Author Archives: Marie Bankuti

Insanely Courageous

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
                                                      ~Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

Have you seen the movie, We Bought a Zoo?  I haven’t, but I sure like that quote.

Insane courage.

That force that moves you to do something when everything practical and protective inside you screams, “No, don’t do that!”

It was present in the moment I quit my job to work for myself, walking away from a decades-long career.

It was with me when I asked my first paying client for my full hourly rate.

It was what got me through my hesitation to submit my first speaking proposal for an audience of over 200 people.

And it was in the lump I swallowed when I let a guy at work know I was interested in exploring a connection. 

Now, it may seem to you that those situations don’t require insane courage. Nor any measure of courage at all, for that matter. Honestly, right now it feels that way to me too.

But I sure remember what it felt like in the moment, when I was about to speak those words and hit that send button.
Rapid heartbeat, fear, insecurity, second guessing, vulnerability. They were all present as well.

Why did I do it then?  Because, like Benjamin Mee, I believe when we suspend our fears and move forward courageously, even for a quick moment, “something great will come of it”. Busting through comfort zones allows us to see and experience more of what’s possible.

That’s not to say that moments like these turn out to be momentous happenings. Sometimes we don’t even obtain what we originally hoped for. Does that matter, though, if growth happens?

When situations don’t quite work out, what if we saw them as a chance to recalibrate, rather than as a failure? What if we celebrated our ability to ignore and overcome the little voice inside that says, “You can’t do that, you’re not _______ enough.”?

Those 20 seconds of courage can be life changing. They were for me.

What are you keeping yourself from saying or doing? 

You know, that dream you’ve neatly tucked away in the corner of your heart for someday, or that impulse you’ve locked into the recesses of your brain.  Yes, that!

If you’re tired of saying “someday”, try answering these questions with brutal honesty:

  • When have you been insanely courageous? Mildly courageous? A teensy bit?
  • What did it feel like before acting? 
  • What made you do it?
  • How did you feel afterwards? 
  • Were you successful or were you offered an opportunity to recalibrate? 
  • Successful or not, what did you learn about yourself? What are you proud of?
  • What’s the courageous action you need/want to take now?
  • What’s important about that?  What’s your why?
  • How will you feel once it’s done?  (Visualize it!)
  • What’s standing in your way?  Is it REALLY standing in your way?

Then ask yourself… What is the worst thing that could happen if you trusted yourself and boldly stepped forward?  No kidding, what’s the very worst thing? Would avoiding that worst thing really be worth sacrificing your vision?  (By the way, if it isn’t obvious by now, I didn’t die when a couple of those situations didn’t work out exactly the way I’d planned.)

Then take a deeeeeep breath and go for it…

…hit send, dial that number, say I love you, voice your idea, ask for what you need, buy a zoo!

Something great just may come of it.

Share your story! If you need extra motivation, I’m a great cheerleader.
If you made it happen, let me celebrate with you!

The Other Side of the Arc

Can you feel it?

Do you get the sense that we’ve made it over the arc of the pandemic?
Over the past 2+ months, virtually the whole world has shared a devastating experience, almost in unison. Like a mountain range that rises and falls with each peak, countries around the globe have reluctantly taken their turn at scaling the abrupt incline, reaching the apex, surveying the land, and then beginning the descent into what lies below.  Some are descending more slowly and deliberately than others.
My assumption is that each of us has moved through the experience of novelty, confusion, disbelief, fear, frustration, and yearning.
Many have continued on to connecting, assessing, acclimating, normalizing, and re-grounding.
Some have added resistance and defiance to their journey. Some are suffering, others are thriving.
Regardless of where each person is, individually, it feels as though, collectively, we’re finally on the downward slope.
It’s feels like the time is right to begin dreaming, hoping, planning, emerging, and acting.
And as we continue to move through these coming days and weeks, I’m hopeful we’ve learned a few things. I hope we’ve been able to break through the fog of indifference and can begin to see our world with more clarity… locally and globally.
We’re realizing how greatly we lean on and take advantage of those who keep us healthy, safe, and supplied, along with those who care for and educate our children. We’re learning how race and class unfairly determine who carries most of the burden and that healthcare shouldn’t be tied to employment. It’s becoming clear how much excess consumerism consumes us, and about the opportunistic nature of far too many.  We’re awakening to those we have completely left behind.
If we’re paying attention, we can learn from how nature magically heals herself when given the chance. Smog is lifting and skies are bluer. Birds are celebrating and singing louder. Many are reaping the rewards of families spending more quality time together. Folks are cooking more and eating healthier… together. Hobbies are being explored, closets are getting organized, and the most vulnerable are being supported. 
It’s been said, things can’t and won’t return to the way they were when this new year dawned. That, I believe. What I also believe is that we are at a crossroads together, with an abundance of options in front of each of us. Some that affect us personally, and others that impact our local and global communities. I know we humans are capable of discerning what’s important enough to take forward, as well as what is wise to leave behind. 

