speak, how many pauses I leave, my tone, my cadence etc.


Para verbal wins, hands down, over verbal communication.


And guess who’s exquisitely attuned to para verbal communication? Your brain ears.


When my kids were little & they spoke harshly or lashed out, I told them they were speaking so loudly that while my brain ears could hear them I couldn’t & to try again.


Next time communication isn’t coming easily check your brain ears & check your para verbal communication. I guarantee it’ll make a difference.



  • Varying your volume: speaking more quietly or a little more loudly (tip: it’s surprising how much power speaking more quietly has. I’ll often grab a group’s attention by beginning to speak loudly & then slowly lowering my volume.)


  • Varying your pace: speak more slowly (tip: it’s truly magical how we unconsciously equate speaking slowly with more confidence).


  • And watch your tone.


Et voila. Brain ears are happy. Communication improves. Easy peasy.




Annnnnnnd take action


  • I’m offering an online course called Working Better Together, where we’ll tackle issues like conflict & communication. It’s based on my work with more than 20,000 participants in & from 115 countries. Email me if you want to get more info laragan (@)



  • Click on this link to access a fun tool that’s designed to open up communication with your supervisor or use it for opening communication channels in general.



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An unpaid bill, life lesson #38 + continuum thinking


This November it’ll be 20 years I’ve been self-employed (insert a loud & raucous woot woot here; & more on that later). In all that time I’ve never not been paid for a service I’ve delivered.


That recently changed.


I have a client who hasn’t paid me for a training I delivered & won’t respond to my emails. As I’m diving into what to do, I decided to apply my tried & true technique of continuum thinking.



What’s continuum thinking?


It’s avoiding a one size fits all approach. As a 5’ 10” tall woman I can tell you that one size fits all nylons decidedly don’t fit & neither do one size fits all conflict resolutions.


Continuum thinking is opening the fan, as Holly Weeks puts it, to find more than one resolution, more than 1 way to move forward. I write more about this concept here & here.


Continuum thinking is avoiding black & white thinking, dichotomous thinking to embrace the gray areas.


So what did I do to start continuum thinking in the case of my unpaid bill?


I posted about the situation in a well known, high profile women’s biz group. (And yes I kept my client’s name private.) The myriad of responses have been thoroughly enjoyable (from forget about it & wish my client well to take her to court).


It’s spurred my own conflict resolution responses & broadened my thinking.


It’s helped me take into account context, for context is Queen with a capital Q.


And speaking of context, this life lesson #38, sent to me by a friend, has also helped.


There’s a very narrow range where you can maybe, just possibly, avoid criticism.


You have to have the right amount of confidence. Too much & you’re arrogant, egotistical. Too little & you’re timid, milquetoast.


You have to have the perfect amount of empathy. To little & you’re aloof, insensitive. Too much & you’re a sap, a pushover.


You have to have the right amount of humour. Too much & you’re a joke who never takes anything seriously. Too little & you’re a soulless robot.


You have to have the ideal amount of generosity. Too little & you’re selfish. Too much & you’re just trying to show up other people, or, worse yet, you have an agenda.


And to top it all off, what’s too much to one person can easily to be too little to another, so you’ll never please everybody. Not even close.


So don’t worry too much about criticism. But don’t worry too little, either. Worry just the right amount.  Source


So what do you think? Have you applied continuum thinking to your own conflicts?  Here’s how.


Next time conflict rears it’s gnarly head try continuum thinking:


  • open the fan & brainstorm a bunch of possible ways to move forward (unlike multiple choice exams where your first impulse has a higher change of being right, your initial response to a conflict may not be!)


  • ask others for suggestions (like I did by posting in a high profile women’s business group)


  • check your confidence (as conflict can be rough on it)


  • hold onto your empathy & add a dose of humour if you can


  • let me know how it goes; I’d love to hear


Annnnnnnd take action


  • I’m offering an online course called Working Better Together(c), where we’ll tackle issues like conflict & communication. Email me if you want to get more info laragan (@)



  • Want some more tips on dealing with conflict? Check out this post & then add your input here.




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Your employee engagement via a 4 act play


You’re sitting in a really comfortable, deep red, crushed velvet theatre seat. You look up when you hear the swish of matching red velvet curtains open to display an imaginary scene set at a workplace.


Relax. Settle back & watch the four act play about employee engagement that’s about to unfold before your eyes.


Act 1


A busy office scene unfolds. You notice that people aren’t paying attention to one another. They are glued to their screens, stressed, staring vacantly about, rushing around in circles or arguing.


No doubt about it overwhelm & disengagement are on overdrive. You notice a magazine article on the office table, which reads 6 reasons your employees hate coming to work & what you can do about it.


