Relationships are the Root of Success

Thriving communities give off a special kind of vibe. There’s an energy and a dynamic that spreads in the smiles, actions and connections that are shared among the people of any successful community. I once heard the statement: “The Roots Determine the Fruits” and it resonated with me. Another similar message was “Garbage in, garbage out.” When it comes to the health of individuals it makes complete sense.

Imagine a grove of healthy, strong trees. The strength of one does not make all of them strong, nor does one smaller, weaker tree create a weak system for all the trees’ health.

No, the roots are the foundation for the health of any organization — groves, families, cities, countries — all the goodness comes from the roots.

I spend a lot of time thinking about communities. And, about how to make them stronger. The answer is not more, the answer is better quality.

We say things like, “A rising tide lifts all ships” as if it’s a magic spell. We just need to say these words, and all will rise.

 If the fruits are a result of the roots, it’s going to take more than just a storm surge to improve the communities we live in and love so much. Our love can be both dividing and uniting, depending on where our love is coming from.

And, if the roots of our love are healthy and strong, resilient and determined to give fruit to the world, we have everything we need. People, not systems determine a healthy thriving community.

The systems, when developed in a healthy environment, unite, not divide.

Relationships, trust, respect, concern, empathy, love. That is the stuff of great communities.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Written by Chrissanne Long | October 13, 2017

One of the greatest soundtracks of my childhood was the Sound of Music. I still love that movie today. When Maria is teaching the children Do-Re-Mi, before she starts singing, and throughout the song, the recorded soundtrack includes the dialogue from the movie. I can almost quote the dialogue from memory:

“Now children, Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So and so on are only the tools we use to build a song. Once we have the notes in our heads, we can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up. Like this” and she begins So-Do-La-Fa-Mi-Re-Do….the children sing along, until Brigitta interrupts.

“But it doesn’t mean anything!”

and Maria nods and smiles, understanding her concern “So we put in words. One word for every note.” 

This morning, I woke up thinking about this song. Whenever I ask myself “What does it mean?” Brigitta’s true words pop into my head. But, like Maria, I believe we have the power to apply our own meaning to everything. Simply by choosing the words we want.

What does it mean, if I missed writing a blog yesterday? It could mean that I failed, or it could mean that I took a break, or it could mean that I was too tired, and I can write again today.

What does it mean if I didn’t get the contract? It could mean that I am not good enough, or it could mean that the client wasn’t a good fit after all, and there’s another opportunity on the other side.

What does it mean that I got into a disagreement with my best friend? It could mean that we shouldn’t be friends, or it could mean that our friendship becomes stronger as we work through whatever conflict arises.

What does it mean if someone goes behind my back and tries to undermine the work I am doing? It could mean that I have done something to deserve their disrespect, or it could mean that their insecurities are so great, that they need to give themselves a sense of importance.

Nothing has any meaning whatsoever, except for my own interpretation of it. And, how I choose to interpret every single detail of my life is completely up to — me.

When I met Craig almost 10 years ago, his version of the story is different than mine.

I saw him looking over at me. And, I chose to take that to mean he was interested in me. He, on the other hand says he was looking at the TV just above my head.

Had I not given that moment in my life the meaning I did, everything today would be completely different.

The meaning we give to the small, and the big, are completely up to our own interpretation. We can make something meaningful, or we can let the moments pass, with little to no significance.

It is not the circumstances that have meaning, but the other way around. What we believe about those circumstances creates the reality in which we exist. And, with the right attitude, and the right meaning applied to the circumstances, we can truly change anything in our lives.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Written by Chrissanne Long | October 11, 2017

Share Your Message with the World

I called my mom to catch up this weekend, and we enjoyed a quick, but powerful conversation that led me to want to be bolder with my writing. I heard her telling me she was proud of me. And I also heard the voice in my head.

Ordinarily, when someone offers me a compliment, I deflect. But when my mother says something complimentary, the voice screams: She’s your mom — she has to say these things! But this time, I fought back that instinct and I listened to her. She wasn’t blindly giving me a compliment, saying things that moms were supposed to say.

