Following the Sun

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

This time of year, every year, sunflowers come into full bloom. Since I grew up in the inner city of Chicago, I never actually saw a sunflower in real life – only in pictures. I guess that’s why I was so fascinated when I found an entire field of them growing just a few minutes from my new home in Middleton, Wi.

I discovered that sunflowers follow the sun. Did you know that? They actually start each morning facing east, then slowly turning – I mean physically turning – to follow the sun as it sets in the west. As I read more about this, I learned that it’s really the younger flowers that do this, yet how amazing.

It made me wonder about you and me and how we start every day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could learn from the sunflower and look toward the sun? To follow the brightest spot on the horizon even on those cloudy days that we all face? How empowering to stand together, supporting each other and sharing our energy.

As I look at this picture of the sunflower fields, I can almost see the faces of my family and friends who have stood beside me during my cloudy days. I see Jack and Geryl and Asha and Dennis and so many more. I am surround by a field of friends who never let me forget to follow the sun.

If you’d like to learn more about these beautiful fields of sunflowers, check out Pope Farm in Middleton, WI: https://www.popefarmconservancy.org/.

 

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A Lesson on Kindness from a Six-Year-Old

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Did you read this heartfelt message from a six-year-old boy who wants to share a lesson on kindness?

I actually read it yesterday morning and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It was tucked between the horrendous news of the mass shootings in both Ohio and Texas. As I read about tragedy and tears and turmoil, my heart was heavy.

Then, there it was. An article that started with the quote: “I will be your friend.” As the story goes, a mother told her son she would make him a back-to-school T-shirt with any message he chose. It could be something about one of the school’s sports teams or anything his heart desired. The young boy chose the phrase “I will be your friend.” He said he wanted any classmates who are being bullied to know they have a friend in him.

Even as I write this blog, I have tears in my eyes. Such a powerful lesson from a small child. May we all learn from his kindness and love.

If you’d like to read more about this story, just click here: https://cbsn.ws/2YNL3U3.

 

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Stretch Your Comfort Zone

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Staying in your comfort zone is easy, it’s safe and it’s predictable. You know what to expect and you know you can handle it.

It can also be boring. That’s why I, personally, am always searching for something new to experience, whether it’s a different restaurant or a unique event to research.

And normally it works out pretty well in my “after hours” life, especially if there’s little chance of failure. But what about real life? How often do we stretch beyond our comfort zone to take on a new project or risk failure?

Achieving a new level of success is not easy – and it shouldn’t be. Forcing yourself to face fear and self-doubt tells you that you are on the right track. Don’t run from the discomfort – face it. Dig deep down and fine tune all those talents you know you possess. Believe you will be a stronger person tomorrow because of the challenges you push through today.

Think back to the last time you found yourself out of your comfort zone. Did you have those same feelings of fear? I’m guessing the answer is “yes,” yet you found a way to conquer them. And how do you feel now when you face a similar situation today? Not so scary, is it? Why? Because you have expanded your comfort zone.

The way I see it is: The task didn’t become easier – you became stronger. So, push past those metal restrictions you place on yourself, stretch those comfort zones, and know you can achieve new levels of success. Acknowledge the fear, accept it, then do it anyway. You will be amazed at what lies ahead of you.

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The Sweet Sound of Laughter

It was one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard. As I was slowly waking from my nap, I could hear my husband and my brother laughing hysterically. About what? I have no idea! And it didn’t matter because all I heard was the two men I love most in this world forming a closer relationship.

It all started about six months ago when my husband announced: “I have a great idea. Let’s take a driving trip to the Badlands and Black Hills with your two brothers.” I immediately called them both and was anxious to put the plans in motion. Unfortunately, my oldest brother could not make the trip, so it would be just the three of us forging a new adventure and creating new memories. We decided to travel together for only five days and agreed on a trip consisting of:

Breakfast / Driving / Lunch / Driving / Sightseeing / Driving / Dinner / Driving

You get the idea. Would the three of us survive each other’s company inside a small Acura? Only time would tell. Up until now, we always got along but that was at family gatherings that only lasted a few hours. How would we emerge at the end of a five-day journey, spending nearly 24/7 together?

