A Blast to the Past

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Nearly 45 years ago, I walked across a huge stage to accept my college diploma.  Graduating from Eastern Illinois University was exciting and melancholy at the same time.  Although I was proud of what I had accomplished, I was NOT ready to leave the world I was living in. 

I LOVED going to EIU.  Learning and laughing and experiencing life for the first time on my own helped to mold me into the woman I am today.  It resurrected an independence in me that I didn’t even know existed and I found confidence to face my new life. On the other hand, I didn’t want to leave the safety of my friends and everything that had become familiar to me. 

Not really having a choice, I took that diploma, packed my bags and headed out into the world of grown-ups.  My life took me in many different directions, but my path never led me back to Charleston, Illinois and Eastern Illinois University.

That is, until this past weekend!!!  Through the power of social media, and in this case, LinkedIn, I commented on a post written by someone who worked at EIU.  Through that comment, a couple of lovely young ladies reached out to me, visited me in my home town, then invited me back to my Alma Mater for a football game.  How could I resist. 

Stepping back on campus after all those years opened a floodgate of memories.  I was treated like royalty and taken on a tour of my old dorm – even my old room.  That was followed by more tours, dinner at the Victory Suite for the football game, and even a copy of the yearbook from my senior year.  I felt special and grateful and overwhelmed at how friendly and genuinely happy people were to see me.

So, today, I’d like to sincerely thank Eastern Illinois University for making me Queen for a Day.  May everyone experience a day as special as you created for me.  And may I be able to pay it forward and create such a memorable experience for someone else.

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If I Could Do It All Over Again

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If I could do it all over again, I would ask him about his garden.  This is a picture of the front yard when I was growing up on the south side of Chicago.  Certainly, not a lot of room.  Yet my father took great pride in it and found little nooks and crannies to plant bushes, brightly colored flowers, and even a few decorative pavers.  He LOVED planting and nurturing and showing off his garden.  And as I think back to my younger days, I never asked him about it.

That would be one of my “do-overs.”  I would ask my Dad to show me his garden, small but mighty.  I’d love to know why he enjoyed it so much and why he found such peacefulness in the geraniums and marigolds.  More than anything I would love to connect with him over something he enjoyed doing so much.

Of all the “do-overs” I’d like to have, this is the one that tops my list.  So now, when I get together with the people I love, or even those that I just like, I think about asking them about their passions and hobbies and what makes them happy.  I try to enter into their world, if only for a little while, and see life through their eyes and learn from them.  In the process, I’m hoping to reduce my list of “do-overs.”  I’m hoping to find that peacefulness my Dad found in his garden.

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Fail Forward

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The greatest regret you may ever experience is not that you failed, but that you never tried at all.  That you played it safe to avoid making a mistake.  The great Wayne Gretzky said it so eloquently: 

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Think about that quote.  Failure is necessary.  Mistakes, no matter how painful they can be at times, are learning opportunities, helping us make improvements and commit to doing it better the next time.  It’s only through trying, learning, and trying again that we begin to move forward.

I like to think of it as Fail Forward.  Just the image of that helps me feel a little less threatened and a little more willing to risk rejection.  I picture a Monopoly board and that my marker needs to move forward in order to pass Go and collect $200.  I have to risk landing on another players property and pay them rent.  But no matter what I’m feeling or fearing, when it’s my turn, I have to roll the dice.  I have to risk Failing Forward.

To help me Fail Forward more successfully, it helps to use the word “curious.”  If you haven’t tried this before, check out:https://nancydepcik.com/one-word-can-change-everything/ .  It can literally change the way you deal with your fear of making mistakes. 

So now it’s time to get back to my Monopoly game of life and my chance to Fail Forward.  I’ll see you at “Go” where we will have another opportunity to collect our $200 – our reward for trying and trying again.

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Five Amazing, Unbelievable, Extraordinary People

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Last week I attended the Toastmasters International Convention.  For those of you who don’t know what Toastmasters is: it’s an organization helping individuals become better communicators and stronger leaders.  Members are encouraged to give speeches to their peers, receive feedback, and become a better listener and communicator in the process: https://www.toastmasters.org/ 

This year they held their yearly convention in Chicago, so off I went for four full days to soak up all the inspiration and information my head and heart could hold.  I walked away with many golden nuggets that I will use in my upcoming presentations.  Here is one I’d like to share with you right now.

