Archive for December, 2009

There are only two options regarding commitment.
You’re either in or out.
There’s no such thing as a life in-between” [Pat Riley].

It seems like there is one in every crowd, group, team, or committee: the person who just isn’t committed.

  • He’ll try. (However, if the project turns out to be challenging or boring, or something else shiny catches his attention, he won’t finish.)
  • He’ll show up when it’s convenient. (Translation: no one has made a better offer.)
  • He will enthusiastically accept assignments. (But too often fails to follow-through.)
  • He supports the plan. (Unfortunately, due to circumstances way beyond his control, he is just never able to deliver.)

The excuses are as numerous as the stars in the sky: “I’m too busy. I forgot. I didn’t understand. The dog ate my paper. I don’t feel well. My metabolism is slow. The kids needed a nap. It wasn’t my turn. It was on sale. I didn’t have time.”

This is the true joy of life — being used for a purpose that is recognized by yourself as a mighty one . . . instead of being a feverish, selfish, little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy” [George Bernard Shaw].

The honest answer of the uncommitted is simply, “I didn’t want to.” I didn’t want to save the money, skip the dessert, call my mother, attend the function, support the cause, confront the problem, or face the facts.

Or, perhaps, more accurately, “I didn’t want to honor my commitment more than I wanted to do something else.”

But instead of being honest with themselves and others, they prefer to live behind the gauzy wall of excuses, doing whatever feels good, or convenient, or easy.

“If you don’t make a total commitment to whatever you’re doing, then you start looking to bail out the first time the boat starts leaking. It’s tough enough getting that boat to shore with everybody rowing, let alone when a guy stands up and starts putting his life jacket on” [Lou Holtz].

In the Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes BackYoda, the Jedi teacher, tries to implant into Luke Skywalker the means of engaging the “force” that is the greatest power in the universe. He says to his pupil, “Luke, there is no try, there is either do or not do” [Van Ekeren].

There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results” [Unknown].

So, I have to ask, “Are you committed?” There’s no half-way with this. You’re either in — or you’re out.

The only way to achieve results is to be in. All the way in. Wholeheartedly committed.

“Nothing of worthy or weight can be achieved with half a mind,with a faint heart, and with a lame endeavor” [Isaac Barrow].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


I’m taking a brief respite from writing this week, which gives me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite posts. This edited essay was originally published 6/24/09.

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The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving” [Oliver Wendell Holmes].

We’ve all heard, and probably have quoted it ourselves: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Doesn’t that sound idealistic?

Wouldn’t it be grand if life really worked out that way?

The truth is that I’ve never experienced it myself and, in fact, I’ve rarely seen it happen for others.

Regardless if we are striving to climb the next rung on the corporate ladder, embark on a new career, begin a new business, or explore an exciting opportunity, it’s next-to-impossible to continually move in a straight line from here . . . to . . . there.

“Opportunity follows struggle.
It follows effort. It follows hard work.
It doesn’t come before” [Shelby Steele].

I have overheard people say, “You can’t get there from here.” Which really just means to be prepared to travel somewhere else before you can arrive at your destination.

It’s those detours that often throw us for a loop. We are so focused on getting “there,” that we are perplexed when a roadblock and corresponding “Detour” sign appears in our path.

Think about this: “The really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour” [Unknown].

Detours can appear as many different things: budget cuts, layoffs, relocations, illness, in-laws, out-laws, realignments, accidents. It doesn’t matter how or when a detour arrives in your life, when the “road closed” sign appears, the result is the same: it’s time to consult the map, your route has changed.

“Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune” [William James].

How we view and respond to unexpected circumstances determine what happens next. If we wallow around in self-pity, blaming the detour on God, or the government, or our parents, or our [former] employer, or whatever, we waste valuable time and undermine our own self-worth.

Progress is crippled and valuable opportunities are often missed because of fear, inaction, and poor attitudes. “The longer we dwell on our misfortune, the greater is their power to harm us” [Voltaire].

On the other hand, if we view the detour as an opportunity to experience new adventures, meet new people, travel to exciting destinations, and learn new information then, perhaps, it’s not a useless detour after all. Maybe, if we embrace the the change and look for the benefit in it, we can turn the unexpected into the unbelievable. If we view the detour as an opportunity for growth, we can turn a routine commute into the trip of a lifetime!

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we are not really living. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security” [Gail Sheehy].

If we will commit to turning the detours into the dynamic, and learn to turn disappointments into stepping stones, we may just discover that the new road is much more exciting and fulfilling than the original trip we had planned.