This time, the message I heard was one that suggested maybe, just maybe, I might be teaching my mother something.

I felt a subtle change: This changes everything. Could it be that I am inspiring her?

Not because my mom knows everything. She’s the most loving, humble, kind person anyone can ever meet.

No, this was about me being in a different place. A place I cannot recall ever being before. In all of the experiences I have ever had, I don’t recall being in a position to teach my mom anything. I am sure I have shown her how to do something, but that’s a different thing completely.

No, this was a conversation in which I might be guiding her to become a writer. Even though, she is the one who taught me to write. She is the one who gave me the the gift to express myself with words. She’s been writing a book for as long as I can remember. Her experiences in Cuba, her life as a daughter, wife, mother, divorcee, teacher, student. But on the phone this day, she was exploring the possibilities of blogging, writing regularly, sharing her story, following my example?!

When you think about the story you are writing (through the life you are living), and you realize that you are in a position to shift the roles, to trade places with the person who has been written into the script to be your teacher, it’s a moment you might not be ready for. But, the truth is, if you’re hiding from yourself, you might never be ready.

But, here’s the scary part. I think I might be ready. I might be ready to turn “Pro” and that means I can no longer choose to be silent. I can no longer believe I am not enough. Because, as a leader, that can’t be the position you take. You cannot be a leader, and at the same time, fearful of whether you are capable of leading. You just have to take what you have, your skills, your abilities, your faith.

And step into the role, and lead.

After our call, it occurred to me that I am following Steven Pressfield’s advice again, and I am “Turning Pro,” Turning Pro is my latest discovery, and the message is as powerful as The War of Art – except this time, I was prepared for Pressfield’s uncanny ability to use words to create emotion.

I was led to reading Turning Pro after reading Pressfield’s previous book, The War of Art — a book I wish everyone would read, but only when they are ready to take massive action. It’s a real kick in the ass, but you have to be ready for it.

When I read the book this summer, I was ready.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. 

Whenever you’re ready, the opportunity to lead will await you. 

I shared with my mom that I believe it’s time for love, kindness and light to have a voice. And she turned that statement on me, in her subtle, kind and loving way — I heard my mother say, “You’re already doing that with your voice, Peanut. And it’s so needed. I am learning from you.”

“I don’t have any power to change anything,” was my immediate response.

But then, I reflected…

This is the voice of my amateur self. I believe this is the biggest enemy today. The enemy of our own self-doubt. The belief that what we have to say isn’t important, or won’t make a difference, is part of the process, but it is holding too many of us back.

Saying that we have no power to change anything, no matter whether it’s true or not — won’t get us anywhere.

We have to decide that we will Turn Pro. And, as Pressfield suggests, it will be messy; it won’t be perfect. It will not be easy. It will, however allow us to become the person we were meant to be.

The person we’ve been rejecting. Until. Until we refuse to remain silent. Until we begin to use our voices —  and our light to make a stand for whatever we believe in.

The enemy is not fighting us. We are fighting ourselves. We are choosing to stay quiet. And, as long as we allow the enemy to win, we will give away our power. We will remain amateurs.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

What Lies Beneath by Chrissanne Long

And other Hidden Secrets

The surface. What does it tell you about a structure? For example, the axiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” suggests that what’s inside matters more than what is on the outside.

And yet.

We spend most of the time we share with others avoiding depth.

I had a conversation with a dear dear friend the other day. It was safe, so we shared deep. We were talking about a change we want to see in the community, and in that dialogue, she said, “We won’t go this deep in the discussion, but we can talk about it on the surface levels.” I nodded in agreement, and yet, my deeper self asked “Why?”

The Case Against Depth

I get it, we can’t engage 100% of the time with 100% of the people on a deeper level. Because…. that would make people uncomfortable. Right? Could we maybe try for 1% to start?

