Five Amazing, Unbelievable, Extraordinary People

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

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 be on???

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Need Help With Self-Motivation?

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This past weekend I attended the Toastmasters Conference.  If you don’t know what Toastmasters is –  NO, it’s not a secret recipe to make great toast!  Instead, it’s an international organization promoting and perfecting communication and leadership development.  Toastmasters is the reason I am a Professional Speaker today. 

When I entered my first meeting eight years ago, I had no intention of getting up in front of an audience to speak.  I went to the meeting because I was facing a very dark time of my life, and I had nowhere else to go.  As I walked in the door, I was greeted by so many smiling faces.  I felt like I was in an episode of Cheers where “everyone knows your name.”

With lots of encouragement, and a big nudge, from my club members, I began to enter contests.  As I won and advanced to the next level, then the next, I became more confident, developed a voice I didn’t even know I had, and found my way in a new world.

So recently I entered yet another contest, won at two levels, then came in second.  Just like that – it was over.  And I wondered: Why  do I keep doing this?  Why do I keep opening myself up to rejection and feeling crummy?

Then I took it one step further and wondered about life.  About my profession.  What about anyone’s daily dance with rejection?  Then I found this video by Mel Robbins.  I had actually never heard of her before, but her video touched me in a way that few ever do.  So I’d like to share it with you.  

If you’ve ever been scared; if you’ve ever faced life challenges that have brought you to your knees, this may help to put it all in perspective: https://binged.it/2Feku0v.

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Laugh ‘Till Your Sides Hurt

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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: https://binged.it/2IGWDJ0.

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When Purpose and Passion Collide

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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: https://binged.it/2EfyIh6.  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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I Need a Vacation!

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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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The Rule of Three

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Yep, I discovered The Rule of Three when my life was quite messy.  It’s the sixth technique I’m going to share with you during this “How to Get Back on Your Feet” series.

This is what happened:

I started noticing that there were some things in my life that kept coming back to me over and over again, like the word Toastmasters.  I’d never heard about this group, but several people told me to look into it – that I might be interested.

At first I ignored them, but the third time I heard the word Toastmasters, I went home and Googled it.  I found out they are an international organization whose members give speeches at their club meetings, then are evaluated by their peers.  They promote communication, public speaking and leadership skills.  Although I didn’t give any speeches at the time, I decided to give it a try.

Today, Toastmasters is probably one of the major contributions that led me to being a Professional Speaker.   I met so many people who helped me get my new business off the ground and turn it into the success it is today.

Another time The Rule of Three changed my life happened when my young friend, Karla, suggested I try online dating.  Now, realize that I was 63 years old at the time and I had vowed to never let another man in my life.  But somehow, she convinced me to try it and “just see what happens.”

At that time, I lived in Chicago and I never planned on leaving the city – NEVER! 

After a couple of weeks on eHarmony, a picture of a sweet-smiling guy popped up.  I was interested, that is until I saw that he lived in Madison, Wisconsin.

Nope, not for me.  I’m not leaving Chicago.

But the third time his photo appeared, I sent him an invitation.  And as they say, the rest is history.

I now live in Madison, Wisconsin.  We got married a couple of years ago.

So I’ve learned that when something comes back to me three times, I have to  stop and take notice  That doesn’t mean that I have to follow through, but I do have to look at it carefully, research it, then decide what’s best for me.

Remember, you never know what life will throw your way.  It just may be worth taking a closer look.  Paying attention to The Rule of Three has certainly taken my life in different directions, and I couldn’t be happier.

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Good, Bad or Indifferent – This is My Story

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One day a good friend of mine told me about Michael Kennedy.  She said he writes a blog on people who have started their own business after 50 years old.  And I thought: Hey, that’s me!

So I gave him a call.

What a wonderful person.  He listened to me carefully, asked intriguing questions, and wrote a story that even amazed me.  His unique style and insightful writing makes me want to share it with you, so here it is.  And he even published it in the Huffington Post: http://huff.to/2cm8NKu.

For more information on Michael, please visit his blog at: http://bit.ly/2dgT9kW.

