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Archive for April, 2009

The wallpaper on my computer displays a solid brick wall. I also have a miniature statue of a brick wall that sits in my office. In fact, during the past year or so I have even purchased and distributed tiny brick walls to friends and family.

This interest in brick walls came about after I saw The Last Lecture given by Randy Pausch. During his presentation, Pausch made numerous memorable comments; however, there was one comment that really inspired me:

Remember why the brick walls are there. They are not there to keep us out, they are there for a reason: to let us prove how badly we want something.”

Have you ever just been going along, loving life, being kind to your neighbors, supportive of your family, working hard, and achieving your goals when . . . all of a sudden . . . you glance up and see that right across your path, looming high and wide, stopping your progress, and blocking your future sits a massive brick wall?

You look around for a door to open, or a window to crawl through, or even a ladder to scale the wall, but there’s nothing. Just you, the wall, and your promising future (which stretches out, unseen, on the other side of the wall). Generally, our initial thoughts are, “You’ve got to be kidding me! Where did this come from? Why me?” (Picture Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan‘s emotional response after the thug clubbed her knee a month before the 1994 Olympic Winter Olympics. )

There are all types of brick walls. (And currently, in our country, it seems like brick walls are springing-up all over the place!) Maybe your wall is a job loss, or a frightening diagnoses, or a lack of funding, or an estranged family member, or a personal loss, or . . . you know, it doesn’t really matter what you name your brick wall. To you, it appears as an insurmountable obstacle, the Great Wall of China, the mother of all brick walls.

When you encounter a brick wall, don’t hesitate; take action! “What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it; boldness has genius, power and magic in it” [Johann von Goethe]. Muster your determination to discover a way to go around, go over, go through, or demolish the obstacle separating you from your destiny.

When I look at the symbols of the brick walls I have collected, I’m encouraged and inspired to keep going, forcing myself to prove how desperately I want to achieve. And yes, there are many times the wall looks too massive (especially when compared to my resources — which appear insignificant), and sometimes it feels like victory will never be mine. Have you ever felt that way? Next time, instead of quitting in despair or letting hopelessness still your efforts, consider this quote by Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

If you’re working on demolishing a brick wall, I encourage you to be diligent, remain resourceful, and keep a positive attitude. “The difficulties and struggles of today are but the price we must pay for the accomplishments and victories of tomorrow” [William J.H. Boetcker]. Don’t quit! Success may be closer than you think.

Embrace the faith that every challenge surmounted by your energy; every problem solved by your wisdom; every soul stirred by your passion; and every barrier to justice brought down by your determination will ennoble your own life, inspire others, serve your country, and explode outward the boundaries of what is achievable on this earth” [Madeleine Albright].

By the way, Kerrigan didn’t let a brick wall stop her. A month after the attack, she won the silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Winter Olympics. Don’t ever forget why the brick walls are there, and never allow them to keep you from achieving your dreams.

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction” [John F. Kennedy].

Mission statements intrigue me. I’m sure you have seen the carefully worded phrases that organizations write to concisely declare their self-imposed duty [dictionary.com] and to help employees or members feel anchored and unified toward a common vision.

“Self-imposed duty” is an interesting concept. I guess it could be defined as voluntarily assuming a moral obligation, or coming to the realization that it’s not all about ME! It also serves as a reminder that “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” [Kelly Ann Rothaus].

In The Mission Statement Book, author Jeffrey Abrahams writes, “a mission also provides a sense of purposefulness, that there is a reason for working (or living) — aside from compensation.

I’ve gathered mission statements from several well-known corporations I found interesting.

  • Google: . . . to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
  • Southwest Airlines: . . . dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.
  • Microsoft: . . . our mission and values are to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential.
  • Starbucks: . . . to inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time.
  • The Ohio State University: To advance the well-being of the people of Ohio and the global community through the creation and dissemination of knowledge. (Are you surprised it doesn’t mention the football team?)

Notice that not one statement speaks of profits, or private planes, or plush corner offices. Surprisingly, the focus is on potential, people, inspiration, and empowerment.

I had always assumed that mission statements were for the big guys (see list above), and had not given much thought to their usefulness in an individual or family situation until I read an article by Stephen R. Covey entitled, “The Unifying Power of a Family Mission Statement.”

In the article, Covey states that the creation of a family mission statement was the most transforming event in his family’s history. “Through the years, these mission statements have created the common sense of destination and manner of travel that has represented the social will, the culture, in our family. And directly, or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, almost everything else in our family has grown out of it. We had to create a vision of what we wanted our family to be like, what we would live by, what we would stand for — even die for.”

What about you? What’s your main thing? Where are you headed? Do you have a personal or family mission statement that keeps you focused on your purpose? Something that answers the age old question, “Why am I here?” (I think W. H. Auden answered that question when he said, “We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are here for I do not know.”)