Sitting in the audience, you stir as you recognize bits of yourself & your colleagues.


Act 2


Employees gather around a table while loudly debating what percentage of employees across 142 countries reported themselves as engaged at work.


They’re given four options:

  • 8%
  • 13%
  • 26%
  • 31%


Engagement is alternately defined as to hold attention, induce participation, bring together, or to offer one’s word as a backing to a cause or aim.


You find yourself wondering as well. So you take your guess at this survey.


The curtain closes again. It’s time for intermission so you grab a glass of vino & talk to your friend who’s there with you, about where you’re both at with regards to engagement


Act 3


The curtains open again to reveal the same group of people who’d been debating the employee engagement question, now hushed as they wait for the answer.


All eyes are on one woman as she announces the answer: the percentage of employees who feel engaged at work is only 13% a recent Gallup poll found.


You find yourself wondering if your shirt was this scratchy when you put it on this morning as you wriggle with discomfort. 13! You’re dismayed at the lost opportunities.


Act 4


The same woman who announced the 13% engagement rate is now talking about employee engagement like vitamin C, it’s good for everyone.


Engagement & it’s cousin working better together© benefits everyone – individual staff, solopreneurs, clients, funders, teams & organizations. It’s a big, broad topic though so she breaks it down.


Working better together© comes about through a strategic combination of the 6 C’s.


The 6 C’s are:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Communication
  • Culture (e.g. intercultural communication & conflict resolution)
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Celebration


The more skilled an individual, team & organization is at the 6 C’s the higher the engagement & working better together© factor.


Alter a lively discussion staff drift back to their work stations more content & on track for higher engagement in part because they’ve rated themselves & their organization at this easy peasy short survey, which has automatically shown them how they stack up against some 250 other people & teams.


As the curtains close for a final time you add another C – curiousity, because you want to learn more.


You promise yourself you’re going to take the survey because you’re curious & want to see how you compare to others. You also think of a few other folks you’re going to share it with as well.


As you walk out of the theatre with your friend, you have a hopeful, satisfied light in your eye because you’re going to satisfy your curiousity & get more engaged.


Annnnnnnd take action




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Your 7 day tech challenge for life hacks (+ a gift)


I never meant to get so involved with tech. In fact when a university came asking if I’d design & teach a course on how to use social media for learning, my first thought was ‘who me?!’ That was about 9 years ago & since then I’ve been on an intriguing, useful, practical path towards harnessing tech tools to make life easier.


I figure we only have so many hours in a day to offer up the unique & special gifts we have to offer the world. So if tech can save time, hassles & heartache, why would you not harness the power of these tools?


Okay I get it. You might be leery because you’re scared, overwhelmed, you feel like tech controls you instead of the other way around, &/or you don’t know where to start.

Voila (she says with the flourish of a gorgeous red cape & magician’s wand)!   Here you go. That’s precisely why I created this 7 day easy peasy challenge – 7 steps for 360 life hacks.




Below you’ll find 7 simple challenges. Do them one a day or a bunch at a time it’s up to you. Each challenge has a question, which you can access here. Answer all seven questions & get a fun, little gift.

Here we go so buckle up.


  1. Toe dip dive; find out what starting place fits you. Read this post to find out about my toe, dip & dive method (plus how I caught a thief) & pick your starting point.


  1. There are three key ways to use tech tools. One is for research & listening. Read this post to find out more & think about how you can use the example for your own use. 3 ways you should be using digital tools for life 360 hacks.


  1. Another way to use tech tools is for communication & learning. The example tool I give in this post is podcasts. Check it out to find out one of my favourites & which special person was recently featured on it.


  1. A third way to use tech tools is for ease & efficiency. Check out this post & download the worksheet that explains how to help you find your flow & identify your uhm, ughs & areas of torture.


  1. Here’s a way to start a conversation about your relationship with your supervisor, plus a way to use a fun, easy tech tool all at the same time. Check out my post on the supervisor blob tree, then click on the link that leads you to the tool. Leave an arrow & a comment.


  1. Intrigued? Starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel? Check out my online course ‘From overwhelm to organized; technology tips & techniques to serve you’ & register if you wish. But hurry, the course is March 27th. Find out more at the link above (including the 2 for 1 registration special).


  1. Answer the questions (based on the challenges above) you’ll find at this link & get a fun little gift.


Thanks for playing.



Want to learn more? Register for my upcoming online course: ‘From overwhelm to organized; technology tips & techniques to serve you’ on Tuesday, March 27th. Get details & register here, including how to take advantage of the 2 for 1 special deal.


Annnnnnnd take action




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3 ways you should be using digital tools for life 360 hacks

Overwhelm. Unease. Frustration. Despair. Embarrassment.


