Archive for the ‘Choices’ Category

A friend on Facebook recently posted the following image:

Although the message is humorous and one that is sure to be liberally passed around to friends, family members, and office colleagues alike, there is a lot of truth behind it.

There are people in our lives–whether intimates or casual acquaintances–who are haters. For whatever reason they choose to focus on the differences rather than the similarities. They prefer to hoard offenses, point out deficiencies, and recall failures.

Who knows why? More importantly, who cares?

There are individuals who revel in generating poison and being bossy, and no amount of your trying to clean up their outlook or reset their attitude or change their point of view is going to have lasting effect.

Good News: Your job is not to win over the haters. You are not the Jerk Whisperer.

Think about it for a second.  What are you trying to win them over to? Your point of view? Your ideas? Your ideal? And while certain things may work fabulously for you, obviously it is not the philosophy they have chosen for their own life.

Who’s to say you are exactly right and the other person is so wrong anyway? Frankly, your consistent nagging and criticizing and quarreling (trying to win them over) creates a strong argument for your being labeled a hater. >Ouch<

How about a little more kindness and flexibility in your approach? Why not give the other person the benefit of the doubt now and again?

What would happen if you would agree to disagree (without serving up a side dish of malice)? What would it take for you to find some common ground to build upon?

Remember, “the ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree but hold hands” (unknown).

Whatever you are, don’t be a hater (or a jerk whisperer),


Stevens Creative Consulting

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I tore a page from a Town & Country magazine a few weeks back and I’ve been carrying it around with me ever since.

It wasn’t colorful or clever or cute. It was a simple one-page ad, on a mostly white background, for Outward Bound. I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve overlooked it in previous issues as I hurriedly flipped from one slick photo to the next interesting article, approving and disapproving of people I don’t know and lifestyles I can’t fathom.

But this time the message beckoned to me like a whisper of encouragement. And as I’ve reread it during the past few weeks, the hint of a suggestion has transformed into a shout of declaration:

A Farewell to CAN’T

This goodbye does not make me sad. I will not miss you.

I have discovered what it feels like to do the unthinkable.

The hard. The long. The challenging.

You have no business here anymore.

From now on, difficult will seem doable.

I will see the impossible as simply not-yet-conquered.

Farewell, Can’t. You will haunt me never again.

Hello, Can.

Welcome to my world.

Regardless of what person or circumstance or decision you’re facing, I encourage you to say your own farewell to Can’t, and a warm welcome to Can.

As Michael Jordan said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

Whatever you are, bid farewell to Can’t,


Stevens Creative Consulting

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Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten” [G. K. Chesterton].

Go out there and slay some dragons!

Think back to when you were a child and you had a favorite story book. Do you remember?

It was the one with the smudges, dogged pages, and worn cover.

It was the one you spent hours reading. You were amazed by the illustrations; delighted by the story; emboldened by the hero’s courage. You cheered as the enemies became victims of magical plans.

One of my favorites books was The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with Mickey Mouse in the title role. I loved the story of a young character, home alone, misusing his power. Sure, it was great fun at first but, as my friend says, “Too much laughing leads to crying!” And before the young apprentice could wreak more havoc or create another army of servant brooms, the sorcerer returns and saves the day.

Once upon a time we believed that all things were possible. That dogs could talk and spiders could spell and a mouse named Mickey could cause brooms to come to life and cows could jump over the moon.

But somewhere along the way we stopped believing in things we couldn’t see. We came to believe that magic and fairy tales were for children. We outgrew the belief that dreams could come true.  And although we were still compelled to fight dragons (as adults we give them different names), we no longer expected to win the battles.

Life can be like that.

The truth is, you still have within yourself the power to storm castles, slay dragons, save the day, and change the course of your life. Magic still exists. The adult-version is called self-confidence and action, belief and positive attitude, determination and courage.