The keynote speaker, Steve Gilliland https://stevegilliland.com/, gave a riveting talk asking the audience to think about five people who influenced their life.  As he began to share his own story, he mentioned two people that made a powerful impact on him – his secretary and his teacher.  It really made me think: who has made a profound impact on my life?  Of course, there is the obvious like my father and my husband, but now because of Steve’s stories, I’d like to dig deeper to uncover the other three.  Who else has helped pave the way to get me to where I stand today?

I don’t have the answer yet, but I guarantee I’m going to search my soul for the five people who have influenced me the most, then reach out to them and tell them what an impact they have made.  I want to say: “thank you.” 

And as I am searching for the five most impactful people for my list, I can’t help but wonder: How many lists will I on???

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Need to Grow a Thicker Skin?

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A friend recently asked me: “How do you grow a thicker skin?  How do you keep the little things from bothering you?”

Great question!

Often, when we get feedback we view it as criticism.  It can come in many forms: a snide remark, negative emails or a questionable evaluation at work.  Any one of these can bruise our ego and make us wonder “am I good enough…”

So how can we learn to adapt and roll with the punches?  How do we bounce back and continue with our day?

Here are three simple steps that help me:

  1. Create a “Book About Me.”  Now, don’t roll your eyes at this one.  I know it may be hard to focus on yourself, but this helps immensely in the long run.  Go out today and buy a notebook in your favorite style or color, then begin to fill it with anything and everything you have accomplished over the years.  It could be a photo of your graduation, a certificate you won at the office bake-off or that medal you earned when you completed a marathon.  In my “Book About Me,” pictured on this blog, I have anything relating to my Professional Speaking career.  Then on those days when life gets a little complicated, I leaf through my book.  It’s a great reminder of just how far I’ve come.
  2. Have an honest conversation with yourself and ask yourself what is really bothering you.  Is it something from your past that has resurfaced?  Is there a spark of truth in what the other person said and you just don’t want to face it?  For me, if I can understand WHY I’m feeling hurt, then I can focus on resolving the problem.  Many times, it’s the hurtful comments that have lead me to my greatest accomplishments.
  3. This one is the hardest for me – not everyone is going to like me.  There are people that I will disappoint and I cannot be everything to everyone.  At those times, I take a deep breath and ask:  Have I satisfied the most important person in my life – am I happy with myself?  If the answer is no, then I have to take a hard look at making some changes.  If I can answer yes, then I can rest my head at night, knowing it was a good day.

Give these a tips a try and see if you’re able to let go of the small stuff.  It takes practice.  Just keep trying and know that you are doing the best that you can.

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The All Elusive “Passion”

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You’ve heard it a million times – Follow your passion! 

But what the heck does that mean?  What is “a passion” – and where do you find one? 

Many years ago I was watching an Oprah show and she talked about a workbook that could help you find your passion.  A workbook that I could buy, and with a little time invested, would help me find my passion and lead me to my happiest life ever.

So, as you can imagine, I bought that workbook as fast as I could.  I’d love to share the title with you if I could remember it, but as you probably already figured out, it led me nowhere.

Here’s what happened.  Every day – every single day – I sat down with a pencil and that book and worked diligently to find my ever elusive “passion.”  I evaluated and read and labored over every single exercise.  Then, when I got to the end, the book stated: “Now that you know what your passion is…”

Wait!  What???  When did I figure that out?  After all this time and work and concentration, I still had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I had no idea what my passion was.  Frustrated and exasperated, I threw the book away.

Now, many years later, I can honestly say that I have found a career that I am passionate about.  Being an Inspirational Speaker has brought me joy greater than I ever imagined.  Are there parts of my job that I’m not that crazy about – absolutely.  But I look forward to getting up each morning and facing the day.

So, if you’re struggling to find your passion, here are a few tips that helped me.  Answer these questions as best you can, and use a pencil, because your path of discovery will constantly change:

  • What are your real interests.  Make a list of what really brings a smile to your face.
  • What is boring to you?  Again with the list – figure out what you dread to do.
  • What do you consider meaningful?  The environment?  Helping people become their best selves?  There are no wrong answer here.  No one, including yourself, is judging you. 

When you can overlap your interests with your purpose, you are on the right track.  Figuring out the answers to the above questions will get you headed in the right direction.  The key is to START.  Now go find that passion!

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Fingers Crossed – This Will Be Me!

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This story literally made me laugh out loud.  The headline said:

“Disoriented and dazed” – How two elderly men felt after escaping their nursing home and going to a heavy metal festival.