Those are just some of the emotions participants tell me they feel when they’re trying to use technology.

I’m here to tell you it not only doesn’t it have to be that way, tech tools can actually serve you & make your life a whole lot easier.


Here’s 3 ways to use tech tools you may not have thought about:


1. Use tech tools for research & listening

Have a new topic you’re interested in lately? Need to find out what’s going on with a particular topic? There are many, simple tools that will do the research for you. Furrowed brow in consternation not required.


Need an example? See how a simple research tool helped me catch a thief in New Zealand.


2. Use tech tools for communication & learning

We all know learning & communicating is important but who’s got the time to put in the work? Are you ever stuck in traffic, on long drives or do you exercise? Each of these times is great to listen to podcasts. (Insert audible sigh of relief here.)


There’s a hidden treasure trove of pretty much any topic under the sun just waiting to be explored in podcast form, where you listen & learn on the go.

One of my favs is How I Built This from NPR. This podcast tells stories of successful people & how they built their company. I was delighted to hear Brian Scudamore, founder & CEO of 1-800-GOT-Junk on the most recent one (his company once won our Humour in the Workplace Award).


3. Use them for ease & efficiency

This one is usually the most popular need participants tell me when I do workshops. Yes there are loads of tips & techniques for how tech can help you save time, take care of boring, soul sucking repetitive tasks, all so you can focus on what I call your flow n’ glow – those areas that the clock disappears & you’re in your sweet zone. (Insert squeal of delight here.)


Start now (‘cause who doesn’t need some ease & efficiency). Think about your own flow n’ glow.


  • What are the items you’d put in the middle (the things you’re doing when you’re in your zone)?
  • What are the uhm’s – the things that are a bit troublesome but not so bad
  • What are your ugh’s – the things that are causing you some grief
  • And what are your areas of torture – the things that you’re doing that you’d rather have a Brazilian wax than do?


Hint: the ones in the ‘torture’ ring need your attention now!


Intrigued? Want to learn more? Register for my upcoming online course: ‘From overwhelm to organized; technology tips & techniques to serve you’ on Tuesday, March 27th. Get details & register here, including how to take advantage of the 2 for 1 special deal.


Annnnnnnd take action



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From overwhelm to organized; technology tips & techniques to serve you

‘All’ I had to do was to choose a picture of a chair from the ones on my computer screen & drag it to the centre of my screen & then write my name below it. It was an introductory exercise for an online course I was taking.


Could I grab that damn chair picture & drag it into the circle? No way, no how.


Hot tears of frustration welled up, as I wanted to hit my head against the screen.


To make matters worse when I finally was able to write my name underneath the blasted chair, it showed up in a ginormous font, big enough that it wrote over everyone’s else’s names.


‘They’re going to think I’m an idiot, that I’m arrogant,’ I thought.

I could feel the bitter taste of shame in my mouth & the feeling of a golf ball lodged in the back of my mouth (that feeling I get when I am excruciatingly uncomfortable). I wanted the floor to swallow me up & deposit me in another universe.


Have you faced an equally frustrating, wanna-bang-your-head-against-your-computer-screen moment brought to you by technology?


When you read the word technology how do you feel?


Overwhelmed? Weary? Frustrated? Dubious?


Do you think technology means disappearing down the rabbit hole of watching cat videos for hours?


Are you time starved & looking for ease & efficiency? Do you have a tiny sliver of hope but don’t know where to start when it comes to technology?

After my bitter tech experience years ago, I decided to jump in with both feet & use technology to serve me instead of the other way around. And now I want to share what I’ve learned about using technology to increase your ease & efficiency so you can avoid going through what I did.


Your course was so informative! You’re truly a gifted teacher! – I have learned so much! ~ Judy Rogness, Pacific Blue Cross.


Join my online course to learn how technology can help you feel:

  • Capable
  • Energized
  • Encouraged
  • Confident


What a great course! I am now more comfortable with so many tools” ~ Julie-Ann Dunwoody, Manager; Training & Development, Boston Pizza International

In my online course you will

  • Have fun as you discover how you can harness the power of very simple tech tools (Yes I just used fun & technology in the same sentence)
  • Amp up your ease in your personal & professional life.
  • Reign in those mind numbing, soul sucking repetitive tasks that drive you batty
  • Be more efficient so you can devote space & time to the unique gifts that only you have to offer the world
  • Feel delighted at the ease with which tech tools can serve you
  • Maximize engagement & creativity. Suffering is optional.
  • Ebb & flow like the Pacific & Indian oceans – we’ll come together in person online for some short, creative teach pieces & then you’ll go off on your own to experiment with the tools I’ll introduce you to.  Then we’ll rinse & repeat for a total of 3 hours.
  • Have time to concentrate on you – time to show up, be present & be focused….. on what you need & want