Max De Pree said, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Sometimes, it takes an unexpected detour to shake us out of the ordinary and send us down the road to extraordinary.

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas” [Shirley Hufstedler].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


I’m taking a brief respite from writing this week, which gives me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite posts. This edited essay was originally published 6/29/09.

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And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done” [Dr. Seuss].

I love working in flower beds. Fellow gardeners understand the excitement of spending the spring cleaning winter debris from the beds; designing this year’s color palette; welcoming the ferns, hostas, daylillies, and other perennials as they make their annual appearance; and preparing the planting containers for their new residents.

It takes a lot of preparation to have a successful garden. Actually, I think there are a lot of parallels between gardening and life. The careful planning, being diligent to guard against weeds and pests that try to destroy, furnishing sufficient amounts of water and proper nutrients, providing support as needed, removing spent blooms to encourage new growth, and pruning dead branches.

All of this attention is vital. However, if plants are not located in the proper spot it really doesn’t matter how much maintenance you are willing to provide; they will be unable to reach their full potential.

Several years ago I purchased a flowering plum at the nursery. I needed a tall plant to fill a blank spot between two windows and this one fit the bill perfectly. I took the plum home, planted it, and gave it my full attention, plenty of water and Miracle Gro. Well, it grew, but slowly, and it never produced the rich full foliage and beautiful pink flowers I had anticipated. Next season, I repeated efforts from prior season — no improvement. Third season was a repeat of season two: attention, water, fertilizer — no improvement.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” [Albert Einstein].

At the end of the third season, I had an inspired idea!

I transplanted the plum about 25 feet away, to a bright sunny location. Can you guess what happened? It began growing like crazy. During the fourth season it produced masses of pink flowers, filled out with gorgeous foliage, and became the picture-perfect specimen. At long last it had found the conditions where it could become the plant it was created to be.

I’m sure you have heard the proverb, “Bloom where you are planted.” And I’m sure the folks who made it popular were well-intentioned. They probably were just trying to encourage others who found themselves in less-than-desirable circumstances to stay the course and do their best.

But sometimes you really can’t bloom where you’re planted. It’s not that you don’t have the seeds of greatness in you, it’s more that your circumstances are prohibitive to your reaching your full potential. And, unfortunately, that’s what we call a slump.

I’ve had hostas that were planted too far from the shade. They suffered sun scorch and shriveled leaves. I’ve also had daylillies that refused to produce any flowers and whose leaves were limp and pale because they were in the shade. I could have spent years (refer to plum example above) coaxing these plants to do better, produce more, and reach their potential. But in the end it would never have been enough to make a difference. The plants didn’t have their basic need met — they were in the wrong spot.

Once I transplanted the hostas under the willow and moved the daylillies to the other side of the fence, they immediately began to thrive. Think about this: now that the plants are in the correct location, they require only minimal attention — just basic maintenance.

A friend recently sent me a bonsai bougainvillea. It arrived with specific instructions: “You cannot give me too much sun.” I placed it in the brightest spot I can find — and it’s thriving! Don’t you wish our lives came with such explicit and easy-to-understand instructions?

Sometimes it’s not you — it’s where you are. If you find yourself in a slump, take a look around. Is your environment conducive to you reaching your potential? If not, it’s time to make a change — transplant yourself.

I’ve never met a person, I don’t care what his condition, in whom I could not see possibilities. I don’t care how much a man may consider himself a failure, I believe in him for he can change the thing that is wrong in his life anytime he is prepared and ready to do it.

Whenever he develops the desire, he can take away from his life the thing that is defeating it. The capacity for reformation and change lies within” [Preston Bradley].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


I’m taking a brief respite from writing this week, which gives me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite posts. This edited essay was originally published 5/15/09.

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Of course I have a secret identity. Who wants to be super all the time?” [Mr. Incredible].

I have a plaque on my office wall that reads, “I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world” [Curly Girl].

I have always imagined that, if called upon, I could save the world.

In fact, I have often said to Greg, as I head out the door to face the rush hour commute, “Wish me luck! I’m off to save the world!” He always responds, “Good luck!” because he knows I fight nasty villains of inefficiency, bad attitudes, small minds, unsportsmanlike conduct, and really bad customer service.

And, truth be told, my “saving the world” often has more to do with helping others reach their goals than saving the world, as we know it, from impending doom. Yet, there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from knowing I’ve helped someone move a little closer to their dreams.

After all, “the greatest achievements are those that benefit others”
[Lillian Gilcrest].