Why not take a few minutes and clarify your personal mission statement and organize your purpose. It’s time to declare an answer for the question of your life!

According to George Bernard Shaw, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

My personal mission statement is “To add value to people and help them reach their potential.” What’s yours?

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Last week, while waiting for an interview, I struck up a conversation with a man who was seated near me in the company’s reception area. Our exchange eventually turned to weekend plans (He was hoping to get his boat in the water at Lake Erie.) and somehow made its way to childhood summer vacations. We laughed about road trips with our parents in cars without an on-board DVD system to occupy our attention, backseat arguments that resulted in the invisible “do not cross line,” and the inevitable license plate game — “There’s Alaska!”

When I was young, my father’s company closed for several weeks every summer, and my parents took the opportunity to pack up the girls and explore the country. The year I turned nine, we spent three weeks traveling to California in a truck camper. We visited Lincoln’s birthplace, stopped at the St. Louis Gateway Arch, traveled across the Rocky Mountains, gazed upward at the mighty Redwoods, were amazed by the Great Salt Lake and Mount Rushmore, ran along the Grand Canyon, and laughed at bears in Yellowstone. What an adventure!

I still have a fondness for road trips. Nothing can quite compare to packing up the car and leaving town on your own terms. The anticipation of visiting new places, meeting new people, and seeing new things enroute to the destination is quite alluring. “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move” Robert Louis Stevenson.

With a road trip, you can easily take a detour to visit friends, check out the world’s largest ball of twine, or eat at the local restaurant that was featured on The Food Network. Oh sure, visiting additional sites might add a few hours (or days) to the itinerary, but who cares? Why are we so driven to “get time under our belt” and reach our destination, that we often fail to “stop and smell the flowers”?

Change the scenery of your life. You don’t have to travel far. It’s an adventure. A chance to refresh. To learn. To compare. To meet new people. To make new friends. To view things anew. To grow” [Patrick Lindsay].

Think about the trips have you rushed through in you life in order to reach a certain destination. What local attractions or special events were missed along the way because you were too focused on just getting there?

All too often we rush toward the future, failing to appreciate those unexpected moments that insert themselves into the journey. Our lives pass so quickly. Once our trip is over — it’s over. Don’t wait until the end of the line to reflect on what might have been. Start filling your scrapbook with incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences that capture your attention on the way to your destination.

Put the convertible top down, slather on some sunscreen, grab the camera, and get going! It’s time for a road trip!

“A great life is the sum total of all the worthwhile things you’ve been doing one by one” Richard Bach.

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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Earlier this year I attended a Java Talk which was sponsored by the Columbus American Marketing Association. The speaker, Keith Luscher (author of Prospect & Flourish and publisher of Prospecting Weekly), facilitated an incredibly informative session entitled, “Can’t Get Your Foot in the Door? Use a Wedge.”

I arrived several minutes early and took a seat next to a women whom I did not know. Seeking a neutral subject for discussion, I commented on the glorious warm weather that had descended upon Central Ohio the day before and was forecast again for that day.

She turned to me with a sour look on her face. “It’s nothing to get excited about it,” she said. “I mean, really, how long will it last? It will be gone before you know it.” I was dumbstruck by her response! (Actually, I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me with that attitude?” I wisely keep that thought to myself!)

The first three days of the week had been cold, windy, and miserable. That we were experiencing sunny, no-coat-required-weather in February was a rare gift from Mother Nature. Talk about negativity! I couldn’t believe this woman wouldn’t enjoy the warm temperatures today because her focus was on the the fact that the good weather would soon vanish.

Why is it that some people are able to sustain a positive attitude while others pollute their lives with negativity? The answer: bad habits. Seriously, I did a little research and discovered that our attitude is a habit!

“Fear is a habit; so is self-pity, defeat, anxiety, despair, hopelessness and resignation” and we all know that “bad habits are like a comfortable bed, easy to get into, but hard to get out of” [unknown].

Conversely, philosopher Elbert Hubbard said, “Happiness is a habit — cultivate it.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I am now fairly certain the woman I had encountered that morning was a CAVE dweller. I know this title sounds somewhat primitive (and typically, I’m not one to slap labels on people), but I do have a respected organization backing me up on this conclusion!

I recently read a Gallup Management Journal article, entitled, The High Cost of Disengaged Employees.In it, author Curt Coffman talks about three types of people: engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged. Coffman described actively disengaged people as “cave dwellers,” those who are Consistently Against Virtually Everything.

You know the type. I’m sure you can identify CAVE dwellers you interact with at work, school, or in your community. These people who are not simply unhappy, they act out that unhappiness. CAVE dwellers tear down what engaged individuals are building.

One thing I have discovered about CAVE dwellers is that they are a creative bunch. They can quickly provide a litany of reasons to explain why what you are doing, planning, scheduling, or working toward will certainly fail (or what you have already accomplished was a colossal waste of time).