It was all brilliant. Thank you so much. I feel like I have been given a present and can’t wait to get home and try some of these new tools ~ Here We Are participant


In my online course I promise you I will NOT

  • Take a one size fits all – rather you get to do you, in all your uniqueness
  • Be dreary or guilt inducing – rather you’ll play & have fun
  • Spoon feed you; I’m expecting you to put in the work in order to make the magic happen (but no fear we’ll include breaks & have fun; remember suffering is optional)


We had a great meeting filled with a lot of “ohhh”s and “aah”‘s as we figured new and cool tech ways to solve or assist us in being smarter and/or more efficient ways of getting on with our personal and professional lives~ Hanne, Anita & Susanne, Here We Are, Kenya Founders

FAQs (frequently asked questions)


  • Is this for personal or professional use? It’s either or both – it’s totally up to you & what you need & want.
  • What if I can’t participate live? While real time participation is ideal so you can ask questions, no worries if you can’t because you’ll have access to the video recordings & all the learning resources 24/7.
  • What about refunds? Honestly that’s a good question. I haven’t been asked before. I’m confident that if you show up & do the work that you’re going to get amazing value & learn tons but if there’s an issue I’m confident we can work it out together.



What else past participants have said


  • You took me from ‘apprehensive’ and ‘cautious’ to interested and curious. ~ Julie-Ann Dunwoody, Manager; Training & Development, Boston Pizza International


  • I learned a lot of very useful tools. ~ Dr.Zhang, UNHABITAT


  • I am not so scared anymore. ~ Gerry McAteer, ICBC


  • I learnt about the application of technology to educate. Lee-Anne was very understanding and helpful. With every session I learnt something useful. This is just the beginning. ~ Anne Audrey, UNEP.


  • I was lucky to be among your participants to the workshop in Mauritius. It was such an amazing experience, you’ve been able to teach me some techniques in improving myself in using ICT tools effectively and efficiently. You were wonderful. ~ Anielle D.N Clair



What’s the cost


The cost to participate in the ‘From overwhelm to organized; technology tips & techniques to serve you & increase your ease & efficiency’

  • For the chance to have me live in your home or office for three hours & meet other like minded intriguing people online from around the world (remember this isn’t a canned course where you can’t interact with me & are only watching a previously recorded video) …..
  • For the opportunity for you to show up on time, be focused, be present & carve out a clean & clear window to focus on YOU …..
  • For 24/7 access to the recorded course video & an online portal chockablock full of resources
  • The cost is $99 USD. Well kinda ….



Because wait there’s more…


  • For a limited time, because Community Works© & I’m so simply over the moon delighted to be launching my courses online for your benefit (yup plural, there’ll be more courses coming this year) …
  • I’m offering a super sweet deal. Bring a friend to the online course & you’ll get the course for ½ price – TWO people for $99 USD.
  • Simply pay once & send me your colleague / your buddy’s email & they’ll get access too. Happy two’fer!



When is it?




Are you in? Yeah & yahoo! Here’s what you need to do now to get onboard!


  1. Kudos & congrats! Give yourself a big pat on the back for carving out time to focus on creating ease & efficiency for yourself. Seriously, pat yourself on the back. I’ll wait till you’re done.


  1. Now head over to PayPal& pay $99 USD (OR send me an email saying you’re in & I’ll invoice you – laragan at


  1. After you’ve paid, email me your colleague or friend’s name & email & voila you’re in (for the 2’fer 1 deal).


  1. Stay tuned to receive more information about how to get the most out of the course.



Still undecided? Questions?


Ask away in the comment section below.  Otherwise get onboard with the 4 easy steps.


Yours in ease & efficiency,


Annnnnnnd press play – take action


  1. After patting yourself on the back for deciding to focus on YOU, head over to PayPal& pay $99 USD (OR send me an email saying you’re in & I’ll invoice you –


  1. Then email me your colleague or friend’s name & email & voila you’re in (for the 2 fer 1 deal).


  1. Stay tuned to receive more information about how to get the most out of the course.

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How I caught a thief in New Zealand using this easy tech tool


I’m 35,000 feet in the air on a flight from Dubai to Nairobi watching ‘You’re soaking in it,’ a documentary about the new wild west of advertising. Did you know there is new technology using your basic smart phone that can read your emotions? The goal is to know what you want before you do!


Scary huh.


Annnnnnnd that’s why I hear so many people freaking out about technology. You may be one. Do you agree with any of the statements below?


  • Technology is for kids
  • Technology means disappearing down the rabbit hole watching cat videos for hours
  • I’m too ________ (insert adjective: old, tired, overwhelmed, frustrated) to take advantage of tech
  • There’s nothing tech could help me with



Oh friend. Hang in there. Keep reading. Seriously.