So, that’s why I loved hearing the sound of my husband and brother laughing. Not only had we survived five full days together, we were all closer because of it. I emerged from this trip with a new appreciation for time and how we choose to spend it. I have a new patience and outlook on family gatherings and the effort we put into strengthening those relationships. For me, get-togethers with family and friends will never be the same again.

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Sit Up and Take Notice

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Most of my friends make fun of me because I like Country Western music. But that hasn’t changed my mind. The messages I hear in those songs are some of the most powerful words I have ever heard. They touch my heart and make me sit up and take notice.

Like the one by Tim McGraw titled Live Like You Were Dying. This song played over the speakers as I was walking through the airport and it made me stop in my tracks. In my hurried and sometimes scattered life, I actually stopped, stood still and listened to the words. Tears came to my eyes when I heard the line: “What I’d do if I could do it all again.”

It actually made me think of my father. Maybe it’s because Father’s Day just passed, or maybe it’s because I never stopped missing him. Whatever the reason, I thought of how I’d spend more time with my Dad if he were still here with me. I’d listen to his stories a little more closely and cherish the times we laughed together. I would ask for his advice – and maybe this time I’d even listen to him.  I know it sounds like a cliché, but I would do just about anything to feel his arms around me one more time. It would be the most sincere hug I have ever known because now, with more years of experience behind me, I would know how to truly FEEL it.

So on those hectic days when I feel like I just can’t add one more item to my list of things to do, I play Tim McGraw’s song and ask myself: “What I’d do if I could do it all again.”

And just in case you’d like to listen: https://binged.it/31CLCTm.

 

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When You Need a Life Preserver…

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It’s raining, it’s cold, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than going to the movies. I chose to see Rocketman, the life story of Elton John, and I was not disappointed. I was especially moved by something Elton John says at the end of the movie. It goes something like this:

“I spent so long trying to keep something I never really had in the first place.”

Wow – this could refer to so many things. We could be searching for:

  • The love and approval of a parent
  • Being accepted by someone you love – or maybe just like
  • Learning how to respect and believe in yourself

And the list goes on…

So how do you let go? How do you find the strength within yourself to live your life without needing the approval of others? In Elton John’s case, he found refuge in drugs and alcohol, and it nearly killed him. So where can we turn to find a safer solution?

For me, it was having someone I could talk to; someone who would not judge me or try to change me. Someone who was just there for me. And as I look back I realize that it may not be the same person throughout the years.

When I was very young, it was my brother, Dennis, who helped me keep my sanity through a crazy childhood. Recently, it’s my husband, Jack, who thinks I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. And in between, there have been so many others who have stopped to listen, lend a helping hand and pull me up when I felt like I was drowning. So many others that believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.

Look around – they are there for you, too. Sometimes, though, we are so caught up in our own mess that we don’t see them; we don’t hear them calling out to us. Just stop! Listen!! And grab onto that hand that is reaching out to help you.

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Is it the Journey or the Destination?

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It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” As I think about those words, I have to respectfully disagree – at least for some occasions. Let me give you an example.

Recently, I traveled to Australia. It took 35 consecutive hours to get there (nope, that’s not a typo), I stood in endless lines and missed two flight connections. Yet, once I reached my destination, it was all worth it. I stayed in a small town called Fremantle which was absolutely gorgeous. In this case, was the journey magical – hell no! Was the destination worth all the aggravation? Absolutely!!!

And now that I think of it, this can also be applied to my current everyday life. Are things going good for me right now? You betca. Was the journey to get here a breeze – not even close. Yet, if I hadn’t survived that bumpy ride in my life, I would never be where I am today. Another case of the destination outshining the journey.