Yes, we’re all uncomfortable about being put in uncomfortable situations, we avoid them…. but eventually,

It all comes to the surface. 

I have been plagued by this challenge for as long as I can remember. I know, it’s idealistic, not everyone wants to be honest, up front, direct. That’s not how it’s done in this world, Chrissanne. Come back to reality. 

But isn’t that what seems to be the biggest problem we’re dealing with today? We crave leaders that we can trust, but we won’t tell them we disagree with them, until it is something we feel personally about, and we still want objectivity, neutrality, justice, fairness, impartiality — unless it’s our personal agenda?

Special Agendas Abound.

This is NOT a political post, but I understand that it spills into that arena, and this challenges our safe zones. We want to be protected by our right to our opinion, and yet, we only share that opinion when something violates our own personal beliefs, and not sharing it means we’re not standing up for something we feel strongly about. Why do we need to feel strongly about what’s right? Isn’t that worth standing up for? Simply because it’s the right thing to do?

Step into my Utopian “pretend” world and imagine (just for a minute — you can go back to the other way in just a second). What challenges wouldn’t we be dealing with if we were able to be direct and straightforward about what lies beneath, instead of chatting about the weather, or how the Bucs are doing this season, and what the chances are of the Cubs going back to back again in the World Series this year?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that all we talk about is the deeper stuff, I am just suggesting that we stop avoiding it. 

We need to fix the economy, education, social unrest, prejudice, inequality, violence, mental illness, terrorism.

This isn’t something our “elected officials” can do on their own.

This isn’t just the responsibility of a chosen few.

This requires that we start leaning in. Having real conversations at the dinner table — heck are we even having dinner at the dinner table enough anymore? No worries, if there’s not a dinner table in your life today, but let’s just start talking — and listening. Maybe more listening first.

When is the last time you reached out to someone who disagrees with you and asked them to share their position? What brings them to this place? What makes them believe what they believe? It’s not about changing your mind. It’s about understanding theirs.

And, if we offer this beautiful gift to those in our circles, maybe we can ignite that in their circles. And eventually, we’re having conversations about the things that matter. Ripples, ya know?!

Aw, come on that’s such a buzz kill, Chrissanne. 

Yes, this isn’t fun. It’s not easy. It’s not even realistic at this point, but hey, this is my post, and I was dreaming for a minute.

I read a post today about a fellow altMBA alumnus being an Impresario, in which someone pointed out that his gift at connecting people is who he is. I related with this so much, and realized that we have to give ourselves permission to reach beyond the limitations of what we perceive we’re “supposed to do” and stop waiting to be invited. We have to invite ourselves. And, that is precisely why I am writing this post today.

It’s risky. You might not like it. You might not agree. But that isn’t what matters most. Today, I am acknowledging that what lies beneath the surface of the conversations is what matters the most.

So, what now?

Here’s a simple (not so simple) challenge — in the next 24 hours, talk to someone about something — anything uncomfortable. Don’t skirt away from the conversation, just this once. It might not work — but, then again….

100 Years ago, the back office called the shots, and everyone did what they were told. There were no other options. Cutting costs was the order of the day. “Only the strong survive,” and “Nice guys finish last,” were the tenets on which businesses were built. It was a dog eat dog world, and the only way to win was a race with rats.

Corrupt corporations were protected. They were untouchable. The rules didn’t apply to them.

After someone screwed their pal over to make a deal, it made sense to say, “Hey no hard feelings, buddy. It’s not personal, it’s business, you know?” “Yeah, buddy, no hard feelings.”

The 4 Pillars of the 20th Century Business Model: Product, price, marketing and distribution were all that counted. Leaders were selected based on who had the most money.

The business with the right product, at the right price, with enough money for marketing and getting their product into the hands of their customers quickly won the day.

Profit equaled success — and power.

Today, the new landscape brings considerations to the conversation that mean that even if the 4 pillars exist, success and power might not follow.

Today, the public demands something more. Transparency, authenticity, accessibility and honesty.