You’ve probably heard them respond to your ideas:

  • Too extreme!
  • Too exhausting!
  • Not worth the effort!
  • Too far away!
  • I’ve tried for years and haven’t been able to . . . .
  • Waste of time!
  • No one will listen!
  • You’ll never get the money, support, time, resources . . .
  • Why bother? Things will never change!

I literally cringe when I encounter CAVE dwellers. To me, it is much more exhilarating to live life in the great outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, experiencing the rain, and running through the fields, than to cower in the dark corners of the CAVE, fearful of the shadows of new ideas.

Don’t let CAVE dwellers (and their sad, sorry habits of fear, defeat and hopelessness) discourage your dreams, pollute your attitude, or paralyze your efforts. Keep a positive attitude; I have found it is the best tool to fight CAVE dweller mentality.

“A positive attitude may not solve all of your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort” Herm Albright.

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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Several years ago I was introduced to the delightful illustrations of Mary Engelbreit. Mary has a unique gift of creating charming prints to accompany clever phrases and inspirational quotes. I recall a birthday card she had published at one time which proclaimed, “There’s No Better Time Than The Presents!” The accompanying illustration was of a child in a party dress, a happy grin on her face, standing beside a large stack of wrapped gifts.

If you have attended a child’s birthday party, I’m sure you’ll agree that the presents are the very best part of the festivities. The cake is fun and, I suppose, the games can be fun, but, oh my, the presents are simply the best!!

Even as an adult, a stack of brightly wrapped presents with our name on them has a way of quickening the pulse and bringing a smile to our face. “For me?” we ask, as we begin to imagine the wonderful items that were lovingly selected, patiently wrapped, and carefully transported to the event in our honor.

All these thoughts about presents started a few weeks ago when I attended a Meeting Planner Summit which took place at The Conference Center at NorthPointe. The event was sponsored by Columbus Business First and provided a wealth of useful information covering (what else?) various aspects of meeting planning. For the morning workshops, I elected to participate in two sessions with highly-regarded meeting planner and training consultant, Joan Eisenstodt. Although Joan is quite knowledgeable and a terrific presenter, after discussing contracts and legal language for nearly three hours I desperately needed a break.

Imagine my delight when I realized that Phil Sorentino, of Humor Consultants, Inc., was presenting the the key note address immediately after lunch. With his presentation entitled, “Work smart, have fun, and make money,” I was certain he would inject a healthy dose of humor into the agenda.

Phil’s presentation was fantastic! He kept the group of 150 attendees laughing, applauding, and entertained as he shared inspirational real-life experiences and witty examples of how to remain strong during uncertain times. In particular, there was one idea Phil shared that afternoon which really impacted me: “All life is, really, is a series of presents.”

At first glance, that sounds like a simple concept. But think about what his statement implies: you can imagine the future, and you reminisce about the past, but you can only live the present of right now!

A player’s effectiveness is directly related to his ability to be right there, doing that thing, in the moment . . . He can’t be worrying about the past or the future or the crowd or some other extraneous event. He must be able to respond in the here and now” [John Brodie, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback].

Phil’s comment started me thinking of our lives as literal tables piled high with all sorts of presents: large, small, envelopes, gift bags, fancy, plain, square, and round presents. The presents sit patiently, quietly beckoning our attention. Waiting for us to loosen the ribbons and unwrap the paper in order to discover and be amazed by their enticing contents.

I began to wonder how often I had cast aside a present because I was too anxious or excited about a future. Or perhaps, I had neglected a present because I was distraught about a past. I realized that I had wasted too many valuable presents.

What about you? What presents are you leaving unopened on the table because something shiny in your future or unforgettable in your past has your attention? Let’s shift our focus to the “here and now.” Make the decision to consciously open, appreciate, and experience each present for what it contains. Mary was right; there is absolutely no better time than the presents!

“The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly what it is: a miracle and unrepeatable” [Storm Jameson].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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A few weeks ago, I was flipping channels on the television and came across the movie Dodgeball. Several friends had previously recommended the slapstick comedy, so I made some popcorn and settled in to watch. For those who are unfamiliar with the movie, it is a classic underdog story, David vs. Goliath so to speak. Starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, a small fitness club battles for survival against a much newer, larger and well-funded club. It all comes down to a final Dodgeball championship game.

Throughout the movie, the smaller underfunded club makes various attempts to increase their athletic ability, and enlists the assistance of former “Dodgeball Champion,” Patches O’Houlihan, to coach the team of misfits. One of the classic lines in the movie is when tough-as-nails O’Houlihan says, “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball” and then proceeds to throw wrenches at his players. (Which, they totally didn’t see coming. And, frankly, neither does the audience. This entire segment in the movie is quite entertaining!)

