Archive for the ‘Confidence’ Category

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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I came across an article in USA Today entitled, Chasing Dreams of Doggy Stardom. It was an interesting look into what it takes for a dog to make it in Hollywood. And it’s not what you might think!

The focus was on veteran Hollywood trainer Mark Harden, who shared that the type of dog best-suited for on-screen work are those who make the most challenging pets.

“Your obedient King Charles Cavalier, who sits on command and never shreds a shoe, would most likely be best-suited for cuddling, not cutting up on camera.”

Harden stated he gets as many of his dogs as possible from shelters, looking for intelligent animals with “winner” mentalities who have been abandoned for being too spirited and generally unmanageable. They have a relentless tenacity that many two-legged individuals can’t stomach, but works on-screen.

A lot of these dogs wouldn’t work in a lot of people’s homes,” Harden says.

Not that it’s the dog’s fault. But something in their upbringing has made them a failed pet. Every day, they’ve won. They’ve succeeded in barking like crazy when they want, eating dirt when they want, ruining furniture. Whatever their misbehavior, they think they’re successful.

Of course, it ends them up in the pound, but they think they’re winners, and those are the dogs we like to get.”

I don’t know about your life story, but mine has a chapter or two where folks told me I didn’t belong in their house, and abandoned me at the “pound.”

Not one to sit quietly and cuddle on a lap, I was labeled “too much this” or “not enough that.” In my attempt to destroy bad practices, dig-up disrespectful behavior, or “bark” at unethical actions, I was deemed too spirited and unmanageable.

No matter. I would rather be a star than a pet any day.

And just recently I was reminded of how easy it is for leaders to abandon people on their teams who won’t sit quietly and do as they’re told. Instead of making an effort to harness the creative energy and develop potential, they drop the challenging ones off at the pound. (Either literally or figuratively.)

These leaders aren’t looking for stars; they’re looking for lap dogs.

Where are the leaders who are willing to transform pound puppies into valuable jewels and create teams that change the world?

Maybe it’s just too hard.  After all, it takes an investment of consistency, commitment, confidence, patience, and communication to reveal potential and uncover possibility.

It takes a star to recognize a star. And maybe that’s the problem. Many of today’s leaders aren’t stars — they’re so busy cuddling on the laps of their owners they fail to appreciate the star potential in others.

To share Apple’s well-known ad:

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels.
The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
Because they change things. They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,
are the ones who do.

If this story were to have a moral it would be this: Even if you find yourself abandoned at the pound, you’re still a winner. Dream the dreams. Take the risk. Live the life!

Whatever you are, be a crazy one — be a star!


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To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don’t worry about the darkness, for that is when stars shine the brightest.  ~Unknown

We’re always looking for the numbers.  They give us confidence.  Comfort us.  Compel us to act.

How many others have tried it? Like it? Are traveling in the same direction?

We’ve been told there’s safety in numbers — the more the merrier — and heard clever sayings that sound good but have no basis in fact — not now, maybe never.

I believe the truth lies closer to the quote I heard from  a graduation speaker this weekend,

“Sometimes you have to travel alone.”
~ Vic Rockhill

Sometimes, there’s simply no one who is willing to venture with you.  Maybe they don’t see the path. Perhaps they don’t understand the dream.

That’s okay. Just because you’re traveling alone does not mean you are on the wrong path.

Likewise, even if thousands are in your company, that doesn’t signify you are on the right path. There’s not always safety in numbers — sometimes, it’s just crowded.

As Cameron Karston notes, there are many things you can learn about yourself when you travel alone.  Among other things, one learns responsibility, reliance, independence, and how to care for yourself. You have time for past analyzation and preparing for future dreams.

To live your life.

Travel at your speed.

Head in your direction.

Listen to your heart.

Be content. Enjoy the company (if there is any).

Be confident in your direction (even if there isn’t anyone else traveling with you.)

“It is better to travel alone than with a bad companion.”
~ African Proverb

Whatever you are, enjoy the journey!


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Know thyself.”

~ Delphi Temple Inscription

The title read something to the effect of It’s Time to Make Enemies. “What an odd title for an article in a business magazine,” I thought.  Nevertheless, I was intrigued!

Seriously? Make Enemies? I thought our goals were supposed to be peace, love, joy, harmony, organic, and being green.


The author went on to say that as a business owner sometimes you just have to stand your ground, stay true to your goal, and be confident in your identity — regardless of who might walk away in a snit.

It was a much-needed update on Shakespeare’s, “To thine own self be true.”

Interestingly enough, the next day I was reading the “How I Did It” article in Inc. The author profiled Jerry Murrell, founder of the super-successful Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  Murrell is a no-nonsense guy with a clear mission. He knows what he’s supposed to be doing.

Murrell’s secret recipe is to “keep it simple.” He never advertises, doesn’t offer a drive-thru, and is committed to offering the best burgers and fries in the business.  In the article, Murrell offered interesting and practical advice while providing a 21st Century spin on creating “enemies.”