Now I understand this wouldn’t be so amusing if someone got hurt, but in this case, everyone was found and returned home safely and all in one piece.

The age of these gentlemen wasn’t revealed in this article, but I could just picture two elderly men sneaking out of their nursing home, just like teenagers, and finding their way to a heavy metal concert.  It was 3:00am when they were found and they did not want to leave the four-day festival.  How did they get there?  I have no idea.  But I love the fact that they refuse to let their old age stop them from living.  It didn’t matter how old they were – they still wanted to have fun, explore and take a chance.  If you’d like to read more, check this out:  https://bit.ly/2Oc3VY0.

Truly, I hope I’m lucky enough to be this feisty and adventurous and filled with fun for the rest of my days.  I’ve met so many people who say: “I’m too old for that.”  My hope is that those words never cross my lips and that I live every moment in wonder and gratitude and laughter.   I often think of the quote by Rose Tremain:  “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”  We get one chance, so give it your best shot.  Whether it’s biking or knitting or cooking or … heavy metal concerts.

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Take a Chance

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In the wise words of…Abba

“Take a Chance on Me”

For some reason, that song kept playing in my mind as I took a trip with two new friends.  One woman was just an acquaintance – I hardly knew her.  What did she like?  Dislike?  How would it be to spend four full days with her 24/7?

The other woman is a newish friend.  We’ve spent some time together and a new friendship is budding but now we were planning to be together for several days!  Who knows what can happen.

But off the three of us went, driving from Chicago to Cleveland to see an art exhibit.  Was I sure it would work out?  NO!!!

But I took a chance.  I jumped in with both feet and focused on the positive.  And as the song says:

“Listen to some music, maybe just talking.  Get to know you better…”

That is exactly what we did, and as a result, a new friendship was formed and a second one was deepened.  They took a chance on me and I took a chance on two women who I shared four days of laughter, friendship and unforgettable experiences.

So, what do you think?  Is there something you’d like to take a chance on even though you have no idea how it will turn out?  Are you daring enough to take a chance on yourself?  I’d love to hear the new stories you will create.

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Starting Over From the Middle

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We’ve all experienced it.  We’ve all faced challenges that have changed our lives forever. Sometimes I like to call them:

  • Road blocks                                                       
  • Hic cups                                                        
  • Set backs

One thing is for certain though – in order to survive we have to find a way to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and start all over again.  But this time, think about it as starting FROM THE MIDDLE.

So many times I’ve heard people say: “I have to start all over again.  It’s like I’m back to square one.”  But if you really step back and take a hard look at your situation, you’ll realize that you learned a lot in the process.  Whether it’s a:                                                         

  • Halted career
  • Sick child                                                           
  • Lost love

Or anything else in between. You are definitely not the same person as you started so you cannot go back to the same place from where you came.  Because of your experiences, you are now smarter, stronger and more resilient.  Mostly, you know that you can survive the hic cups in your life because you’ve done it before.

So the next time life throws you a curve, take a deep breath, acknowledge all that you have learned and start over again – but this time, start FROM THE MIDDLE.

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Are You True to Yourself?

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“Why are you trying so hard to fit in, when you’re born to stand out.” Ian Wallace

There are so many times in my life when I was afraid to stand out; when I conformed to be like everyone else.  And in the process, I lost myself.  I no longer knew who I really was.

It’s taken many years of experiences, triumphs and challenges to finally be comfortable with the person I am today.  Through that journey, I have learned to embrace my flaws and celebrate my strengths.  And  isn’t it funny – they have both changed over the years.  Those traits I viewed as flaws in my twenties have suddenly become my shining moments today.

When I was much younger, I did not take criticism well.  In fact, I got quite defensive, annoyed and aggravated.  But today, I actually seek it out.  Of course, I’m talking about constructive criticism.  Actually, with my business as a Professional Speaker, I need to know what my flaws are so I can get better and better in my profession.

Now I’d be lying if I said it was as easy in my personal life, but I am much more accepting of what people have to say, both good and bad.  The key is to always take a hard look at WHO is giving the advice.  Then I take a moment – or two – to absorb it and decide if I agree.  Maybe I’ll use their advice, and maybe I won’t.

Today, I still work hard at remaining true to myself.  Most of the time I can feel it in my gut.  You know what I mean; you can usually tell if something is right for you.  That’s when I picture the little ducks in a row and see the one that stands out.  I like to picture myself as that true-to-yourself person, no matter how hard it may get.

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