Some days, when my efforts produce something spectacular, and a client is thrilled with their new logo or Web site or newsletter, I feel like a super hero. Still, I think it would be awesome to look like a super hero sometimes. I could show up at work every once in awhile wearing a cape and tiara. A girl needs to dress the part sometimes!

All of us are super heroes with secret identities. You might be living undercover as a salesperson or baker or teacher or student or administrative assistant. It doesn’t matter what title you wear or what your day job looks like.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles” [Christopher Reeve].

When the alarm sounds you must be ready spring into action and become a super hero to save the world, protect the innocent, help the hurting, support the cause, or pay it forward.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do” [Johann von Goethe].

Whatever you are, be a good one — and wear the tiara if you want to!


I’m taking a brief respite from writing this week, which gives me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite posts. This edited essay was originally published 5/28/09.

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As is our confidence, so is our capacity” [William Hazlitt].

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.

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 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].

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].

Whatever you are, act like you are a successful one!


I’m taking a brief respite from writing this week, which gives me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite posts. This edited essay was originally published 4/21/09.

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Trust yourself.

Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with
all of your life.

Make the most of yourself
by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility
into flames of achievement.” [Foster C. McClellan].

Have you ever found yourself faced with a situation or opportunity that just didn’t “feel right”?  That didn’t fit?

It might have looked great on the outside.  Friends and family cheered at your good fortune. They were excited for your big chance. They sent you emails and organized parties and were thrilled that you had found IT.

And, at first glance, IT  was attractive, and the people were nice enough, the risk was manageable and the payoff was enticing, and you wouldn’t HATE it.

But underneath all the hullabaloo, it really wasn’t a good fit.

It felt like you were wearing someone else’s clothes.  The waist was too loose and the pants were too long and the shoulders too tight and the sleeves were too short.  And, besides all of that, the fabric was scratchy!

But your friends said

if you take a little off here
shorten the hem
switch this out
add this back in
wear a different shirt
and add some accessories . . .
it would fit and you would look terrific!

Well, maybe not fit — exactly, and probably not look terrific either, but it would be acceptable.

And your friends would be able to sleep a little easier knowing you had THIS — because it’s been exhausting for them to be worrying about you all the time.

And besides, they tell you, THIS is certainly better than your running around nearly naked.  Of course, no one wants that, they explain.

But you’re not so sure. And not for a specific or tangible reason that you can point to and explain.

It’s just that the “fit” is wrong, the color isn’t flattering, the style is outdated . . . it’s not you! And you know that, sometimes, the wrong thing can be very difficult to return.

Sometimes you just can’t adequately explain the why or how or who or what and it doesn’t make sense to everyone.  It doesn’t matter that others cannot understand; the answer needs to be “no,” because you said so.

  • Because you know what’s best for you.
  • Because you are willing to assume the risk of doing without right now for something better tomorrow.
  • Because you realize that choosing to dress differently doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
  • Because you don’t want to live an uncomfortable life wearing someone else’s ill-fitting clothes.

We all must realize  that “people take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost” [H. Jackson Brown].

Whatever you are, for heaven’s sake wear your own clothes!


I’m taking a brief respite from writing this week, which gives me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite posts. This edited essay was originally published 8/27/09.

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A winner will find a way to win.

Winners take bad breaks and use them to drive themselves to be that much better.

Quitters take bad breaks and use them as a reason to give up.

It’s all a matter of pride” [Nancy Lopez].

Bad break, trouble, bump in the road, adversity, it doesn’t really matter what you call it. Circumstances have conspired against you. Your progress has been slowed or maybe, even stalled. Energy and effort that had been propelling you toward your dream are now diverted to addressing the problem and rectifying the situation.

So, how do you react when adversity crashes your party? Do you play the sorrowful “Why me?” card, or do you recognize it as an opportunity for growth?

“Adversity causes some men to break, others to break records.
– William A. Ward

In the story, I Had Trouble in getting to Solla SollewDr. Seuss relates the tale of an individual who is enjoying a trouble-free life until — one day, out of the blue — everything changes.

“And I learned there are troubles of more than one kind.

Some come from ahead and some come from behind.

From above! And below!

And now I was really in trouble, you know.

The rocks! And the Quail! And the Skritz! And the Skrink!

I had so many troubles, I just couldn’t think.”

Ever been there? Circumstances so dire, you just can’t think? Your stomach is upset, your mind won’t slow down, you’re unable to sleep. After all the gallant effort you have put forth, how could it be that you are now facing menacing giants who are lurking, waiting, planning your demise?

Horace once said, “adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant.”