Here’s some inviolate truths:


  • You have some pretty awesome gifts & talents to give to the world (yes you)
  • You only have so much time to hone them & offer them up
  • Yet flotsam & jetsam (aka tedious, repetitive, time wasting, soul sucking tasks) get in the way over & over for you focusing on those gifts


Can I get an amen!


Because technology is here to stay, why not take the reigns & learn how to harness it instead of it controlling you? Who knows, you just may catch a thief too. Keep reading for how I did just that.



One easy peasy place to start


I’ve got one easy, peasy thing that I promise will help you stop feeling like you’re bowing down to the tech gods & get them working for you.


Dubious? Not sure how tech can help you because you think of tech as watching cat videos on YouTube for hours?


Here’s some magic & music for your ears. Keep reading for ….


  • The one thing that will help you nab that sweeeet feeling of ease & efficiency
  • That will save time
  • With 3 examples that are all free
  • And that gives you more time to relax & do the stuff that only your particular bundle of skills, talents & creativity has on offer to the world



The one thing that will help you nab that sweet feeling of ease & efficiency


Stand up vrs stand off.


Too often I see clients jumping on a tech bandwagon with a tool that doesn’t fit their needs or their skill level. So the number one thing to do is figure out where you’re standing with tech so there’s no stand off.


Toe, dip or dive.


  1. Toe: you’re a beginner & need some really simple tools that you can have up & running in a few minutes. You need a quick win.


  1. Dip: you’ve got a bit of experience & are ready to go in up to your waist with tools that are a little more complex.


  1. Dive: you’re all in, ready to dive into tools that are complex.



Which are you? Toe, dip or dive?


Once you know you can match the tools to meet your needs instead of puling out your hair with yet another tech that fails to live up to its promise.


Take your pick from the 3 examples below & get in the drivers seat.

1. Toe: Google alert

  • Required sweat & tears: 0


  • Minutes to get set up: 5


  • Problem it solves; your own personal admin person, Google alerts deliver the kind of info you want, on a topic of your choosing, to your inbox when & how you want it.


  • Example: Rock.Paper.Scissors Inc. used to do an annual Humour in the Workplace awards program so I had a Google alert for, you guessed it, humour in the workplace. One day I was clicking on the links Google had sent me. As I read through one in particular I scratched my head in confusion as it was familiar. Very familiar. Would you believe a company in New Zealand had ripped off our entire program & was passing it off as their own? The entire thing! Thank yee Google alerts.


  • Next step: go to Google alerts & set up one or more of your choice, for example your name, company, &/or a topic you want more info on. ‘Cause you do want to know when someone’s talking about you online right?


  • Next next step: relax as Google does the work for you.


2. Dip: Diigo


  • Required sweat & tears: 0


  • Minutes to get set up: 15


  • Problem it solves: ever cursed at your computer because you couldn’t find that fabulous website, blog or other online resource that you were just looking at last week? Diigo keeps all your online goodies sorted & organized for you plus makes it super easy for you to share them.



  • Next step: go to Diigo & set up an account & start tagging (which is the name for what you’re doing when you save stuff to Diigo). Need some more help? Check out this video.


  • Next next step: rest on your (bookmarked) laurels & toast yourself.


3. Dive: Evernote


  • Required sweat & tears: 0


  • Minutes to get set up: 30 minutes


  • Problem it solves: Evernote is a high octane advanced tool that helps you ‘get organized, work smarter & remember everything.’


  • Example: Evernote has OCR (optical character recognition) so it can read handwritten documents (I know, amazing right?!). On my list of summer projects is to hire someone to scan the gajillions of recipes I have in so many formats & folders & upload them all to Evernote tagging them with their category (e.g. main dish, slow cooker, picky kiddo eater friendly etc.).



  • Next next step: sigh with relief & find new ways of spending all that time you’ll save



So there you have it. Toe, dip or dive. You get to decide. You get to harness tech for your ease & efficiency so you have more time to do the stuff you love while avoiding those annoying, time sucking, soul wasting tedious tasks.



Intrigued? Want to learn more?


I’m teaching an online course on March 27th on how to use tech tools for ease & efficiency. Simply email me laragan (at) if you want to know how to get it on the goodies.


  • Feedback from a past participant: It was all brilliant. Thank you so much. I feel like I have been given a present and can’t wait to get home and try some of these new tools ~ Here We Are workshop participant



Annnnnnnd take action


  • Email me if want more information on my March 27th online course on using tech tools for ease & efficiency


  • Take your pick; toe, dip, dive. The choice is yours so get going; pick one & practice. Who knows you may catch your equivalent of a thief in New Zealand.