The marketplace has opened itself up to you, to me, to anyone who wants to put their skin in the game, and do the work — the emotional work that our culture has begun to expect.

To bypass these opportunities is absolutely a choice. But, as opposed to the past, today, it is a choice. We are no longer relegated to the back room, forced to play a lesser role, or wait to be picked.

If we choose to, we can hold back, we have that right. Just as we have the right to lean in, and contribute to bringing the playing field to another level. If we choose to, we can stay silent, we have that right as well. Just as we have the right to share our ideas, add value to the world, and shine our light in the world.

We’re still playing the game with antiquated rules. The world is no longer “according to Hoyle.”

It is 100% absolutely according to us. Isn’t it time we exercised our options?

But, if we make that choice, if we want to share our voice, if we exercise our options, we also have to be willing to do the emotional labor that comes with success. In some ways, it’s harder but, it is a lot more accessible for people like us, as long as we’re ready to put some skin in the game.

I was leaving a leadership retreat this morning. I was in unfamiliar territory, and uncertain about my directions. (Shout out Leadership Polk – BCE!)

Being uncertain about my directions is nothing new to me. Navigation is not my strong suit. And, thankfully I live in a time where technology makes this weakness less of a liability than it was prior to GPS and smart phones.

However, for some reason, this morning, my phone signal was not connecting to the network, and I was on my own. I assumed it would be a temporary glitch, and would automatically self-correct. I just needed to make the initial decisions to avoid wasting too much time, once the voice stopped saying “GPS Signal Lost.”

I realized on this trip something that I felt was worth fleshing out in a little bit more detail today for my post that I thought might resonate with you. Here’s what I started to think about while I waited for the guiding voice to return:

Life is much like our GPS devices. We’re tuned into the signal, connected and sure about the voyage we are on. When we’re “on,” we have no doubts about our travels — we know where we’re going and we know how to get there.

But sometimes, the signal gets lost.

And our decisions require a little more intentional thought to get us “Somewhere more familiar,” so that we can continue our journey without wasting too much time.

When the GPS wasn’t calibrated, I had to rely on myself. I had to think a little more. And, after a few moments of “winging it,” I started to realize how little I had paid attention to the landmarks on my way. Luckily, I didn’t get lost (this time), and before too long, the familiar voice of the GPS navigation started to help me feel more confident about my directions. But there was definite uncertainty about where I was going, until her voice was there to reassure me.

This made me think about how similar this experience is to life, in general. When we’re confident about the path, sure of the direction we’re heading, are we paying attention to the little things — the smile of a stranger, or the innocent question of a child? When we’re driven (no pun intended) by our confidence that we have it all figured out, and we’re in our own element, it seems we start to tune out the periphery — all of the important details for us to truly comprehend the world from all angles.

When we are vulnerable (aka “lost”), we are forced to pay closer attention to the details.

So, this led me to the question — “Is our dependence on the familiar route limiting us somehow?”

And, if so, what actions do we need to take to make sure that this dependence doesn’t numb us to the world around us? If we stop paying attention to our surroundings, how will we be able to continue to grow, and build on our knowledge?

It takes confidence and experience to be able to make good decisions. If we’re not equipped to make those decisions without a computerized voice telling us to turn left in 500 feet, what else are we giving away when we give away this power?

And, what else are we missing along the way? Should we get lost more often?

The human brain is designed to protect us. This instinct is what drives us away from dangerous situations, and toward those circumstances that we understand and which provide us with comfort and satisfaction. Our belief that we will be safe, or comfortable allows us to proceed with behaviors that will maintain our safety, and drives us to avoid things for which we cannot control, predict or feel optimistic about.

Why does fear exist?

Fear only exists when whatever we’re afraid of hasn’t happened yet. We convince ourselves that it’s better to spend our energy worrying about the outcome of something than it would be to take the risk of whatever action we’re considering — and fail.

So, when we’re faced with a fear of an outcome, we withdraw.