I want to believe that we’ll internalize what’s been revealed to us, right the wrongs and amplify the good. 
We have a unique opportunity to reset our collective compass. Will we choose to recreate our world with the wisdom we’ve gained, and then sustain our efforts when it gets difficult?
We’ll find out soon enough.  
  “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
               Closing Time, Semisonic

Feelings. Obviously.

Let me state the obvious. Feelings are complicated. And there are a lot of feelings being felt right now.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 13 years as a coach, it’s that everyone responds to circumstances differently. Even when everything seems the same on the outside, the way we internalize, process, and respond to our experiences can be vastly different.

What may not be so obvious is that feelings aren’t linear. They don’t have a specific path or template to follow. They usually aren’t single threaded, and they can easily change from moment to moment. They can sneak up on us so slowly that they’re hardly even noticed, or completely catch us by surprise, or anything in between. They can make us want to run and escape or stay and luxuriate. Sometimes we can feel as though we’ve got them “under control”, while other times we’re uncontrollably joyous or inconsolable.

It’s taken me some time to put my finger on what I’ve been feeling during this outbreak of COVID 19. Being a natural problem solver without a specific problem to solve and no way to plan, I’m out of my realm. My feelings have shifted and morphed over the past five weeks. In the beginning I was curious, not yet understanding the full gravity of the situation. That turned into pride and a sense of purpose and community, being able to unite and contribute to the solution by isolating. Then frustration set in and my heart longed to hold my new grandson and hug my daughter who just gave birth for the first time on March 25th. All the while, I’ve felt unfocused and adrift, kind of foggy with this sense of swirling. And it can feel lonely sometimes.

Let me ask you… what are you feeling right now?

Are you stressed because you’re quarantined with a big family and can’t find a moment to yourself? Are you lonely, on your own and missing human touch and conversation? Maybe you’re busier than ever with virtual work and home schooling and you have no clue what you’re feeling. Maybe you’re relieved to slow down and step away from the fullness of your world. Or just maybe you’re one of the brave folks on the front lines, protecting and serving the rest of us, feeling proud or scared. Probably both.

Are you feeling angry, sad, scared, tense, excited, anxious, curious, lethargic, confused, frustrated, grateful, grief, ungrounded, impatient, disconnected, overwhelmed, pressured, contented, mentally or emotionally exhausted?

I’ll bet your answer is yes… to any number of those feelings at different times, maybe multiple times a day. Sometimes several at once. Right?

Well first, that is a good thing… it means you’re still alive and fully human. Thank goodness!

No one ever issued us a rule book on what to feel and how to respond to a worldwide pandemic (or maybe they did, and I just missed it?). There is no right or wrong way to feel through something like this. So be kind and gentle. Give yourself and others a little grace.

Without that rule book, it’s taken a bit for me to gain clarity about what I have to offer, how I could support my community, and what form that could take.

Now that we’ve sort of settled into our new routines and we know we’re probably in this for the long haul, I’d like to offer a free, virtual place to gather weekly. It’s an opportunity to connect with others and create community. Come share how you’re coping, exchange ideas, give and receive support, set intentions, laugh, cry… it’s all welcome. Join us just once or every week, male or female, older or younger, wherever you are in the world. You’re all welcome!