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What I learned (& you can too) from the dragons hidden under my butt



‘Here be dragons’ was a term some say, used by explorers to describe unexplored territory. Unknown, mysterious territory.


Like the territory we all face when we set out to seek, to find the betwixt & between.


Working with 20,000+ participants in 80+ countries to help them laugh, learn & lead has shown me that we all need new ways of seeing, seeking, doing & being.


Sometimes we need to go big n’ bold….


Like when my partner & I packed up our clothes, kids & books & moved to Africa from Canada.


Like being the first (& only) one in my family to get a university degree, let alone a Masters. I’ll never forget the feeling of my knees knocking, my stomach churning as I catapulted into a very strange world known as academia. Talk about ‘here be dragons.’



There be dragons under your butt

Sometimes we need to go small n’ subtle…


Like when I found dragons hidden under my bed.


Let me explain.


One of the castors on my bed recently broke. It was carving deep groves into the wood floor so I knew I had to get it fixed.


This is a bed I’ve had for 6+ years. This a bed that has cradled my weary body at the end of long days, in no less than 3 homes.


Like my toothbrush, my computer, my kiddos & partner- I see this thing every .. single … & … night.



I had noticed the metal things at the end of the bed, truly I had. I assumed they kept the mattress from slipping.


Back to broken bed part.


I got a guy to look at the bed & when I walked in mid repair job my jaw dropped & fell into the deep grooves in my floor.


I didn’t recognize my own bed.



Sandwich dragon bed

It had opened up like a sandwich.


Turns out those metal bits at the bottom of the bed are handles. Turns out my bed is on a huge spring. Turns out my bed has its own hiding place for dragons which I’ve now tamed & explored – the whole darn thing lifts up to reveal a cool, massive storage area.


I talk about finding new perspective, often right under your nose, in this case it was underneath my butt.


Another example of finding a new perspective


I am an avid reader & an important part of that is curating, organizing my learning so I can share it with my clients.


For years that has meant making notes in the back of my books with certain symbols that make it quick for me to review (eg the letter ‘a’ with a circle around it means something to take action on).


And yet while I love the reading, I was never a fan of taking notes. So while I was teaching my recent planning course (think of it like a spa for your mind without all the goopy stuff) (next one is April 19th) I call people’s attention to pesky things that they experience frequently + things that bug them which is an indication that some ease & efficiency is needed.


For me that’s been taking notes from my beloved books.


Voila! I found a much easier way. So simple


I draw quadrants at the back of my book with different topics I’m interested in that the book relates to; then as I’m reading I take uber quick notes


Easy, peasy, efficient.


New perspective. And no pesky dragons.


My advice to you – explore your edges, your dragons & find new ways of seeing, doing & being.


You never know what you’ll find at the tip of your nose or under your butt.



Annnnnnnd take action


  1. Figure out what’s bugging you that happens repeatedly. Then, like I did with my book note taking, look specifically for a new perspective to gain some ease & efficiency.
  2. Check out how I found a new perspective for creating some change (fingers crossed- stay tuned) when I witnessed a sexist event.
  3. Intrigued by my online courses? Email me to get more info: laragan (at) I’m giving a course on how tech can bring you ease & efficiency (honestly!) on March 27th & April 19th will be on using my Life Lenses™ tool to create plans & goals that totally fit you.

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An unusual Happy Valentine’s Day gift for you based on a true story with a twist


In Europe keys are given on Saint Valentine’s Day to unlock hearts. On this day, a day of love & of celebrating affection & tenderness I’m giving you a key. A particular type of key.


A key that’s meant to unlock difficult situations, particularly those where love, affection & tenderness are not central.

A key to finding self-respect while you’re trying to effect some social change at the same time.

A key to what to do when you witness a sexist event (please note the accompanying trigger warning).




Setting the stage


I was recently at a public, social event. I was out with a group of international friends, with wine, whisky & song flowing. Music was playing & a feast was before us.


Then some older men got up to give the requisite speeches. I said to my friend, having been to this event before, ‘I wonder how long it’ll be until the first sexist comment.’


Unfortunately it wasn’t long.


Unfortunately it was awful.


This old guy at the event makes a ‘joke’ about a doctor feeling up a grandmother during his treatment of her.


In the days of #metoo & Nassar, the ‘doctor’ who ‘treated’ female athletes & was recently sentenced to 40-175 years in prison after more than 150 girls & women said he sexually abused them, I could not believe my ears.


This was only 1 of many highly inappropriate, tasteless, sexist ‘jokes.’


A man, who I didn’t know, who was sitting across from me & who was old enough to have salt & pepper hair, laughed along. I asked him in surprise why he was laughing & he quickly replied, with a big grin, ‘because it’s funny.’