The Nancy Depcik Story

Most definitions of resilience go something like this: the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt to change, and keep going in the face of adversity. Last week I had the distinct pleasure to chat with Nancy Depcik, President/Founder of Unshakable Success™ her very successful, Chicago based, public speaking company. Nancy’s story gave me a whole new appreciation of resilience and should provide plenty of motivation to anyone facing adversity in their lives.

You see, up until the age of sixty, Nancy’s life was going pretty much as planned. She and her husband owned a very successful property management company. She had much to be thankful for.

At the end of 2008 Nancy’s world as she knew it came crashing down. Like so many businesses during the “Great Recession” the company went under. This downward spiral was compounded by a separation from her husband. On her own with no job and significant debt, Nancy remembers her nephew helping her move into a tiny condo. No additional help was required as she only had eleven boxes to move. In order to help make ends meet she found a job in the bridal department at Bloomingdales. She spent the next year doing her best to hold things together financially, ultimately the hill proved too high. In 2010 she was forced to sell her condo and ended up renting a 10′ by 10′ room in the home of a stranger. How do you spell ROCK BOTTOM?

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.- Mahatma Gandhi 

With countless reasons to give up and start blaming the world for her situation, Nancy chose to persevere. I asked Nancy how she made it through what must have been an amazingly difficult period. She said that most importantly she had a group of friends that stood by her throughout her struggles. During this time a number of people suggested that Nancy should check out a local Toastmasters chapter (Non-profit organization developing public speaking and leadership skills through practice and feedback in local clubs since 1924). What seemed like an inconsequential event at the time turned out to be the key to the amazing path that Nancy presently finds herself on.

As an experienced school teacher and then sales and marketing executive, Nancy had done her share of public speaking, but nothing could prepare her for the success she found through Toastmasters. In fact she won her first speaking contest within three months of joining. The combination of very supportive club members combined with early speaking success was a game changer in helping Nancy regain her confidence and self esteem. As most of her speeches were based on her recent journey they also proved to be very cathartic. The more she spoke about her story the more success she had in competitions, the more people she impacted with her positive message of hope, the more she was able to heal.

It was only a few months into her time at Toastmasters when she was approached by a woman and asked if she was available to do her talk at a local library, It would be her first paid speaking engagement. It was at that moment that Nancy realized that not only was public speaking something that brought her joy, but it could be her road back to financial stability.

From those humble new beginnings Nancy, at 67 is now a professional speaker, public speaking coach and workshop facilitator. Audiences are captivated by her engaging style and moved by her message. She has delivered keynote speeches to Fortune 500 companies, universities, and numerous conferences and she is just getting started.

So what are Nancy’s lessons learned for aspiring 50+ entrepreneurs?

  1. Don’t listen to the naysayers. The most dangerous of these can be the person in the mirror so beware of negative self talk.
  2. You need to surround yourself with people that will support you. True friends who will stick by you regardless of your circumstances.
  3. You will need hard work and patience. There is no shortcut for hard work especially for a solopreneur. It is very unlikely that your business will scale as quickly as you would like so put in the work and be patient with yourself.
  4. There will be many twists and turns along the way. Nancy said she replaced the word scared with curious. She could have never imagined becoming a professional speaker, but was both flexible and fearless enough to follow the dream when opportunity came calling.
  5. Always continue to learn and grow. Take classes, join mastermind groups and continuously network. Become a lifelong learner.

Nancy is at peace with the past and recognizes that she would never have found the amazing life she has today without the struggle that preceded it. One of her greatest joys is the opportunity to chat and provide encouragement to the people who always line up to meet her after her speeches. This is the tangible evidence that her words are making a positive impact on the lives of others.

Nancy Depcik of Unshakable Success™ is a professional speaker and presentation skills coach.  She is dedicated to helping organizations, corporations, and individuals develop a positive attitude, leading them to positive results. For more information, please visit https://nancydepcik.com/

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That’s All Folks!

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I didn’t expect it.

But there I was, standing in line at the Starbucks in the Washington DC airport. And I begin to cry. People around me must think I’m crazy. But it’s a minor breakdown – and it will pass soon.