Our brain is telling us that this is not a safe space to be, we don’t have control of the outcome, and, when we can’t feel good about the predictability of the outcome, we lose optimism about it’s likelihood to work out the way we’re hoping. And, we base our decisions on this fear to act, change, move, pivot, take on a new challenge because we cannot comfortably answer the question “What if?” in a way that will satisfy our need to be safe.

A New Approach?

Today, I was offered a new way to consider how I approach decisions that require something to change. A new job, or opportunity, or an internal, organizational change that will be adopted within an organization. The usual way we tend to approach big decisions is by creating a pros and cons list. We list the reasons we should make a decision, and the risks associated with making that decision, that we shouldn’t make the decision. We’re allowing the FEAR to be the force that drives our decisions, and that creates negative energy, which will lead us to make the safe decision. After all, if the pros don’t weigh strongly enough, we won’t do anything, right?

What if we take the fear and turn it into a positive force instead?

The new approach would require that we look at the decision from a different perspective. What will I regret not having done at some future date? In other words, If I don’t make this decision, what will I regret not getting an opportunity to do?

When I was a Junior in college, I had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica for a summer abroad program through Florida State University. It was a way for me to take some extra courses, strengthen my Spanish, and enjoy a six week long adventure. While I was there, we had weekend excursions that provided us opportunities to explore Costa Rica and see the various points of interest throughout the country. One of those excursions was a weekend of White Water Rafting on the Pacuare River.

This was my first experience doing anything as adrenaline-pumping and I was instantly hooked! During that experience, I met Gaby, a guide that was on the trip with us. I was working on practicing my Spanish, so I spent these trips chatting with the local guides and employees that we met along the way. I asked Gaby about how she became a guide, learned about the process, and as we talked, I was intrigued about her life, and how much fun it would be to do what she did every day. At one point, she looked at me and said, “Chrissanne, tienes que ser guia! (Chrissanne, you need to be a guide!) It was a preposterous suggestion — completely irrational, impossible — or was it?

The statement gnawed at me for an entire week, and instead of traveling with the students on the following weekend’s excursion, I opted to take another trip down the river with some friends. After this trip, I had decided — I was going to do it! And, I ended up staying in Costa Rica, living and working as a guide, for an entire year.

Stay or Go?

In retrospect, I realize how incredible that decision was and how much it impacted me, shaped my life and created an opportunity for me to find myself in a country far from home, with only the resources I had, and no help from my family. This was completely me — on my own — growing up. Discovering resilience, strength and grit that I didn’t know I had. If I had not made this decision, I am convinced that I would not be the person I am today. But the decision was riddled with risk. Where would I live? How would I get around? How would I survive, while I trained, and received no compensation? What about college?

All of these fears were legitimate, and I had no answers, but everything was figureoutable — and I figured them all out.

I had received some money from my grandmother that would allow me to live comfortably during that time; I found a room to rent, I made money as the transit guide that picked up the rafting guests from their hotels and accompanied them on the bus ride to the river; instead of graduating in 4 years from FSU, I took 5 years.

When I am faced with decisions today, there are a lot more layers to consider — 21 and 42 are very different places in one’s life journey — but the lesson remains — What would I have missed in my life, who would I have been, (or not been) as a result of that decision?

I believe this renewed lens might be helpful to consider again, and often.

Instead of a fear of failure, what if we focused our energy on a fear of regret? What will be missing if we don’t make this decision? How will be grow, learn, adapt, adjust, if we don’t take this step today? And, 5 years from now, will this decision be permanent?

Nothing in our lives is permanent. Everything is fluid, can be re-visited and tweaked. But we look at everything as if it is immovable. Stuck, unchangeable. I suggest that a shift in mindset is in order. If you don’t make this decision toward change, will you still be right where you are five, or ten years from now? Will you miss an opportunity to learn a new way, or maybe discover a way that isn’t a good fit. Can you come back here later, if the decision doesn’t work out for your organization?