It went downhill from there.





I’ve been there, seen that & I don’t want to see or hear no more. I’m sure you have too.


But what to do?


Saying or doing nothing would be tantamount to agreeing that what just happened was okay. And that wouldn’t be fair to that little girl in me who was abused. It wouldn’t be fair to the girls & women who stand, sometimes with quaking knees, who say no, not this time, enough. And it wouldn’t be fair to the girls & women, boys & men who support, hold, are there for others who’ve been through hell & back.


And so I began.


My strategy part 1


I quietly observed.


There were lots of people laughing at the beginning of said dude’s speech, but this dwindled to hesitant laughs which tapered off until at the end, only the far corner was laughing, a table of old men.


I listened after the speeches finished & I heard people talking & complaining.


I saw comments posted about it the next day on social media.


I received an email about it.



My strategy part 2


Ever since I heard about the awful case of Kitty Genovese (the woman who was murdered while 38 people who saw it took place did nothing, which created the term bystander effect which is where people don’t do anything because they think someone else will) I have been determined to DO SOMETHING.


This has gotten me into some weird places & spaces (helping someone who’d just been stabbed, following drunk drivers to report them etc.).


With my stomach in knots & my brows furrowed in concentration I sat on this for a few days trying to figure out what to DO.


I realized I was worried about what people might think if I complained. Would my reputation be affected? Would I be seen as a humorless, brittle woman who couldn’t take a joke? Would I not be taken seriously? Would I be mocked?


AND that’s part of the problem I realized as a light bulb went off the size of a hot air balloon. I shouldn’t have to worry about how my legitimate complaint would be received nor what people would think of me.


So I decided to lodge a complaint with the organizing committee …. complaining about the food.


Yup, the food.


Then I would say that none of that was true but I hoped the committee would read part two with same sense of gravitas as if food actually was bad.


I’ve shared my idea with others & am waiting to hear back if they’ll add their name to my email. I’m hoping to get some men as well.


(All the while acknowledging my frustration that such a strategy is needed – that I’d need to worry about what people would think, that I’d need to find others to strength my case, to be taken seriously & that having men included would be strategic.)



My strategy part 3

Stay tuned. I’ll let you know what happens.


In the meantime feel free to borrow my key on this day of love. Turn things around to unlock stuck minds. Grease the wheels for social change. Share the love, share the keys.


And remember the wise words of Tarana Burke, a survivor & the founder of #metoo.


I think that what we have to do is be really proactive in our communities. Really drill down to the most basic in our communities. We have to find ways to interrupt sexual violence everywhere, every day, all the time.


Annnnnnnd take action

  • I’d love for you to let me know what strategies you’ve used to try to right some social wrongs
  • If you try the strategy above let me know how it goes & know I’m rooting for you

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From one lean in, learning junkie to another- my top reads from 2017 Part 2


From one lean in, learning junkie to another, a few posts ago I introduced you to my top 5 books from 2017 & briefly described what I learned & why you should read them too.


I shared books for your funny bone & for your heart. This week I’ll share books about how people work & (do or don’t) manage, books about learning, teams & business communication & strategy … there’s something for most everyone.


And I’ll share the books I’ve already set aside to read this year (she says with a gleeful, let me at ‘em, delicious delirium).


But first let me add another book to my top favs from last year. It’s Your Personality Explained: Exploring the Science of Identity by National Geographic. If you’re a person or you work with people or you know people, you’ve got to read it. Seriously. So good. Bite size morsels, easy to digest & chock a block full of tips to help you understand yourself & others.


Okay, on with the rest of my reads from 2017 (I shared the first batch in last week’s post).



Books about how people work & (do or don’t) manage

  1. The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma
  • Your brain on trauma & the anatomy of survival& paths to recovery including EMDR, Yoga, self-leadership (way cool), & other things based on neuroscience
  • Read if: you want some insight into how trauma affects us all & how to heal


  1. Quiet: the Power of Introverts in World that Can’t Stop Talking
  • Oh such much goodness in this book. Check out author Susan Cain’s TED talk
  • As an introvert who’s constantly mistaken for an extrovert I love this quote from the book: ‘Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center.’ Anais Nin
  • Read if: you’re an introvert or know an introvert


  1. Ready..Set..Change..Again – Take Control of Change Before IT Takes Control of You
  • I’m fascinated by theories of change – how to effect, provoke & prompt change & this little book is an easy to read overview of different models like:
  • Kurt Lewin’s model: unfreeze, change & refreeze
  • Kotter’s 8 step model: create urgency, form a power coalition, create a vision, communicate the vision, remove all obstacles, create short term wins build on the change & make it stick
  • Kubler-Ross’ model; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance
  • Bridges’ transition model: ending, neutral zone & new beginning
  • D.K.A.R. model; awareness, design, knowledge, ability, reinforcement
  • C.A.R.F.: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, fairness
  • Read if: you want to manage & understand change processes better