What story will you write today? One where you are banished to the tower in a distant castle? Downtrodden, held hostage by unfulfilled expectations and disappointments? Waiting for a mysterious stranger to come and save you?

Or, one where you grab life by the tail, fight your hardest, slay the dragons, and make dreams come true?

How could your life change if you had the courage to take one step toward your future, instead of putting things on hold, waiting for Prince Charming to arrive?

Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales
whose gates are guarded by dragons:
we must fight in order to conquer it.
~Alexandre Dumas

Be willing to go after what you really want. Fight for it. Slay the dragons. Be determined! Realize “you may have to fight a battle more than once to win” [Margaret Thatcher]. Keep fighting . . . victory will be worth it in the end.

Whatever you are, write a good story today!


One of my favorites essays. Originally posted 2/19/10.

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Everyone is so busy during this time of year. Christmas will be here faster than three shakes of a reindeer’s antlers!

Expectations are piling up.

There is holiday baking to finish and presents to purchase.

Cards to be addressed and gifts to wrap.

Travel arrangements to plan and recipes to find.

So much to do.

So many deadlines.

So few moments to savor the simple things.

Maybe this is why the Advent Calendar, with its tiny windows filled with daily greetings, simple drawings, and small prizes, appeals to us. It provides a respite from the craziness and reminds us exactly what the activity is all about.

As a small child, I recall the anticipation of waiting for each December morning to arrive, and gathering  around the calendar with my sisters. Mom assisted our tiny hands as we took turns opening another window on the Advent Calendar and marveled at its contents.

Nothing spectacular or amazing — just a simple celebration of family tradition.

I won’t keep you long today.  I want to offer you one simple phrase, from Richard Wagner, to carry you through “this most wonderful time of the year”  . . .

Joy is not in things; it is in us.”

Tuck this thought into your pocket and carry it with you everywhere you go — the joy you seek during this season can be found within.

Whatever you are, be a good one!


Such a simple but powerful reminder. This post was originally published last year.  It’s still one of my favorites!

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Be fabulous and don’t let any one thing ruin your life.”
~ Kylee Halko,

Awesome advice, don’t you think?  Especially when you consider it was offered by a seven-year-old who suffers with Progeria.


Kylee with her parents and Barbara Walters.

For those who might not know, Progeria is a rare, fatal genetic condition characterized by an appearance of accelerated aging in children. Signs include growth failure, loss of body fat and hair, aged-looking skin, stiffness of joints, hip dislocation, generalized atherosclerosis, cardiovascular (heart) disease and stroke. Children with Progeria die of atherosclerosis (heart disease) at an average age of thirteen years.

Kylee’s life is certainly not what most of us would consider the optimal circumstances to be fabulous.  Most of us encounter far fewer obstacles and look forward to a much brighter future. Yet too often we are unable to muster the energy to be fabulous. Why is that?

How many times do we unnecessarily allow one failure, one disappointment, or one unexpected detour ruin our entire life?

Well, maybe not our entire life, but certainly affect things for far too long of a stretch. We moan and complain and exclaim to anyone who will listen how “Life’s Not Fair!”  Okay, I’ll give you that — life isn’t fair. So what?

Why do we let the negativity and stress and ugliness take control? Why do we feel compelled to become just another victim of random circumstances?

If you don’t like what you’ve been handed, why not recycle it into something else? You can if you want to — changing your present starts with changing your attitude.

How about just being fabulous regardless of the madness swirling around you?  Determine to rise above and be your very best self — in spite of what is being thrown your way, or what the future looks like, or what the doctors say. Why not embrace an attitude that is exceptionally good, marvelous, and superb? Laugh at your unfair life.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past . . . we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.

We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.

And so it is with you . . . we are in charge of our attitudes.”
[Charles Swindoll].

Whatever life hands you, be fabulous in spite of it!


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The words “I am” are potent words;
be careful what you hitch them to.
The thing you’re claiming
has a way of reaching back and claiming you.
~A.L. Kitselman

The other day, I was asked a simple question, “What do you do, exactly?”  In essence, the writer of the email was asking who I am, what am I all about, and how do I do it?