When I became unemployed several months ago, I expected to have to dodge a lot of unpleasant things. Things like isolation, rejection, lack of self-worth, dwindling bank account — you know, the usual culprits outlined in the newspapers and detailed on hiring sites. I thought I was ready. I was in great (mental) shape, and worked out regularly by reading motivating books and inspirational stories to maintain a positive mental attitude. Regardless of how well-prepared I was, I’ll be the first to admit that being unemployed is no walk in the park.

Let’s be honest here for a minute. At times, life can be difficult and wrenches come hurling at us seemingly out of nowhere. Unexpected unemployment, furloughs, being mis-employed (not just in the wrong seat, but on the wrong bus entirely), family issues, illness, foreclosures, stock values (and retirement accounts) plummeting, bankruptcies looming over our largest companies, bank failures . . . can I stop now? As a country, we are dodging a lot of wrenches! Unfortunately, some of us are getting hit more often than we’d care to admit.

What keeps me in the game is the knowledge that, although it may be impossible to accurately anticipate the wrenches headed my way, I am able to control my response to cirucmstances hurled at me.

No matter how big and tough a problem may be, get rid of confusion by taking one little step towards solution.

Do something. Then try again.

At worst, so long as you don’t do it the same way twice, you will eventually use up all the wrong ways of doing it and thus the next try will be the right one” [George F. Nordenholt].

What I totally didn’t see coming through this experience is the incredible outpouring of support and assistance I have received. It has been amazing the way people have willingly invested in my success. I’ve had former employers write incredible recommendations on my behalf, friends pass along my resume to potential employers, acquaintenances forward job opportunities to me, and others who call or email just to offer encouragement. And these are just a few examples of the extreme kindness that has been thrown my way.

I challenge you to find someone who is in desperate need of a curve ball. Throw them some unexpected charity or support. Something they won’t see coming. Your unexpected thoughtfulness might be the one thing that encourages them to keep dodging the wrenches headed their way.

“It takes so little to make people happy — just a touch, if we know how to give it, just a word fitly spoken, or a slight readjustment of some bolt or pin or bearing in the delicate machinery of a human soul” [Frank Crane].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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Recently, my five-year-old nephew was proudly displaying his roller hockey skills to my sister. “Look, Aunt Dawn!” he exclaimed, “I’m getting gooder and gooder.”

Dawn gently corrected him, “Better and better?”

“That’s right!” he responded happily. “I am getting gooder and gooder AND better and better!”

There is nothing quite as inspiring as the confident enthusiasm of a child. They shamelessly self-promote all the good things about themselves, certain that the entire world is there to cheer them on. “As is our confidence, so is our capacity” [William Hazlitt].

Confidence: The belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance [dictionary.com].

What’s your confidence level look like today? Is it full and overflowing, or are you scraping the bottom of the barrel? Why is it that some people seem to have been given a XXL dose of confidence, and others never seem to have enough? How is it that some people have already completed the race while others are still in the locker room, trying to decide if they are even worthy to participate?

Too many times, we have defeated ourselves before the day even starts. We invite doubt and fear into our lives by focusing on what we cannot do. We start down the slippery slope of fear and before we realize it, we find ourselves in the valley of self-doubt. (And let me tell you, that can be a long journey back up the mountain.)

I know people who won’t take the first step toward success. They have rehearsed their “what if” failure so many times, they have become confident, indeed! Confident the plan won’t work, the client won’t be receptive, the employer won’t have a job, the supervisor will be dismissive, the loved one will rebuff the olive branch. All too often, we are our own worst enemies.

To be ambitious for wealth, and yet always expecting to be poor; to be always doubting your ability to get what you are looking for, is like trying to reach east by traveling west.

There is no philosophy which will help a man to succeed when he is always doubting his ability to do so, and thus attracting failure.

No matter how hard you work for success, if your thought is saturated with the fear of failure, it will kill your efforts, neutralize your endeavors and make success impossible” [Charles Baudouin].

Are you ready to bolster your confidence? I know I am! I have found that being unemployed is fraught with its own brand of confidence killers. When employers don’t want to buy what you’re selling — and you’re selling yourself — it’s hard not to take it personally! I fight against self-doubt, timidity, and fear just like the next person, but I have found that “the best way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you” [William Jennings Bryan].

Will every attempt be successful? Not on your life! “He only is exempt from failures who makes no effort” [Richard Whately].

Don’t depend on others to encourage you! Take responsibility for your own attitude. Cheer yourself on to the future you imagine: “I am confident! I am bold! I am successful! I am getting gooder and gooder AND better and better!” Then act as if you are confident, bold, and successful! “It is good to act as if. It is even better to grow to the point where it is no longer an act” [Charles Caleb Colton].

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours” [Henry David Thoreau].

Whatever you are, be a good one!

Deanna

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