Books about learning


  1. The One World Schoolhouse
  • By Saul Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy, writes a compelling book about how our education & our assumptions about education need to radically shift.
  • ‘…an even more basic question about the artificial boundaries of formal education. Why does ‘education’s stop at some point? Why isn’t it lifelong?’ Amen to that. Speaks to my heart & my head.
  • Read if: you’re curious about how to revamp & revitalize education

  1. Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends
  • Loved this one so much I gave it to my oldest kiddo for Christmas
  • ‘Most of us have up to 10 discreet interdependent social identities- identities. which are often in conflict’
  • The author digs up clues like ‘sleeping without a bedspread, charred paper, toy cards & pixie dust’ which ‘help decipher the meaning of quality in China.’ Now if that doesn’t get you curious I don’t know what will.
  • It’s a fascinating ride as you follow the author while he unravels mysteries by pulling together clues to come up with some pretty interesting ways to market products (don’t let the mention of marketing put you off, I figure any profession that can convince us to spend hard earned cash on things that will kill us, like cigarettes, really knows a lot about human behaviour overall)
  • Read if: you like anthropological mysteries (aka figuring out how people work) & you’re into big ideas & how small things can influence them



Books about teams


  1. The Secret Of Teams: What Great Team Know & Do
  • 3 pillars of great teams: selection, training & esprit de corps
  • Read if: you want to build on the assets of your team


  1. The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team
  • Easy to digest read which unravels 5 trouble spots for teams: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, inattention to results
  • Read if: your team is driving you batty & you want to know why


  1. The Consultants Tool Kit; Facilitating Change, Performance Improvement Team Problem-Solving
  • Loads of activities based questionnaires, activities & guides for diagnosing & solving problems
  • Read if: you need some practical activities for your next team building, board retreat, staff meeting etc.


  1. The Systems Thinking Playbook: Exercise to Stretch & Build Learning & Systems Thinking Capabilities
  • Lots of interesting activities: I loved the ladder of inference & levers through which participants in a system can change the behavior of the system e.g. change the rules, add reinforcing processes, alter information flows, select a different time, change a perspective, enhance capacity for learning, improve dialogue
  • Read if: you need some inspiration & practical activities that are all geared to system thinking



Books about business communication & strategy


  1. Lessons Learned: Straight talk from the worlds to business leaders: Making Strategy Work
  • From Harvard Business Review (HBR), this little pocket book can easily be read during your lunch break
  • On the benefit of evidence based management “20 years of experience is not 20 years of experience. It’s one year of experience repeated 20 times.” Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford University
  • Read if: you need a quick guide to strategy & some how-to’s



  1. Virtual Collaboration – From HBR’s 20 minute manager
  • Communicating with virtual colleagues can feel like screaming into the wind. It takes much effort, but you’re still not sure you’re being heard. So make sure to ‘match the mode of communication with the content.’
  • Here is a sample recommendation: To decide which mode is best ask yourself 2 questions: what do you want the recipient to do after your communication? If you expect loads of questions or details, phone or video is best.
  • Or conversely if details & anticipated questions are few, try email text or messenger.
  • Read if: you want to get better at virtual meetings



  1. Get Momentum; How to Start When You’re Stuck
  • I love the authors acronym that they say we have a tendency to stuck with, which is WUTW (what used to work)
  • Instead the author focuses on 5 stages of momentum: motivation, mentors, milestones, monitor, modify
  • Read if: you need help getting unstuck



  1. The Hero And The Outlaw; Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes
  • ‘We all love stories, & we need them. From fables to novels, from musical to advertising, we instinctively crave stories, which can provide the human context for forces that are often vast, ancient & abstract. Stories are the best teachers.’ Alex Kroll in the forward
  • Remember my missive about marketers? We can learn so much from that profession.
  • Read if: you want to delve into more about archetypes after reading The Hero Within; 6 Archetypes We Live By which was one of my top 5 reads from last year.



Like I mentioned in my first post, every year I pick a minimum of 12 books to read. I’ve already got mine lined up for this year which I’ll write about from time to time this year.


In the meantime enjoy the learning well © – whether it’s books for your soul, for your mind or your heart. Dig deep & inhale the lessons.


Thanks for (pun intended) reading. See you next week.



Annnnnnnd take action

  • Click on the 2 or 3 of your favourite sounding books above & pick 1 or 2 to read this coming year.
  • Check out my top five favs
  • Share a recent favourite read of yours



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