On the face of it, I should have been able to spout out an answer in 30 seconds flat.  In fact, my mind started racing with all the “things” I am and “things” I do. A list of possible answers appeared.  Multiple choice.

You’ve been there. The directions state, “Select the top 3 choices that best answer the question.”

TOP 3?  These types of tests always cause a bit of panic. Because not all the answers on the list are wrong. Some are just more “correct” than others.

You start by crossing off the obviously incorrect answers.  And then you attack the list again, selecting the top 5 to begin weeding out the contenders.  But what about this one you didn’t select. It’s like number 5.5 — really, it could be equal with 5.  Oh, dear. The selecting and re-selecting and trying to anticipate can drive one a bit mad.

Just like life!

Who you are is defined by your choices, your actions. It is not defined by the car you drive, your address, the labels you wear, your marital status, political affiliation, position in life, title, or heritage.

The effects of your vacation destinations, coiffed hair, affiliations, education, and polished resume vanish like a mist if character is missing from the equation.

Who you are is not defined by the elections you’ve won, the stages you’re invited to speak from, the books you write, or programs you broadcast.

Who you are is what you do when life gets messy and people are illogical. What you think about during those quiet times — outside of the spotlight. How you react when life is throwing lemons. Do you take responsibility or find someone else to blame?

Your response to those who are in no position to repay or propel you forward or open doors for you.   Are you known for your kind benevolence, grace, and dignity or by your malice and disdain?

The way you conduct yourself when others are standing in your way.  Where do you step? On others to get what you want, or into the role of a mentor to help them get what they want?

Do you build up or tear down. Include or exclude? Help or sabotage?

That’s who you are.

And people can see it. Regardless what you advertise about yourself.

As Paul Vitale says, “What we do flows from who we are.”

Whatever you are, if you don’t like who you are, change what you do!


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There comes a point in your life
when you decide to change
and never feel the same again.”
~ Unknown

Maybe it’s part of growing up. Perhaps it’s born of experience.

This understanding that brings with it the knowledge that you have the authority to decide.

It’s like something clicks. The curtain rises. The lights come on.

And you realize it doesn’t have to be this way any longer. In fact it only was that way because you allowed it to be so.

And finally you understand that in some weird because my not making a decision was my decision sort of way, you had been responsible for it all along.

And you thought by ignoring it you were absolved from all responsibility? Not in this lifetime.

Ignorance of the law — or your life — is no excuse.

Interestingly enough, this unexpected breakthrough occurred for me as I celebrated my 40th birthday. Not that one more candle on the cake, or one more turn of the calendar carried with it any particular significance. And whereas some people are horrified by their age creeping up toward the “Willard Scott will now mention you on TV” birthday, I found it liberating.

And the funny thing is as I share my story of when I finally realized, “I’m 40 now, I can do what I want!” I discovered that a lot of  people felt the same sense of freedom after four decades of life. They’ve earned the right to . . . whatever!

I only wish the point had come earlier in life — say, when I was 25. But maybe that’s the plan, you don’t earn the right until you have the experience.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is this thing will change, YOU will change, and life will never be the same again, when you decide.

Why not today?

Whatever you are, I hope you’ve reached that point!


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I had the privilege of meeting with David Crone of I’m No Dummy Productions last week.  Over a quick lunch at Panera, David shared several amusing and thoughtful stories.

However, David shared one comment in particular that has stayed with me.  He was quoting a fellow comedian (whose name escapes me) when he said, “Most people say, ‘It is what it is,’ but that isn’t true at all!”

It is what you allow it to be.

I had an epiphany! Alarm bells went off in my head. Lights were flashing.  People were cheering. I felt like I had just won what was behind curtain number 3!

As the roar of the crowd died down I thought, “Hey, wait just a minute! This sounds like a trick.”