Each week we’ll have a new topic or question to explore. We’ll keep it positive and inspirational. Don’t feel as though you need to come with anything brilliant to say. It’s simply a conversation, an exploration. Come and just listen in if you like.

Space will be limited to keep the conversation manageable and the calls will go on into the future for as long as there’s interest.

We’ll meet weekly via Zoom on Thursdays 12:00-12:50pm Eastern time

Email me at to let me know you’re coming and I’ll send you the link to attend.  I hope to see you there. Yes, you!

One last thing… if you’re feeling as though you’d like a more personal one-off conversation, I invite you to schedule a free (no obligation, no sales pitch) coaching session with me HERE.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Coming Together While Staying Apart

I’ve noticed something in the last few days.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, mishandling and politicization, cancellations and grocery store runs, social distancing and efforts to flatten the curve… there’s something else happening. Have you noticed?

It feels a little bit like what happened after 911, or the marathon bombing, or countless other catastrophes here and elsewhere in the world. It’s the way in which we come together as humans to support one another in times of great disruption.

From challenge comes barrier busting, community building, creativity and resourcefulness. We see and experience it every day, if we’re paying attention.

My sense, and my hope, is that this current global effort is going to continue to expand, bring us together and have a transformative effect on each of us. In my opinion, in this time of retractive nationalism, it’s what’s needed most.

We’re right in the thick of it. And we get to choose how we perceive, internalize, approach and use this unique time alone… together.

Many people are understandably shaken and rightfully concerned about taking care of self and loved ones, especially those more vulnerable.

Thankfully, some are stepping up and looking for ways to be of service to others.

There are some who are making lemonade from lemons, as they say. They’re innovating, coming together in unique and heartfelt ways. They’re collaborating to offer creative solutions to making the stay at home more tolerable. Perhaps, even enjoyable.

They are sensing what’s needed and taking the lead to satisfy that need.

Some are filling empty streets with song, like this neighborhood in Italy.

Museums are providing virtual tours. Music makers are offering live streaming programs.

Non-profits are rallying to offer financial relief for those hit hardest.

Grownups are hosting virtual cocktail parties and children are enjoying virtual play dates.

People of all ages are exploring the outdoors together (6 feet apart, of course!).

Video conferencing providers are offering their services for free.

Companies are educating and supporting corporate leaders with options for leading in hard times

All sorts of reminders are popping up on social media encouraging us to stay connected and to help one another in the ways we’re able.

For all these people, organizations and so many others… I am grateful.

Be prudent, be safe, be kind.

Your turn… Let’s share ideas and keep the list growing!

     How are you spending your time in pseudo or full-on quarantine?

     What other creative, charitable or fun ideas have you heard about?

Are You a Possibilitarian?

The other day, an email showed up in my inbox with a quote that got my attention…

Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.” 

~Norman Vincent Peale It got me thinking.

Being smack dab in the middle of launching a new direction for my coaching practice, I’ve been noodling on ways to communicate my “brand”; words or phrases that describe who I am, what I’m known for, and what I bring to my clients.

And there it was… “possibilitarian”. What a fantastic word!

It’s a word that WORD doesn’t like, complaining as it does, and underlining it in red. But I LOVE made up words that perfectly express concepts, things or actions, for which we have no words in the English language. 

Possibilitarian. You know exactly what it’s trying to convey.

For me the word is, at once, a confirmation and a calling forth.

It describes how I experience and interact with the world. Confirmation that anything and everything is possible, as long as I point my intention and action towards it. 

It also calls to me, to claim it and to step into that way of being even more so. To live it more deeply, more widely, more loudly… to inspire others to become possibilitarians too! 

So, if you aren’t one already (and I know there are some of you out there), take a moment to imagine yourself as a possibilitarian.
What would that look like? 

How would it show up in your life?

What might be possible that you previously thought was impossible, or too hard, or too complicated, or too expensive, or too ___________? 

What would you choose to pursue as a possibilitarian that your non-possibilitarian self won’t let you dream about or make happen?

