It’s Time to Give Back

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Do you volunteer?

I have found that whenever I take time to help others, asking for nothing in return, some unexpected and amazing things happen.

For instance, several years ago I volunteered for a group called Chicago Greeters, obviously located in Chicago.  They offered free tours to anyone visiting the city and matched them with a knowledgeable tour guide – that was me.  It’s an amazing service: http://chicagogreeter.com/.  If you are ever visiting Chicago, I highly recommend it.

Well, during the two years I volunteered there, on one day, and one day only, I worked with a young woman and we became instant friends.  Now, ten years later, we still remain very close.  Her friendship was worth any amount of money I could have been paid.  And as the commercial says – our friendship is PRICELESS!

Another great experience I had was with an organization called H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly) also located in Chicago: https://www.homeseniors.org/.  They asked me to help a 90 year old woman who was depressed and she needed someone to keep her company.  They asked me to read to her, play a game with her or simply visit and keep her company.  I spent three years with Geri Franklin before she passed away, and in the time we spent together, she shared with me a love and wisdom that has literally changed my life.

So now I have moved to a new city.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found a place to volunteer and I’m getting antsy.  It’s time – time to give back and make a difference in someone else’s life.

So that’s why I’m asking you – do you volunteer?  What experiences have you found to be the most valuable?  What organizations would you recommend?   What are your stories of volunteering?  I’d love to know.

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Remember – It’s Your Story

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This is the fourth week we are talking about storytelling.  Why?  Because it is so powerful in getting your message heard and remembered.  Did you know that an audience is twenty times more likely to remember a fact if it is presented as part of a story that touches them emotionally (this is according to Jerome Bruner, cognitive psychologist).

But does it really matter who said it?  Just think about some of the lessons and techniques you have learned recently.  Do you remember the Power Point and graphs and charts – or do you remember the stories that you identified with.

So in order to be a great storyteller, let’s take it to the next level…

So far, I have shared with you techniques on where to find your stories and how to construct them to have your audience sitting on the edge of their seats.  Now there’s only one more bonus tip you need.  It will help you become one of the best storytellers ever!  The final tip is how to remember your story so you can make an impact on your audience.

Bonus Tip!

To help remember your story:

  • Record it and listen to it over and over again.
  • As you listen to your story, visualize it.
  • Say it out loud as many times as possible.
  • Use short, simple, descriptive words.

So, if you should find yourself standing in front of an audience, and those nerves begin to kick in, try the four tips above.  Remember, it’s your story.  You should know it better than anyone else, so just begin telling it.  Have fun with your audience.  Laugh along with them. You will be amazed at how impactful you can be.

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Jaw Dropping, Captivating Storytelling

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In my last two blogs, I shared the importance of storytelling and specific ideas on where to find your stories.  So now that you have the idea, and your story is written, how do you bring it to life? How to you actually tell it so people will want to listen.

Here are a few ideas:

One trick is to engage all your senses – or at least some of them.  That means, tell your listener what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what you taste and what you feel.  This last one can be what you feel inside, like an emotion, or what you feel physically, like a hard bench.  By engaging the senses, you invite your listener into your world and make them actually feel  your words.

Another technique is to use dialogue.  Here’s an example – see if you can tell the difference:

My brother stepped out of the phone booth and told me that Mama said we could go on the

roller coaster.

OR

My brother stepped out of the phone booth, looked at me and said: “Guess what, Nancy, Mama

said yes, we can go on the roller coaster.”

Take a minute and say those two examples out loud.  You will definitely notice a difference.  Creating dialogue makes your story more exciting and more engaging.

And then there’s the Power of the Pause.  When you want to create suspense or need your audience to sit up and take notice, PAUSE. It works every single time.  A word of caution here – it will seem like an eternity to you, the speaker.  But the most dramatic lines are delivered with a longer pause.  One thing that helps me stay on track is to silently count to three in my head before I deliver the punch line or dramatic statement.

If you would like to see some of this in action, check out the story I told when I won the Chicago District 30 International Speech Contest.  I finished in the top 100 out of 30,000 competitors, and it was my storytelling techniques that helped: Mama Told Me Not to Come. It’s a hoot.

Well, look at this – time has flown by.  I have a few more tricks and tips to share with you on storytelling, so I hope you’ll join me next week.  I promise it will be well worth your time.

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Where Do I Even Begin?

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In last week’s blog, we talked about storytelling and how impactful it can be, whether you’re talking to an audience of 1 or 1,000.  But how do you find your stories?  Where do you even begin?

With a universal truth – that’s where!

A universal truth is a feeling or action or emotion that just about everyone has experienced and can identify with.  Think about anger, love, jealousy, and things like that.  Some of the topics that can help you get started are:

  • Sibling rivalry
  • An embarrassing situation
  • What you studied in school
  • First job or promotion
  • A bad customer service experience
  • An interesting trip or business meeting

You get the idea.  The above examples are very relatable because most people have had a new car, a first job, etc.