If I subscribe to the notion that “It is what it is,” then I’m absolved of all responsibility.

Look, it came to me that way. And it will stay that way . . . until it magically changes into something else.

Legally, I can be an innocent bystander.  Life may not be good, but then I can’t be held accountable.

BUT, if I believe that “It is what I allow it to be,” oh, boy!  Watch out!  This is a whole other ball game entirely.

Now, I’m no longer in the stands, eating popcorn, watching the game, jeering the players, but I’m on the field. Part of the action. The wins, the losses — I own them. They’re mine — part of my stats.

It is what it is may be true for children, politicians dodging responsibility, adults who would rather let someone else deal with it, and assorted individuals who time and history have forgotten or maligned.

Subscribing to the “It is what it is” campaign signals you are powerless to change it. So, I have to ask, are you?

I may not be able to change every situation, but I am not powerless!  I have authority to decide how I will act, react, respond, or remove myself from it. There are always options. Will you take them? Or will you take the easy way out?

“I must do something” always solves more problems than
“Something must be done.”
~Author Unknown

Whatever you are, it doesn’t have to be what it is!


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Over the weekend I was reading a Town & Country interview with Marjorie Gubelmann, founder and CEO of Vie Luxe. Over several glossy magazine pages, Gubelmann was asked dozens of questions.

Tucked near the end of amusing inquiries such as “What was, is, always will be in your handbag?” and “Were you given any great advice today?” was one that caught my attention:

“Any regrets today?”

Gubelmann’s response was a simple, “None.” Not knowing her, I wondered if hers was an honest answer. Or, being near the end of the interview, was she simply tired of answering questions. Perhaps, she does embrace life with gusto and lives without regrets. Maybe, the appointment took place on a rare day where every circumstance had been met with the right answer.  Maybe she did have regrets — she just didn’t want to share them. Who knows?

Nevertheless, I immediately asked myself the question. I had to know. Did I have any regrets today?

At the time — no regrets to report.  To be fair, it was late afternoon as I was reading the article and about five hours remained before bedtime.  So, there was still time to rack up some regrets, I guess.

Essayist Sydney Smith said, “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

I think he’s right.

There are so many things, if I were to review my past, that I regret. I regret leaving the restaurant without approaching the soldier and telling her how much I appreciate her service. I regret putting my work before my family and missing the chance to support my loved ones. I also regret the occasions I have let pass without speaking up for what is right.

I wish I’d taken more chances, played in the rain, used all the vacation, tried the new restaurant, hiked  the overgrown trail, said, “I love you.”

It’s those missed opportunities that haunt us.  The timidity and fear which create situations where we think, “I should have said . . . I wished I’d acted . . . I can’t believe I didn’t . . .”

And all too often we look back with sadness and regret the time that was wasted and can never be reclaimed. You have the power to influence the present and affect the future, but the past has been written and no revisions are forthcoming.

I think the lesson to learn here is to take advantage of today’s opportunities today!  Even if action means making an uncomfortable decision — make it! Even if the outcome is unsure . . . who cares?

Better to live with a little fear now than a load of regrets later.

Whatever you are, live a life you are proud to own!


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Just remember that you don’t have to be what they want you to be.
Muhammad Ali

Who is this “they” that keep trying to set your standards and control your behavior?

And why is it that “they” feel empowered to control your destiny?

Who is it that you’re looking toward to provide the map for your life?

Why are you waiting for them to decide?

Be courageous. Dream the dream. Take the risk. Live the life. On your terms.

But be prepared.

They have a tendency to scoff at what they don’t understand.

Mock the actions they are fearful to take.

Sabotage convictions that make them uncomfortable.

Bravely take a stand. Declare your intentions. Follow your star.

For at the end of your journey, they won’t be around to blame or congratulate — at that point you stand on your own.

As Dag Hammarskjold said, “Never for the sake of ‘peace and quiet’ deny your own experience or convictions.

Whatever you are, live your own life!


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