The Toastmasters International Speech Contest is all over now. Out of 30,000 speakers competing, I’ve advanced to the final 98. Yes, I’m left standing with 1% of the greatest speakers in the world. We all started this journey over six long months ago. There was so much hard work, so many rewrites of my speech, and so many people who gave their time to me. But that’s all behind me now. And I don’t have a physical trophy to show for this last round of the contest.

Yes, I already know all the encouraging words that people will say:

You are a winner for getting this far
You did a great job and we are all proud of you
You are a better speaker and a better person because of this experience

My head knows all that. But my heart feels tired and rejected. You see, it was more than just a contest to me. It was exposing myself to the world, stepping out of my comfort zone and risking failure. It was accepting help from so many people and wanting to make them proud. It was taking a chance to see if I was “good enough.”

At first I try to hold back the tears and rationalize what has happened – and why it happened.

Then I decide to just let it be. You know what? I’m sad and I’m disappointed and I’m discouraged. And I decide to feel all those emotions and any others that may surface. I decide to embrace them and just let them happen. With time they will pass and I will rise, once again, stronger than ever.

Over 20 years ago, I saw a banner that said:

Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are.

20 years ago!!! And I still remember that saying today. So I decide to put it into practice. I will wrap my arms around all those crappy emotions, let the tears fall, and just plain feel. And I will be ok.

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A Sincere Thanks

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I am so overwhelmed by the outpouring of support I’ve received from my family, friends and strangers.

I started my journey to compete in the International Speech Contest last February. Yes, that’s over five months ago. Since that time, I have delivered my speech to over 25 different Toastmaster clubs for their feedback. With each group, my speech got better and my message got stronger.

People I don’t even know gave me their time, their good wishes, and in some cases, even gifts. One lovely lady gave me a four leaf clover pin to wear for good luck during the competition. Another friend actually made me a card with my name and World Champion of Public Speaking right under it. Absolutely amazing!

Since my Toastmasters club is a three hour drive – ONE WAY – from my home, I have to figure out where I’m going to stay for the night. And in most cases, I stay several evenings to make the best use of my time.

That means my husband spends a lot of time alone, my brother graciously opens his home to me each and every time, and my friends adopt me for an evening so I can enjoy some much needed “time off”.

Why do I tell you all this? For one reason only…

This whole experience has changed me in a way that I never saw coming. I started this journey to win a contest – that’s all. In the process, I have met some amazing people who have warmed my heart. I’ve gotten closer to the people I love, and have made friends out of strangers. People I never really knew before rose up to help me.

In the process, I have become a better friend – even to those who don’t really know me. I have stopped saying: “sorry, I’m just too busy now” and replaced that with “how can I make your life easier”. It’s made my life lighter. That’s right. I actually feel like I can breathe easier, and smile from my heart.

So I guess there’s no real “lesson” for you in this blog post. Just a huge thank you for your support, for reading my blog, and for being a part of my life.

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Broken Pieces of the Puzzle

Professional Speaker-Personal Development-Positive Attitude

Have you heard the new song by Kelly Clarkson titled: Piece by Piece? When I first saw her perform it on the last episode of American Idol, it touched me deep in my soul and I haven’t been able to forget it.

It’s strange because she talks about being abandoned by her father, yet I had an extremely close relationship with my father. So why was I so moved? Why did this song creep into every pour of my body when I couldn’t even identify with it?

Then I realized, it really wasn’t the song or the words, it was her performance. She sang from her heart and the story came from her soul. She touched the audience in such a way that tears not only came to their eyes, but streamed down their cheeks. We all felt her pain.

Watching Kelly’s performance made me realize that I need – not just want but need – to deliver my speeches to my audience with the same intensity. She has given me clearer direction as I prepare my message for the upcoming Toastmasters contest that I am preparing for.

The message I share will be intensified because of the authenticity, compassion, and soul-bearing that she shared. The greatest win I could ever be awarded is knowing that I touched my audience in some way that made a difference in their life – that somehow I have made their life a little easier.

If you haven’t seen the video I’m referring to, check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FHYBQxURQo, but get the box of Kleenex ready first.

I was just wondering if anything has ever touched you in that way. Maybe a song, a poem, a movie??? Something that grabbed hold of your heart and didn’t let go. Do you know why? Have you figured out the real reason? I’d love to hear all about it.

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