I heard of this great example:

Sallie Krawcheck is the former CEO of Citigroup’s Global Wealth Management division. Through her speeches, she connects with people by telling a story that anyone can identify with.  She talks about feeling like an outcast at her all-girls school as a teenager – with glasses, braces, and corrective shoes – and how that prepared her for the challenges of her professional life. She once said: “there was nothing they could do to me at Salomon Brothers in the ’80s that was worse than the seventh grade.”

Get the idea?

Remember, each story must have a beginning, a middle and an end.  A good formula to follow is to have a LIKEABLE HERO who ENCOUNTERS ROADBLOCKS and EMERGES TRANSFORMED.

You can also apply that to your own life, here’s a suggestion that will help you take that first step:

First, write down your struggle or your challenge:

Second, write your success – how did you overcome your challenge and bounce back:

Play around with these ideas, suggestions and formulas and see what you come up with.  Next week I’ll share some info on how to make your story come to life when you actually tell it out loud.  You will have your listeners sitting on the edge of their seats!

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Everyone Has a Story – What’s Yours???

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The best way to get something you want, or to make someone understand what you need, is to tell a story.

Did you know that people are 20 times more likely to remember a fact if it is presented as part of a story?  That means that all those charts and graphs and numbers in your presentation can actually be interesting if they are wrapped up in a good story – especially one that is attached to an emotion.

Of course it has to be relevant to your audience and your message.  So talking about your Aunt Suzie’s cat won’t have an effect on your audience unless you make it clear why you are telling it.  Your audience will always be thinking: What’s in it for me (WIFM).

There’s a good reason why stories are so important:

PEOPLE REMEMBER THEM!!!

And you can use stories for so many different reasons:

  • To motivate your team to work together
  • To encourage your children not to give up
  • To comfort a friend who has suffered a loss

So what’s stopping you?  Put on those specks and start writing.  Look at that blank page and see what words begin to pour out.  Those white pages will soon fill up with words and phrases and sentences that will make your story come to life.  And those are the same stories that can help someone else believe in themselves once again and learn to laugh a little sooner.

Next week I’ll offer some suggestions on how to find your stories and how to make them impactful.  Hint: it has to do with Universal Truth.  HUH???  Stay tuned!

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Sorry Mom

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It took me into my gray hair years to finally realize what it means to have a good relationship. It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn, but today I build new memories by living in the moment and trying to enjoy being in the present.

You see, when I was much younger, I’d visit my mother in a nursing home.  Today they have much fancier names, like senior retirement centers, but you know what I mean.  Every time I’d visit her, before I even walked in the door, I’d be thinking about when I had to leave.  I’d greet my Mom with:

“Hi Mom, I have to leave at 3:00 so I can get to my next appointment on time.”

OR

“Hi Mon, I have to leave at 4:00 so I can avoid the traffic.”

Throughout my visit, I’d keep one eye on the clock, making sure I wasn’t late for whatever was happening next. For whatever seemed so important at the time.

Now, 17 years later, I can’t visit my Mom anymore.  She’s no longer here for us to share a laugh or a hug or even something as simple as watching her favorite TV show together.  I can no longer feel her sitting next to me.  And as I think back to our visits when I was always in such a hurry – I can’t even remember what was so important that I didn’t take the time to truly BE with her.

That was a hard lesson to learn.  And because of that, today I am more aware of being in the present.  More aware of enjoying the time I have with the people I love.  Making time to have real conversations; to ask questions – and really listen to the answers.

It’s a whole new ballgame for me.  I work hard at being in the present each and every day.  And on those days when I fall back into my old habits, I get up the next morning and try again.

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If You Had Only One Wish…

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Have you heard of this?  An Australian nurse, Bronnie Ware, recorded the top five regrets people had during the last 12 weeks of their life.

She actually recorded their final wishes and found that some of the same thoughts kept coming up over and over again.  When I read this study, it really made an impact on me.  So much of an impact that I’d like to share it with you.  After each wish, I’ve shared some of my thoughts:

  • I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. It’s natural to want the people we love to be proud of us, but sometimes we lose ourselves in the process.  Take a minute and ask yourself what makes you happy.  What brings a smile to your face?  Then go after it with a vengeance.  Make sure you are one of the people you are trying to make happy.
  • I wish I didn’t work so hard.  How many times have you heard the phrase: no one writes on their tombstone that they wish they spent more time at the office?  Try every day to balance your personal and professional life.  Some days it will work, and on those days when it doesn’t, get up the next morning and try again.
  • I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.  Sometimes we learn to keep anger and sadness to ourselves.  We bury any thoughts that are difficult or scary. Although it may be hard to do, try to be honest with others and especially yourself.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  In this day of Facebook and instant everything, it’s easier than ever to reconnect and stay in touch with friends.  Then life gets in the way – responsibilities at work, with our family, and overall stress creeps into our pours.  So how do we find the time to stay in touch with friends?  One call at a time, one email at a time, one text at a time.  Just to let them know you are thinking of them.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier. This last one breaks my heart.  How sad it must be to get in the way of your own happiness.  Being happy is a choice, and you have the power to make that choice each and every day. We all encounter challenges during our life.  When that happens, be “curious” and see it as an opportunity to move forward to your next adventure.

