Helping Children through Reach Dane

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Recently I was invited to speak at an all day staff meeting for Reach Dane. The more I learned about this organization and the more people I met, the more I was amazed at the work they do. The mission of Reach Dane is to “change the lives of underserved children and families through education and supportive services.”

And as I worked with this group, the more I realized they do far more than that. Before my presentation, I spoke to a woman in the audience who told me she was homeless until she started working at Reach Dane – they gave her a second chance. Another woman told me about a child who was able to get eye glasses because his teacher helped him get the care he needed.

Working with children who are homeless, and families who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, takes courage and commitment and a burning desire to help someone other than yourself. I can’t even begin to imagine the heartbreak they witness every single day; I can’t even begin to imagine the stress they must be under. Yet every morning they make the choice to get up and do it all over again. They are leaving their mark in this world and making it an easier place to live for so many others.

As a motivational speaker, I wanted to inspire them and help them realize the importance of their work each and every day. At the end of the meeting, I was the one who walked away inspired. A HUGE salute to Reach Dane and all the lives they have helped.

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Laugh ‘Till Your Sides Hurt

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

I’m sure you’ve heard about this study – the one that says children laugh 300 times a day…and adults only 4!!!  Now there’s no real proof of this, but let’s be honest .  It is obvious that kids laugh a lot more than we do. 

I started thinking about this last Friday when I competed in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest.   The results??? I placed second.  I won’t lie – it was disappointing.  After all, I did want to win.  Why else would I be in a contest if I didn’t want to take first place?  But I learned a lot – I really did!

As I reflected on my speech, I couldn’t be happier with it.  During the seven minutes I spoke, the audience was captivated.  They were sitting on the edge of their seats, laughing out loud, certainly exceeding their quota of four laughs for the day.

Now, I don’t consider myself a funny person, but for some reason this speech hit a nerve.  That’s when I realized that even though I didn’t win the contest, I did win in the hearts of those who listened to me.  There could have been someone in the audience who was facing a challenge in their life, and for one brief moment, I helped them forget about their problem.  For one brief moment, I was able to ease their pain.  And for that I am totally grateful. 

So I’d like to give you a gift now.  I don’t have a video of my speech, but I do have a link to a comedy act that made me laugh out loud.  Of course, you may have to be a little older to identify with this, but I think it’s hysterical.  And maybe it will help to brighten your day.  Enjoy:

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When Purpose and Passion Collide

Professional Speaker-Professional Development-Positive Attitude

Have you heard of grit?  I recently saw an interview with Angela Duckworth who wrote a book titled Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  It falls in line with my beliefs, so it really fascinated me.

Bottom line, grit is described as a desire to constantly get better.  Almost an obsession with practicing and practicing until you see improvement.  In the interview, Angela describes two sources of motivation for this:

First, you have to discover and identify what your real interest is.  That makes sense.  If you are going to spend a lot of time practicing, getting feedback and improving, it has to be something that brings you satisfaction.  Something you love to do.

Secondly, Angela says you need purpose.  In other words, what do you consider meaningful in your life.  She suggests that overlapping your interest with your purpose will bring you closer to your passion.  That being said, she does recognize that sometimes reality sets in and you need to consider something like money. 

My belief, though, is that you usually find a way.  When I first started my speaking career, I did need a full time job to pay the bills, so I found one that had a flexible schedule.  Working in retail, I was able to free up my schedule so I could attend Toastmasters meetings and give presentations.  It wasn’t the best situation, but I made it work.  Now I’m lucky enough to be a Professional Speaker full time.  However, my practicing and improving are never ending. 

If you have some time, you might really enjoy watching Angela’s interview:  She has a much shorter TED talk but I didn’t find that one nearly as informative.  So next time you’re driving or walking or getting ready for work, hit the play button on this link.  I think you’ll really enjoy it.

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Toy Store Memories Packed Away

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

I recently read that Toys R Us is closing its doors.  The reasons are unclear.  The only thing I know for sure is that a store dedicated to one theme, and one theme only, will be gone.

Also gone will be the memories formed as children run into a toy store, eyes wide opened, so excited about the treasures that lay before them. 