So, I guess you never know. Sometimes there is a pot of gold at the end of all the searching and turmoil and confusion. Other times it’s the journey that brings all the brightness and sunshine. Maybe it’s best to try and find the good in both the journey and the destination.  If nothing else, it will help you keep your sanity!

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When Your Life Has Been Turned Upside Down

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Facing challenges is a part of everyone’s life. Some small, and others, not so small. How do you survive them? How do you let go when all you want is your old life back?

Well, a couple of years ago, I was interviewed by Dick Goldberg, a respected radio and television talk show host, for his podcast titled Overcoming Adversity. I was honored to share the 30-minute interview with Neil Mathweg, CEO of Realty Executives in Madison, WI. Why were Neil and I interviewed together? Because we had very similar stories. We both lost everything in the 2008 recession – and survived.  Although we took different paths, the outcome was the same. We both faced a deep darkness in our life and came out on the other side, reinvented and better than ever.

Along the way, we learned lessons about life and values and relationships and self-esteem. It’s very hard to talk about those dark days and the embarrassment we both felt.  So why do we do it?  Because both Neil and I want to help others who are going through challenges in their own life. We want to reach out and hope that something we say will make their recovery time shorter and their climb out of the darkness a little easier.

If you have just 30 minutes, please listen to our interview.  You will discover very helpful tips, either for yourself or a friend, that will help you overcome adversity, no matter where life may find you: http://www.dickgoldbergradio.com/overcoming-adversity/.

 

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Fake It Until…

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You’ve all heard the term: “Fake it ‘til you make it.”

But the phrase that has really struck a chord with me is:

“Fake it ‘til you become it. “

The first time I heard this revised version was by Amy Cuddy on her TED talk. It reminded me of all the times I was afraid to try something new; of all the times I told myself: “NO, you just can’t do that. You’re not young enough or strong enough or good enough!” How many times have I set limits on my own possibilities and my own dreams!

A great example of this is my blog. 208 weeks ago I posted my first blog and I had no idea what I was doing. I’m so thankful that I have great friends who helped me set up the technology side of it.  Then I had to figure out the rest on my own. Did I fake it – YES. Did I eventually become it – ABSOLUTELY! It was a great accomplishment and a huge boost to my confidence.

Fear can be such a debilitating force and it can stop us from moving forward. Yet fear is normal. It’s part of the process. Our goal is not to get rid of fear but to walk through it and see who we become in the process.

So, the next time you feel challenged or fearful or begin to doubt your confidence, repeat to yourself.

Fake it ‘til I BECOME it.

BTW – this is the photo of me posting my first blog. Can’t you just feel the fear and astonishment?

 

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What’s Your Why

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What’s your why? The first time I heard this question I was sitting in the audience. The presenter asked this question, then lit up the screen with a picture of his three-year-old son. He proudly stated: “That’s my why. That’s why I get up every morning and do what I do.”

Since that time this question has haunted me. I really wanted to understand my why; to understand why I have such an obsession and love for being in front of an audience and delivering inspirational speeches.

Personally, my answer isn’t so obvious. I don’t have children and no other answer immediately popped into my mind. So, I’ve searched for my answer for years and finally, I figured it out.

It’s really not the speaking that’s my why and certainly not the rush of adrenaline I get just before going on stage. Rather, it’s about helping people who are going through challenging times right now. I guess you could call it a type of Paying it Forward.

For those of you who don’t already know my story, the 2008 recession wiped me out. By 2010, I had lost my business, my savings and my home. The only thing – THE ONLY THING – that got me through that difficult time were my friends. They grabbed me by the hand and led me through the darkness, refusing to let go.

If I can do that for someone else through my speeches, if I can relieve their pain even if for a second or two, then I have found my why. I have found my reason for doing what I do.

It’s a hard question to ask, and my sincere hope is that you find your why and live your purpose. Remember, we don’t get burned out because of what we do. We get burned out because we forget why we do it.

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