When we first opened (in Northern Virginia), the Pentagon called and said, “We want 15 hamburgers; what time can you deliver?”

I said, “What time can you pick them up? We don’t deliver.”

There was an admiral running the place. So he called me up personally and said, “Mr. Murrell, everyone delivers food to the Pentagon.”

We  got a 22-foot long banner that said, ABSOLUTELY NO DELIVERY and hung it in front of our store.

And then our business from the Pentagon picked up.

I like Mr. Murrell.  And his approach.

As I see it, the problem is that we spend so much time and energy pleasing people who, in the grand scheme of things, distract us from our dream and divert resources from our mission, that we dilute our impact and erase our effectiveness.

Why is it that we feel compelled to ensure that each individual is content, comfortable, and appeased, regardless of the cost to ourselves?

Stop it.

Stay focused on your dream. Don’t allow others to sabotage your focus with demands that don’t fit your plan.  Let them go somewhere else for delivery.

Whatever you are, sometimes it’s okay to make enemies!


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By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the ash cloud over Europe, the result of an eruption by the hauntingly beautiful Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull.

And you’ve probably heard and read about the numerous ways life has been disrupted for millions of people.

  • Families stranded, miles apart.
  • People sleeping in airports; waiting for a glimmer of hope — an announcement that their plane is scheduled to depart.
  • Others seeking out various routes (train, bus) to arrive at their intended destinations.
  • Companies losing millions of dollars because 64,000 flights have been cancelled.
  • Folks unable to go where they want to go, do what they want to do, reunite with family and friends.

It’s as if the world is one big fat layover.

And I started thinking about the many people who are full of ash — ready to erupt at a moment’s notice.

Sure, they look beautiful and put together on the outside, but inside they are a seething torrent of hot gas, ash, and magna just waiting to escape and destroy anything and everything in their path.

They demolish dreams, dissolve relationships, defeat hopes.

They demand to be heard, destroy attitudes,  devastate plans.

Watch out for these kinds of people.  They may look attractive, but they are dangerous and toxic. They are manipulative, narcissistic, judgmental, insincere, and disrespectful.

What to do?

In his post, Ridding Your Life of Negative People, Evan Bailyn offers some good advice:

As human beings, we are given the freedom to hand-pick people
that contribute to our well being and enrich our lives.

We are not physically bound to anyone, and many of the people we interact with every day were not even our choices,
but rather the product of our environments.

We have no obligation to remain loyal to those who affect us adversely
unless we place little value on our happiness.

Don’t let negative people interfere with your most precious natural gift:
the capacity to love life!

Whatever you are, don’t build your home in the shadow of a volcano — literally or figuratively!


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To know what you prefer

instead of saying ‘Amen’ to what the world tells you
you ought to prefer,

is to keep your soul alive.”
~Robert Louis Stevenson

Who grades your list?

You know, the list of directions and choices and standards that you keep close to your heart. The ideas and suggestions and expectations they have developed for you.

Yeah, that list!

Some items are boldly put on the list by parents, spouses, family members and others closest to us.

Others crawl on the list as we watch television, read magazines, and compare ourselves to others.

Occasionally, when we feel exceptionally brave and confident, we might even add some things to the list: goals and dreams and desires that, too often, we keep to ourselves for fear “they” will make us erase them, or at the very least ridicule us.

Who is “they” and why do you let them have access to your list?

Think about it this way:  How often do you permit your neighbor or colleague or random person you see on television create your personal grocery list?

Sounds ridiculous, right? Can you imagine arriving home from the store with items someone else wants, but you don’t need, don’t like, and have no use for?

Would you purchase a 10-pound bag of kitty litter because your local news anchor has a cat? Of course not!

But that’s what we do with our lives.

Someone, somewhere, some time suggested you need kitty litter. So even though you don’t have a cat (and have no intention of getting one), you buy kitty litter.

Because . . . you don’t want to disappoint, and it seems like everyone is buying kitty litter, and the expectation is that you need kitty litter, too.

And, before you know it, your house and garage and pantry is full of bags of kitty litter, with no kitty in site. UGH!

Think about what you are doing: Wasting your time, energy, and resources because SOMEONE ELSE has a cat.

Seriously, isn’t it time to stop shopping for a minute and take a good hard look at your list?

Whatever you are, get rid of the kitty litter!


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We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others
that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.”
Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld.

Have you seen the show, “What Not To Wear“?  The premise revolves around fashion experts helping fashion victims select the proper clothing to compliment their body shape and lifestyle.

Think of it as a clothing intervention of sorts:

Hidden cameras, blunt advice (from the hosts), mirrors, trash cans, some crying (from the contestants), a pocket full of cash, and several days in New York City conspire to transform formerly slovenly — albeit comfortable — individuals into sophisticated and stylish fashion plates.

The entire show can be summed up with this:

Want to look better? Stop doing this. Start doing this.

I find that many of the principles from the show should be applied to real life.

Too often, we buy into worthless (or dangerous) judgments, and stuff our closets full of other people’s ideas that don’t fit, look ridiculous, and waste our time.