Can you let yourself go there? Join me in saying “BAH HUMBUG” to the self-limiting roadblocks we place in our very own paths (yes, I can do it sometimes too).

I challenge you to put on the possibilitarian “suit” tomorrow as you prepare for the day!

Notice what happens when you catch yourself saying, “No, I can’t.” or “That won’t work.” or “No way!”, and instead say to yourself, “What if it IS possible?” or “What if I COULD actually do this?”.

And then I want to hear from you

What would you do? Who would you be? What could you conquer? …if you believed it was possible?

Well, even if YOU don’t yet believe… I believe in your possibilities.

And I’m happy to explore them with you… just ask!

Comfort Zones Be Damned

I’m someone who’s been known for taking a risk and reinventing herself… more than once, actually.

And, well, I’m at it again!

There comes a time when you say to yourself, “It’s been a good ride, and it’s time for something new!” (At least as a Gemini, that’s what you say.)

After a long career in IT, I’m now in my 13th year as a Coach, Trainer and Speaker. When I left the corporate world, it was to become a Life Coach. I wanted to do something that mattered more deeply to me and really had an impact on people’s lives.

When you start your own business and you’re the one paying the bills, it’s not always easy to say no to certain types of work that comes your way. And when you find success going in a slightly different direction than you’d planned, you go with the flow.

Which brought me to years of very rewarding leadership and team coaching. I like to believe I made a difference for those leaders and teams that I touched.

Subsequently, I added working with foreign-born professionals, multicultural teams and their leaders to my repertoire. Also, very rewarding and, hopefully, I’ve opened eyes and eased the way for those challenged by working in cross-cultural environments.

Most recently, I’ve focused on the important work of assisting individuals in career transition, whether by choice or (mostly) not. This work is so fulfilling, and I feel honored to help folks get back on their feet after the rug has been pulled out from under them.

No matter the type of coaching, I’ve always fallen in love with my clients. It’s just what happens when you have meaningful, personal conversations, walking through aspirations, challenges and triumphs together. I’ll continue to work in some of these areas going forward.

So, what am I up to now, you ask? I’ve come full circle, taking on a challenge that’s both old and new.

I am now taking my Life Coaching up a notch!  

In the coming weeks, I’ll share more about what that means. I hope I’ve sparked your curiosity enough to entice you to spend a little time with me on this journey. And if not, no worries, there’s always the unsubscribe link. Changes are coming to my newsletter, my website, my offerings and my events. They aren’t quite ready yet, and I can’t wait to share them with you very soon! In the meantime, check out my upcoming events

Edited 5/10/20

Got CQ?

Most people these days are familiar with Emotional Intelligence or EQ (the ability to recognize our own emotions and those of others to guide thinking and behavior) and Social Intelligence or SQ (the ability to form rewarding relationships and manage complex social change). But what about Cultural Intelligence?

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is defined as “The capability to function effectively across various cultural contexts; national, ethnic, organizational, generational, etc.” (Handbook of Cultural Intelligence: Theory, Measurement, and Applications)

So, what’s the big deal about CQ? Is it just a fad… another “Q” to add to the alphabet soup of how we assess and rate capabilities in the corporate world?

The truth is, CQ builds upon EQ and SQ, and allows us to successfully read and navigate different cultural environments. Your ability to do that well can be the key to attracting new opportunities, earning higher wages, thriving (vs. floundering) in an intercultural environment, and simply being more successful in our diverse, globalized world.

According to the International Labor Union and Economist Intelligence Unit, 70% of all international ventures fail due to cultural differences, including expats living abroad, mergers, outposts, and virtual teams. And 90% of leading executives from 68 countries have cited multicultural leadership as their top management challenge.

Their TOP management challenge! What if YOU could help them solve that problem? What if becoming a “Culturally Intelligent Professional” became your brand?

Our world has changed. Corporate USA doesn’t look like it did 20 or 30 years ago… or even 10 years ago! And it’s going to continue to change. The research also shows that 49% of kids 5 years old and under in the US today are children of color, and there are 1 million university students in study-abroad programs.