For me, it was Marshall Field’s in Chicago.  In the 1950s, they had a massive toy department on the fourth floor.  Every Saturday, like clockwork, my mother and I would climb on the #62 bus and ride it to the State and Randolph bus stop.  Entering the store was magical, and as we took the escalator to the 4th floor, my excitement grew and grew until I felt like I couldn’t contain it any more.  Surrounded by toys, I would run from one counter to the other, filled with joy and dreams.  I was immersed in the world of toys – what a wonderful memory.

Now, today, we have Amazon.  Yes, I know – it’s much easier and more convenient to order the toy of choice on your computer or iPad or phone.  I wonder, though, if our children will find the same excitement by looking at pictures on the computer.  I sincerely doubt it.  Personally, I’m saddened by the loss of a store dedicated to toys, and only toys.  I’m saddened for the memory many children will never experience.

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Explore and Find the Fun

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Today is the first day of spring.  As I wrap my scarf around my neck, slip on my down-filled coat and reach for my gloves, I wonder “What happened???”  It’s more than half-way through March and I’m tired of being cold.  My feet have been freezing for the last four months. 

So, being the queen of positive attitude, how do I turn this around?  How do I find something good in this?

I know!  I’ll play a game.  Something fun that I learned from my good friend, Mary Helen.  Here’s how it goes:

Find a pocket of time when you can explore and embark on a new adventure. 

Climb into your car.  Drive in any direction for 20 minutes.  When you come to a stop sign, flip a coin.  Heads you turn right; tails you turn left.  Drive another 20 minutes, and when you stop, flip the coin again.  Heads you turn right; tails you turn left.  Drive 20 minutes again.  Then stop, get out, and explore the area.  Of course, first and foremost, make sure it’s safe.  When you have decided it’s an OK place to explore, tighten up those shoe laces and walk around the area.  You’ll discover all sorts of new things.

Now, feel free to adjust the time so it fits your surroundings –  you get the idea.

And if you don’t have a car, or you’d like a little variety, try this game on foot.  You can discover new neighborhoods, shops, restaurants, trails, parks – the list is endless.

So when you’re ready for a little adventure, and lots of fun, give this game a try.  Make it your own.  The end goal is to have fun and discover new sites you didn’t even know existed. 

As soon as the cold wind stops blowing and the mud dries up a little, this is the first adventure I’m going to take.  Hopefully warmer weather will be here by June!!! 

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Overwhelmed? What’s Your Trick to Gain Control???

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog titled I Need a Vacation.  So I followed my own advice and I took one.  It was short and sweet.  I simply drove to Chicago, only three hours away, and spent a few days visiting my friends – laughing, sipping wine and enjoying our time together. 

I purposely didn’t take my laptop.  I committed to FUN and no work.  Now that I’m back in my office – YIKES!!!  I don’t even know where to begin.  How will I ever catch up???

So here’s my question to you:

What’s your biggest time saving trick?  When you feel so overwhelmed that your head is spinning, how do you gain control?

I just tried the timer trick.  You’ve probably heard of this one before.  You set a timer for 50 minutes and concentrate on one task at hand.  That means no interruptions – absolutely none.  No phone, no coffee break, no emails.  It keeps you focused on your project so you can complete it – or at least get a good start.  It really works for me, but today I need more hours to work than the day will give me.

So what do you do to gain control of those never ending emails and ever growing piles?  I – WE can all use a little help!

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Sound Advice From Sweden

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Imagine starting each morning with a positive attitude and a belief that today will be one of your best days ever.

Ahhhhhh – wouldn’t that be great!

Well, it’s not as far off as you may think.  The people of Sweden actually have a word for this.  They call it Gökotta.  Since the word really is untranslatable, the best description I could find goes something like this:

To rise at dawn in order to go out and listen to the birds sing.  To wake with a feeling of gratefulness.

Now, since I’m not a morning person, I doubt that I will be waking up at dawn, but I think this idea can work no matter what the hour is.  Focusing on waking up with gratefulness will definitely bring peace and joy to your day. 