We make plans and take actions based on what we think others may be thinking about us or how they might interpret about our intentions.

While our “friends,” family members, and colleagues hang their expectations, whims, and ideas in our lives,  we second-guess our decisions, question our own motives, and plan elaborate communication strategies to avoid confrontation.

We accessorize with activities and phrases and ideas hoping others will accept us.

And at the end of the day, we lie exhausted on a pile of mismatched, ill-fitting, meaningless garments — a collection of other people’s “stuff” — that we never should have bought in the first place. (And at the very least, should never have worn in public!)

It’s time for an intervention!  Take a look in the mirror.  Stop letting other people trash your life.

Wheel in the garbage cans.  Throw out your insecurities. Discard the notion that your value is determined by others. Rip up the conception that you have to live your life based on what you think someone else may be thinking about you.  You look ridiculous. And, honey, you can’t be comfortable in those outfits!

It’s time for change. Follow your heart. Stand by your convictions. Confidently make decisions that are right for you — become comfortable in your own skin.

As Euripides said, “There is just one life for each of us: our own.”

Whatever you are, stop apologizing for who you are and start living YOUR life.


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There is a strange race of people
described as spending their lives doing things they detest,
to make money they don’t want,
to buy things they don’t need,
to impress people they don’t like.
~ Emile Henry Gauvreau

Do you have a list?

It may be an actual list. It might be a mental list. But I bet you have a list.

It’s probably filled with things you want to do, purchase, achieve, experience, collect, obtain.

We keep adding things to our list,and then checking things off our list, to show accomplishment and prove our life is worthwhile and meaningful.

We visit places appearing on our list.

We fill our homes with things from our list.

We travel in vehicles on our list.

We work at jobs that appear on our list.

Let me ask you a question:  Is it really YOUR list?

Or have you created the list based on the expectations of others?

Who grades your list?

Who determines what is appropriate to add to your list?

Who gives you permission to remove things from your list?

Who are you trying to impress with your list?

Make sure you are living your life off of the list you created for yourself. Others may pressure you to create a list that they find worthwhile. Resist the demands.  Listen to your heart.

Don’t give anyone else (especially people you don’t like) decisions rights over your life.

You, alone, are responsible for the decisions and actions that comprise your life.  Act wisely.

“To live is to choose.
But to choose well,
you must know who you are and what you stand for,
where you want to go and why you want to get there.”
~ Kofi Annan

Whatever you are, live a life that impresses yourself!


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Would that there were an award for people who come to understand the concept of enough.

Good enough.

Successful enough.

Thin enough.

Rich enough.

Socially responsible enough.

When you have self-respect, you have enough” [Gail Sheehy].

What we have here is a whole lot of people who need, desire, crave, must . . . have . . . more.

They are possessed with accumulating more Power. Control. Money. Awards. Things.

Anything . . .

. . . to prove they are valuable, substantial, noteworthy, important.

Unless their lives are lit up like the Vegas strip, it’s never enough.  They feel unappreciated and unimportant. Small and insignificant. When will they learn that looking outward to fill the gaping hole left by a lack of self-respect is a waste of time, energy, and resources?

I was watching a program on the National Geographic channel recently about a super ship that provides mega yacht transport across the Atlantic. (Stay with me here, I’ll make a connection.) As the 21 yachts (worth a combined $131 M) were loaded onto the ship, viewers quickly came to understand the important role of boat stabilizers. And I started thinking about the ways in which self-respect in a person’s life serves a similar purpose to those stabilizers.

Ship stabilizers are fins mounted beneath the waterline and emerging laterally. In contemporary vessels, they  have the capacity to change their angle of attack to counteract roll caused by wind or waves acting on the ship.

These unseen stabilizers (like your self-respect) produce numerous benefits including reducing crew fatigue, providing safety and comfort, protecting against cargo damage and loss, reducing motion sickness, increasing performance and safety, and reducing fuel costs.

Luxury yachts can have the most expensive technology, highly acclaimed captain, beautiful furnishings, and amazing amenities, but those “seen things” are not enough to keep it upright when the storms come.

Similarly, you can amass fame, fortune, and numerous “things,” but they will not protect you when the pressures of life are bearing down.

Think about this:

The true concept of “enough” doesn’t have anything to do with quantity.
It is all about sufficiency — having the right amount of the right “stuff.”

I like what Joan Didion said: “To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves — there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”

Whatever you are, enough is enough!


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What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
~ Unknown

Think about that for a minute.  What would you really attempt?  And once attempted, imagine what you could you accomplish.

A while back I received a card that is displayed prominently on my bulletin board.  The text reads:

Imagine yourself doing what you love
and loving what you do.

Being happy from the inside out.

Experiencing your dreams wide awake.

Being creative.

Being unique.

Being you.

Changing things to the way you know they can be —
living the life you always imagined.

Imagine. Believe. Act. Could it really be that simple?

What if you were to live the life you always imagined?

What would be possible?

Just for today, why not act as if it were impossible to fail.

Take a breath.

Take the risk.

Whatever you are, be a good one!


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