Is this decision really permanent? Or is just your mindset that makes you think that the fear of the risk of failure is more powerful than the reward that may exist on the other side?


We all know what a perfect day looks like, right? When everything goes exactly the way you planned, when all the details fall into place, and when you are able to communicate exactly what you meant to say, without a single misunderstanding. No one says something ridiculous, you don’t get your feelings hurt, you get everything you wanted, exactly the way you wanted them. Ah, the satisfaction that comes with perfection!

Wait, What? You’ve never had a perfect day? How is that possible? You’ve been practicing perfection for 15,466 days! How in the world haven’t you managed to figure this out yet?

At this point in my life, I have accepted that perfection isn’t the point. We’re not racing to figure out how to be perfect. We’re racing to figure out how to live a life of meaning. And, if that’s not what we’re here for, I am afraid we might discover a disappointing result.

Measuring Meaning — I Should Have Been an Amazing Mom

We all have a different way to measure meaning. And, it likely will shift as we grow older. When I was first navigating the world of #adulting, I thought my purpose was to be a mother. I wanted 6 kids. I wanted to have play dates, and snuggles on the couch. Perfection was a happy marriage with doe-eyed cherubs, and the feeling of little sweaty hands reaching out to me for one more bed time story.

But that wasn’t in God’s plan. And it took me many many years to come to terms with the path that my life was going to take. Whether or not I was a willing participant. Much like the path of a hurricane. We can try and prepare for what we want to happen, but we’re not in control of what will actually happen. And, that’s the hardest lesson of all. Please don’t worry about me today. That dark period is well behind me. But it didn’t happen on its own. And, today, I choose to be happy, content and completely accepting of the path that God has chosen for me.


But it wasn’t always like that. It took what seemed like an eternity to come to terms with the GPS signal that I kept trying to re-route.

No, I thrashed, and fought and cried foul. Raging against my misfortune, my guilt, my shame, my loneliness. I chose to let my failure to conceive define me.

Perfection is a Myth

Until I let go.

And that is when I realized that perfection was a myth, and the world I lived in was going to go on with or without me. I could stop playing the victim, and letting depression suck the purpose out of me, or…. I could rise.

I had that choice — I still have that choice. Every day, I make that choice. You have that choice too. But the choice to make a difference is one that requires work, sacrifice, and accepting that you might be called in a different direction than the one you’re pining away for. Sometimes, it is just easier to hate. You can hate for so many reasons. And they are all legitimate reasons. We can justify our pain, and we can always find someone who will let us feel sorry for ourselves.

Get off the Roller Coaster!

The roller coaster ride that describes my life before I let go of my desire to control it wasn’t one I was proud to claim as “My Life.” But the person I am today, is. And, the nugget out of that mess was that I found something to live for. I stopped blaming and started loving — myself first, and then you. I love because it’s a gift I have been given by those around me, but like their love, my love isn’t perfect. I get my feelings hurt — more often than I would like. But the sensitive, wounded heart that felt so bitter when I was in my 20’s warmly admires the woman I discovered I was capable of being in my 30’s.

And, when I started to see the Nugget in each day, each day became a little brighter, and my focus on MY way, turned to a focus on letting my life be what it was designed to be. If there’s a lesson in all of that turmoil, I know my path is to help others out of that place, and to see what greatness exists in the world.

Those who don’t know me, might think I am crazy. Might think I have no handle on reality. Might even judge my idealism. But that, is not my concern. Today, my concern is the person I see in the mirror. And that woman, makes me cry tears of joy, instead of tears of shame.

Finding your Nugget

And, every day I rise, I am blessed with the nugget that I have the strength and the fortitude to carry whatever burden I am given, and choose to move forward. What is the nugget in your day? If you’re stuck in the darkness, I understand. But I am not here to shame you for your pain. I only wish to encourage you to start looking for that one thing that will help you get beyond it. And, once you have, let that be your nugget.

PS: There is ALWAYS a Nugget, as long as there is a desire to see it.