I may have to make a few adjustments, though.  Personally, I’m going to start with replacing my obnoxious alarm clock with something softer.  Since Gökotta suggests the singing of birds, I’ll find an app on my phone to help wake me more gently.  Surely there’s an app for that.  

In the meantime, don’t delay.  Find your own recording of “birds singing.”  Start right now and see if tomorrow morning brings you more gratitude and joy and peacefulness, simply by waking to the sound of birds singing.

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I Need a Vacation!

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

I swear I was all caught up.  My emails were under control, the pile on my desk was diminishing, and I felt like I was finally getting my head above water.

Then BAM – out of nowhere – came a new list of “things to do.”

Now, I’m not complaining.  A couple of days ago I competed in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest and won.  I’m absolutely thrilled.  The competition was fierce and they really kept me on my toes.  Now I will move onto the next level to compete again – in just six days!  That means I will be calling club members for evaluations, changing and enhancing my speech, and practicing, practicing, practicing.  All that in addition to the work I already have scheduled this week.

So I’m trying to stay in control – to quiet those noises in my head.  The ones that make me feel anxious and discombobulated, like I’ll never get everything done on time.  So to help me, this is what I’ve decided:

I will work on one thing at a time!  I will block out all the distractions that surround me and focus on only what I need to get done. 

It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.  Those distractions are so tempting; so much more fun than focusing on my task at hand.  So I promised myself to shut off everything that dings and buzzes and rings.  Only once my project is done will I even begin to look at texts and emails and social media.  I refuse to venture down that dark hole that consumes so much of my time.  By the end of this week, I WILL have an amazing speech written and give my best “performance” in the contest on Saturday. 

Then – I’m going on vacation!  If only for a few days I’m taking a time-out and celebrate my efforts.  And, yes, to get caught up on all those emails!

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Calm the Crazy

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Some days I feel like I’m inside a pinball machine.  I’m bouncing all over the place, ricocheting off the sides, gaining speed and going nowhere.

I need to stop, focus and finish SOMETHING.  The physical piles on my desk and the digital ones in my computer keep growing.  I want to calm the crazy, but how???

Well, today I’m trying something new.  I bought a timer that is really cute – it’s shaped like an ice-cream cone – and I’ve started setting it for breaks.  That’s right, BREAKS!  A real time out during my day.  At first I thought: “I don’t have time for this,” but as I tested it I found that taking a short break really was refreshing. 

To take it one step further, I’ve decided to say three accomplishments out loud before I start my next challenge.  It might be something like:

  •   I just finished writing and posting my blog
  •   I let my family/friend know that I’m proud of them
  •   I just started reading that new book

It could be anything.  Basically, it shifts your mind from thinking of everything you have to do to all the great things you’ve already accomplished.  It truly is invigorating.

So stop thinking about your job, your credit score, your waistline, your retirement savings…  Take some time for yourself, even if it’s only five minutes and Calm Your Crazy.  Have fun with it.

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Have You Heard of the Gratitude Walk?

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Have you heard of this:

 The Gratitude Walk

I’m sure just about everyone has heard of the Gratitude List, but A Gratitude Walk???  When my good friend, Paul, mentioned this to me, I really became curious so I did what any open minded person would do…I googled it.

And I liked what I read.  Here is one article that I found very interesting:

The idea is to walk every day and with each step, think about what you are grateful for. The thought of walking and being grateful at the same time sounded like a powerful combination to me.   And as I thought about it further, I realized it didn’t have to stop at a single word or a single thought.  It could be an entire story of something or someone I am grateful for.  It could be a total experience of something that happened in my life.

I really like this idea and want to try it immediately.  BUT…  (there’s that ugly word again).  Where do I begin my Gratitude Walk?  With snow on the ground and the sub zero weather, do I really want to take a walk outside?  If you are as driven as my friend, Paul, you do it anyway.  You zip up your warmest coat, wrap that scarf tightly around your neck, put on your best gloves and go out to face the weather.

However, I’m being honest here.  That’s not for  me.  So I’m left to figure out how I can do a daily Gratitude Walk when the weather is crummy.  Any ideas?  I’d love to hear them.  I’d really love to start a Gratitude Walk and I need your help.

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