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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Tick-Tock Tick-Tock

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My good friend’s father just passed away unexpectedly.  He was only 72 years old.  This really hit me hard because I have two brothers who are older than 72.  And I wondered:

What if I knew they had only a short time to live?  Would I do anything differently?  Would I spend more time with them?

The obvious answer is “yes.”  But I wasn’t so quick to come to that conclusion.  What really came to mind was to spend intense time with them, not necessarily more time.  When we are together, I’d like to do more of the things they want to do, listen more intensely to the stories they want to tell, spend more time in their world.  I’d like to hug a little longer and actually say the words: “I love you.”

It’s not always that easy.  We all get caught up in our own worlds, our own challenges.  And in this day of instant everything, we feel pressured to get more done.  Something is always ringing, buzzing or dinging, demanding our attention.  It seems impossible to shut off all the sounds and the alarms that demand our time.

So this week when I visited my brother, I listened more intensely to his golf stories, laughed a little longer at the video he wanted to share with me, and put down my phone to look at pictures of his grand kids.  I doubt if he noticed any difference, but I feel comfort in knowing that I was more aware of the time we shared.  And more grateful I had another memory I could tuck away for future reference.

I am truly sorry for my friend’s loss.  I have no words to console her – only time can do that.  Soon her tears will be replaced with smiles of the memories she shared with her father.  And now, I too will have more intense memories of the ones I love.

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Shake it Up

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Every day starts out the same:

  • Wake up
  • Shower
  • Eat breakfast
  • Head to the office

Or something similar!

What if you did something today to spice it up?  Something out of the ordinary?  Something that would not  compromise you or your goal at the end of the day, but add a little spontaneity to it.

Here’s what happened to me this afternoon.  At first I was a little skeptical but I did it anyway.  Let’s see what you think.

I had an appointment at noon with a client I’ve been working with for several months now.  We were finalizing some details on a presentation I’m giving at her upcoming conference.  We had scheduled a specific time at her office, our usual meeting place. But today the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there was live music playing outside on the Capitol Square (in Madison, WI).

Taking a chance, I said: “What about hammering out the details as we sit outside, under the sun, listening to the music in the background.  What about shaking it up a bit today?”

She agreed – and it was perfect!  Instead of sitting inside a stuffy office we actually took care of the same business in a different surrounding.  I think we actually created a stronger bond between us.

So, for your next meeting, what about suggesting a walk or listening to local music or anything in your town that may be a little out of the ordinary. It’s no different than discussing business on the golf course, and since I don’t golf, I’ve just found another venue.

Now, to be clear, I would NOT suggest this with a new client or if the details of the meeting require a more structured environment.  You have to use your judgment and decide which clients and which situations would be a good fit. But what the heck, give it a try.  Shake it up a little.

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Invest in the Power of a Mastermind Group

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Have you ever heard of a Mastermind Group?  Better yet, are you part of one?

In case you’re not quite sure what I’m talking about, simply put, a mastermind group is a number of participants who come together to share ideas about a shared goal.  It’s usually business related, but in my humble opinion, it doesn’t have to be.  The key is that you all share a common goal.

Currently, I’m a member of a Mastermind group called Twainside.  Don’t ask me where the name came from – it was chosen long before I was invited to join.  But I have to tell you that it’s one of the most powerful Mastermind groups I have ever been involved in.

We are a group of professional speakers and we share tips on anything and everything to make our business more successful, more powerful, and of course, more fun.  We limit our membership to seven people.  That way everyone has time to share, learn and grow.  We are NOT a networking group or a support group – we are merely seven individuals who share the same questions, struggles and fears. 

What I love most about my Mastermind group is there’s no judging, no holding back, and no bragging.  Just an honest intent to share what is working for you and how it can help others in our group.  Last night I learned about a variety of books to read, apps to apply and programs to enhance my business.  Now I just have to go through all my notes and apply it before I forget all the great stuff I learned. 

When you work together with other people who have similar goals, an energy explodes.  You walk away excited and refreshed.  So, if you haven’t been part of a Mastermind group, think about trying one.  Search Google or Meetup for Mastermind groups in your area and see what comes up.  Try one and if you don’t like it, there’s always another one to check out.  Maybe you could even start one of your own.  The key is consistency.  Pick a specific date that your group will meet and stick to it.  Not everyone will be able to attend every meeting, but soon it will become habit.  Once you find the right group, the results are amazing!

And that is the power of a Mastermind group. 

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Music for Your Soul

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I LOVE music.  It makes me laugh, cry, dance and shout out loud – often at the same time.  It has helped me through some of the darkest challenges in my life.

For instance, when the 2008 recession hit, I lost just about everything.  It swallowed my business, my home, my relationship and my self-confidence.  I found myself sitting in an empty apartment, alone, scared and wondering what the hell just happened.  Then one day I heard this song on the radio: I Ain’t Settlin by Sugarland

It made such an impact on me that I ran out the next day and bought the CD (this was 2008 – remember???).  I played that song over and over again, singing at the top of my lungs.  I didn’t have any furniture, so I took advantage of the open space in my living room. I put on thick socks, ran and slide across the floor while shouting:

” I ain’t settlin’ for just getting by

I’ve had enough so so for the rest of my life

Tired of shooting too low so raise the bar high

Just enough ain’t enough this time

I ain’t settlin’ for anything less than everything”

It actually helped.  If even for a few minutes it made the emotional pain go away.  Even when I listen to that same song today, when my life is so much better, I still get tears in my eyes.  To me, the message is powerful and inspirational and funny.

Nine years later, I now have a new business, a new home and a new husband.  I’ve come a long way and I’m still shouting at the top of my lungs: I AIN’T SETTLIN’.

Do you have a favorite song?  One that makes you smile and feel like you can conquer the world?  Share it with us.  We’d love to sing along.

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