But hold on… CQ isn’t just greater awareness and a set of skills that come in handy when working abroad or with a team of people from different countries at home. It also refers to the cultural differences that occur within an organization (Accounting vs. Marketing), within regions of the country (San Francisco vs. the Mid-West), gender differences, generational difference, religious preferences, and on and on.

The good news is… CQ is something that can be learned and developed!

There are Four Capabilities of Cultural Intelligence, as defined by the Cultural Intelligence Center:

  • CQ Drive – This is the level of internal and external motivation you have around learning and adapting to multicultural situations. It speaks to your levels of curiosity and interest to learn, as well as your confidence entering into unfamiliar situations and interacting with various types of people.
  • CQ Knowledge – This addresses your understanding about different cultures. Do you know how they’re similar and how they differ? There’s a lot of information out there to research, read and study. But, it’s a mistake to think that just having the knowledge is enough!
  • CQ Strategy – How much thought do you give ahead of time to how you’ll approach multicultural interactions? Do you think about how you might have a difficult conversation with someone, based on knowing a bit about their cultural values, for example? This capability is about your awareness, your intention, your planning for how to approach others who might have another perspective than your own. It’s also about your level of discernment about when and how to adapt.
  • CQ Action – Putting it all into action. None of this understanding matters if you can’t actually relate to others, work well together, and adapt interculturally.

CQ is even more impactful when integrated along with great leadership skills. And that’s a whole other newsletter topic!

Where to begin to develop your CQ?

  • Plan a conversation with someone from a different background than you in the next week
  • Read a foreign-based novel; notice the underlying values that inform their interactions
  • Have your own Cultural Intelligence Assessment done and work with a coach (I know a good one!)
  • Have your team’s Cultural Values mapped out and shine a light on frequent conflict areas

Common sense and social agility can take us only so far. When stress, conflict and tight deadlines rear their ugly heads, and individuals default to their own deeply held cultural values, beliefs and habits… being unable to navigate and bridge those differences can be the kiss of death to a project or larger initiative.

Shared Experiences: Olga Ievtushenko

Meet Olga Ievtushenko, an Innovation Manager at Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tennessee!

Olga, originally from Ukraine, came to the U.S. in August of 2008 to earn her PhD in Textile Technology Management in Raleigh, North Carolina.

When I asked her what her favorite things are about being in the U.S., she gave me a whole list of what she considers to be real benefits!  Diversity, limited corruption, political stability (having come from a place “rife with economic and political corruption”), patriotism, efficient infrastructure, possibilities and higher wages, national parks, a safe and child-friendly environment.

Sales tax was the most confusing/surprising to me. And it still is. I am from a country where the price tag reflects the final price.”  You’re not alone, Olga. Taxes confuse all of us!

While “overcoming foreign accent barrier and my fear of speaking in English in a group” has been the most challenging, she also believes “it is generally easy to adjust to U.S. society and people.”

What she’s come to believe?  “Hard work, determination, and initiative make it possible to achieve success and prosperity. U.S. is the country of opportunities. American dream is real.”  I agree with you there, Olga!

Find out more about Olga!

Happy Birthday! Boldog születésnapot! Bon anniversaire! जन्मदिन की शुभकामनाएं

Ever wonder how folks around the world celebrate birthdays?  As I approached my own recent birthday, I wondered.

So, I did a little poking around, learned about some fun traditions, and thought of some ways for you to incorporate them at home and at work (see ideas below).

These are only a few of the many types of celebrations. Some are more traditional, some observed more widely than others, with each country, region and family celebrating in their own ways.