Reading this list has helped me become more aware of my own life, and it also helped me better understand the older people that surround me.  I now smile a little more and complain a little less.  I hope that by sharing this, it will do the same for you.

If you’d like to learn more about Bronnie Ware and her study of the 5 Regrets, check out her blog at: http://www.bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-of-the-dying.

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Are They Wrinkles or Are They Laugh Lines?

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I love being an older woman.  You may think I’m crazy, but it’s true.  With age comes freedom.  I have finally figured out what I like, what I don’t like, and I have stopped making excuses for either.  I finally have the freedom to be myself; to live my own life and not the life that others think I should.

This lesson did not come easy for me.  It took years, actually about 60 of them, before I arrived at this place in my life.  You see, I grew up at a time when everything around me said I had to be domestic.  You know, cooking and cleaning and that kind of stuff.  For years, I tried – I really tried, but I hated to cook, every minute of it, and I just didn’t want to do it.  My family and friends truly wanted to help and refused to give up on me.  They were convinced that if I just knew HOW to cook, I would like it, so they gave me cook books, videos of famous chefs, even cooking classes.  And you know what?  I STILL hate to cook.  But now I don’t make excuses for it anymore. With age, I have learned to embrace my own uniqueness.

Yes, I have wrinkles, and yes, I have more pounds on my butt than I’d like to admit, but I have earned every one of them through experiences, some good and some not so good, that led me to where I am today.  And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

True beauty is ageless, and to find yours:

  1. Surround yourself with confident, kind and interesting people who encourage you to go after your dream
  2. Stay “curious” about life and never let your age limit your possibilities
  3. Take some time to discover who you really are and not what someone else wants you to be

Once you find the answers, you will begin to experience life like you have never known it before  You will see things with an excitement and a passion that you have never felt before  When you look in the mirror, you will see a confident, vibrant, mature person looking back at you.

Aging is inevitable – it’s not going away  So take control of your life and find more time to do the things that make you smile.  After all, it’s not the number of your age that matters, it’s your attitude and the way you look at life.  A positive attitude is something no one and nothing can ever take away from you, not even your age.

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No Excuses – Not Today

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For weeks I heard about this “once in a lifetime experience.”  The eclipse on August 21 was an event not to be missed.

So I asked several people where the best spot was to view this amazing phenomenon, and this is what I heard:

 

You won’t be able to see it because of the clouds

If you travel, the hotel rooms are outrageously expensive

The whole thing will only last two minutes, so why bother

 

I started to doubt if it was worth all the trouble.  And as I allowed everyone else’s “stuff” to get in my way, I started falling into the trap of doing nothing.  After all, it was easier!

Then my husband mentioned that Bascom Hill on the University of Wisconsin campus might be a good place to view the eclipse.  After all, they had an observatory there and it might be an interesting spot. So at the last minute, I thought: “What the heck?”  And off I went.

And what a sight to behold!!!

There were so many people all gathered together for the same reason, sharing the same interest.  People I didn’t even know graciously handed me their special glasses so I could get a peek at the eclipse, and others were anxious to share their knowledge and stories of other eclipses they had seen in the past.  Everyone was unified, smiling, laughing and enjoying a common experience.

What a disappointment it would have been to have missed it.  What a lost opportunity.

And as I drove home, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I missed a moment or a connection because I listened to others and I chose to take an easier route?  How many times have I allowed my own fears and doubts to get in the way?

I’m so glad that today wasn’t one of those days.

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Pamper Your Inner Diva (or Divo)

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You’ve heard it over and over again – Take care of yourself first so you have the strength and energy to take care of others.  There have been books written, songs sung and poems read about this topic.  Even the airlines announce in their safety tips: put on your oxygen mask first before assisting anyone else.

We all know it’s important, yet so very hard to do.  Why?  How can we learn to pamper ourselves without feeling guilty?

Well, if you have a tendency to take care of everyone else first, putting yourself last, try this:

Start small.  Take just a few minutes each day for yourself.  Pick one thing you like to do.  Something simple like drink a cup of coffee, read a book, listen to music.  Notice that I said take “just a few minutes,” so before you start shouting: I DON’T HAVE THE TIME, think about just 5minutes.  That’s it – nothing more.  5 minutes is long enough to hear one song or read a couple of pages or just sit quietly and do nothing.  Try it for one week.  Then, if you feel comfortable with that, add a couple more minutes onto your “me” time each week.  If that’s too much, then scale back and add a couple of minutes each month.

The point is to carve out just a little time for yourself and do something you love to do.  And no, that doesn’t mean folding the laundry or planning tomorrow’s meals.  This is time for you and you alone – no one else.

Out of 1,440 minutes in each and every day, I bet you can find just 5 for yourself.  Thinks about it; give it a try.  Put on your Diva Cape and set the timer for 5 minutes!

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