The fellow who kept running away from his problems and toward utopia in the Dr. Seuss’ story continued to encounter ongoing adversity until he realized that running from trouble is not a solution and, searching for a trouble-free existence is a waste of time:

Then I started back home to the Valley of Vung.

I know I’ll have troubles. I’ll maybe get stung.

I’ll always have troubles. I’ll, maybe get bit,

by that Green-Headed Quail on the place where I sit.

But I’ve bought a big bat. I’m all ready, you see.

Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me.”

Adversity can either be a gift that propels you to even greater heights, or a disaster that precedes your demise — the outcome depends on your perspective.

When adversity visits your life, don’t sit around with your head in the sand. It’s your big chance! Adversity is the green light. It is the signal to take action — run toward the conflict — face the giants.

You just need to learn ” that adversity is an experience, not a final act” [Michael LeBoeuf], and that sometimes the only response to life is “to accept whatever comes . . . meet it with courage and with the best you have to give” [Eleanor Roosevelt].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


I’m taking a brief respite from writing this week, which gives me the opportunity to revisit some of my favorite posts. This edited essay was originally published 6/19/09.

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The past several days I have been hibernating at home, dealing with a nasty cold that has used up all of my energy.  Between naps, I have been working through a stack of magazines that, during healthy times, rarely warrants a glance.

One magazine that has caught my attention is Traveler. Each issue includes a section entitled Etiquette 101, where readers are provided guidance on how to properly behave in foreign countries. The insider tips and observations, which cover business interactions and casual encounters, make for interesting reading.

In the December issue, the publisher discusses proper etiquette one should observe while visiting Russia. Two suggestions, that have far-reaching implications, caught my attention:

1.  If something isn’t going your way — at the post office, at the hotel — politeness may work, but at some point you might have to stand your ground. “Don’t take no for an answer.”

2.  Contrary to popular belief, Russians do believe in lines. They became experts at lining up during Soviet times. But they also figured out how to look for an opening.

Don’t leave too much space in front of you or someone will conclude that you don’t want what’s at the head of the line badly enough to mind if they cut in front of you.  Yell out, “Ya poslyedniy!” (“I’m last!)  if someone tries it.  It’s considered a helpful reminder to the prospective cutter.

What great recommendations, regardless of the country or situation you find yourself in.

Depending on how badly you want it, sometimes you just have to stand your ground, refuse to take no for an answer, and remind others not to cut in front of you in line.

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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Everyone is gifted — but some people never open their package” [Unknown].

Every year, during the holiday season, it seems I find myself in the middle of a White Elephant Gift Exchange.  I think they are quite entertaining, especially if you’re with a group of people who are exceptionally resourceful.

If you’re unfamiliar with the process, people bring humorous or used or interesting gifts to the party. Numbers are selected to determine order, gifts are opened, gifts are stolen, other gifts are opened and everyone generally has a really good time — even the person who only receives five used batteries with a sticker that says, “Toy not included.”

As I found myself in the midst of just such an event last evening, I started thinking about how our lives are like elaborate gift exchanges.  You start out with a life you didn’t ask for or choose. What you end up with is up to you.

You can carefully maintain it.

Abuse it.

Upgrade or expand.

Get the accessories.

Exchange for something that “fits” better.

Wrap it up and re-gift it.

Take it to a White Elephant Gift Exchange
and hope for something more interesting.

Sit around and complain that you were cheated.

Your choice.

If the life you now have isn’t the one you want, it’s up to you to exchange it for one you love.

“Decide what you want,
decide what you are willing to exchange for it.
Establish your priorities and go to work.”
~ H.L. Hunt

Whatever you are, if you don’t like it, exchange it for something else!


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Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is to take a complete rest”  [Ashleigh Brilliant].

It is exhausting to chase after dragons every day!   Keeping your energy up and your sights high.  Pulling friends out of the fog of disappointment and reminding them of their potential. Pressing forward when you don’t feel like it. Persevering when you’d rather throw in the towel.

Sometimes, what you need is a Red Bull for your spirit — an extra boost of energy to propel you forward.   Taking a break from the fight gives you an opportunity to recharge, refuel and refocus.

Pausing activity so that you have time to think and plan is vital to maintaining an acceptable level of sanity. During this busy season, when we try to live our lives at top speed while adding a heaping portion of holiday activities, be sure to steal away, quiet your mind and spend a little time celebrating victories, devising new strategies, taking inventory, and recharging your spirit.

“In quiet moments when you think about it, you recognize what is critically important in life and what isn’t. Be wise and don’t let good things crowd out those that are essential” [Elder Richard G. Scott].

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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