  • Argentina – Family members tug on earlobes of the birthday girl/boy’s, once for each year
  • Australia – Children eat “Fairy Bread” (white bread with butter and sugar candy sprinkles!)
  • Brazil – Large, extravagant affairs, elaborate desserts and sweets
  • Canada – Person is ambushed with butter/grease smeared on the noses to ward off bad luck
  • China – “Long Life Noodles” are eaten, long noodle slurps equal a long life
  • Denmark – Danish flag set outside to signal a birthday, presents placed around child’s bed for morning
  • Ecuador – Celebrate on day the saint they were named for was born, just a card on their birthday
  • Egypt – Celebrate with singing and dancing, flower and fruit decorations symbolize life and growth
  • Germany – Children don’t have to do homework or chores, adults buy drinks for friends
  • Ghana – Children are awoken with an “oto” breakfast (fried smashed yam, egg and onion patty)
  • Great Britain – Decorated cake with lighted candles to represent child’s age
  • Holland – “Crown Years” celebrated at age 5, 10, 15, 20, 21, kids enjoy lemonade and hot chocolate
  • Hungary – Saint’s “Name Day” celebrated, earlobe pulling while singing: “God bless you, live so long, so your ears reach your ankles”
  • India – Kids get to where new outfits on their special day
  • Ireland – “Bumping” the birthday child, adult holds child upside down and gently bumps head on floor, once for each year (ouch!)
  • Jamaica – Birthday person is “Antiqued” by throwing flour on them
  • Mexico – Candy-filled paper-mache figure (piñata) is whacked with a stick by a blindfolded birthday boy/girl until it bursts open for party guests
  • New Zealand – Children have “Fairy Bread” there too
  • Nigeria – Large feast and celebrations for years 1, 5, 10, 15
  • Norway – Parties with food, music, dancing and chocolate cake
  • Russia – Kids bring candy to school for classmates
  • USA – Decorated cake with candles and gifts
  • Vietnam – Everyone celebrates at New Year, called “Tet”, individual birthdays not typically celebrated

(Click here for more countries)

Ways to Incorporate Traditions at Home and Work:

  • Do you know someone who is originally from a different country than you’re from? Ask them about their cultural traditions for celebrating birthdays. Do they have a favorite story from their childhood?
  • Do you work on a multicultural team? Try a team building discussion about how each person celebrated their birthday as a child. What was a favorite birthday memory?
  • Try celebrating each person on the team’s birthday with a bit of their country’s tradition. Perhaps trying some new foods, treats or customs.
  • What’s YOUR lineage? Do you have older relatives you can explore traditions with?
  • How about learning and incorporating a new (old) tradition from your lineage into your family celebrations?

Have fun with it!  Let me know what you learned from your conversations. And do send pictures!

Shared Experiences: Subhashish Acharya

Subhashish Acharya (known as “Subs” to his friends) came to the U.S. from Kolkata, India eleven years ago. He lives in Lowell, Massachusetts, “right downtown, where the action is”. After working at Oracle for a decade, he recently joined PTC to manage the Strategic Alliances with HP globally for IoT.

“The thing I’ve enjoyed most is the people in the country.” Characterizing himself as “an explorer”, he explains further. “Americans are kind, straight-forward, very, very helpful, considerate, polite and friendly. I have been able to connect with them seamlessly. I have met exceptional people here. Am proud I have met them.”

Subs believes most Indians misunderstand the people in America. “Movies and pop culture shape us, but that is not a correct perception.”

Giving an example, he says “In India, a ‘no’ sometimes means ‘convince me’. So, most Indians try to convince a person to death in our communication. It is a complex activity which simply wastes time in communication. Most Americans, on the other hand, perceive ‘no’ as a ‘no’. It’s straightforward, simple and direct.”

Subs had several tips for those coming to the U.S. to live and work:

  • “Learn the American sarcasm. Try it. It’s amazing and intellectually humorous.”
  • “Meet people. Understand them. Go to the bar with them. Have a drink with them. Go with their family on treks, if needed. Learn to adapt.”
  • “Do not worry about your English. Americans are highly adaptable creatures. They totally know how to work around you and with you.”

One last thing. Subs and I met on a plane about six years ago or so, when he inquired about a book I was reading. During our conversation, he told me about the non-profit organization he founded here in the U.S., created to assist blind people in finding work. As the plane landed, we exchanged contact information and agreed to keep in touch. What I’ve come to know about Subs over the years is that he has a strong belief in giving back and making a difference. “You have to give back to the country. Make things better.” To date, Project Starfish has created jobs for over 300 blind people in the USA. Now, that’s making a difference!

Learn more about Subs and Project Starfish!