Monday, October 26, 2009

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "If Only for Curiosity"

I recently joined almost 19,000 other people for a “Get Motivated” seminar at the Pepsi Center in Denver. It was a day chock full of inspiration and information about, as I like to say, turning life’s lemons – the heck with lemonade – into sweet and savory margaritas.

One of the featured speakers was Colin Powell. When he talks about leadership, it would be wise for us to listen considering his resume: four-star general, former national security advisor and secretary of state to name just three important roles he has successfully fulfilled in service to our country.

It wasn’t always so rosy for the New York native. He was struggling academically at City College of New York, barely making passing grades, except for his work in ROTC. Advisors at school kept urging the Harlem native, “go into the army.” He finally followed their advice, and the rest is history. His message to the sellout crowd: “It’s not where you start, but where you finish.”

In each and every Run to Daylight presentation, as the Comeback Coach, I encourage others to “put fear and self doubt aside and allow wonderment to win.” That’s exactly what Powell did in foregoing his academic studies and heading for a military career where his natural leadership skills were fine-tuned and perfected.

At one point in his presentation, the nation’s first African-American Secretary of State talked about his early military years at Fort Benning, Georgia. A superior was talking to Powell about leadership and offered: “True leaders are the types that others will follow, if only out of curiosity.”

I sat there in the darkened arena furiously trying to write that down before the powerful statement escaped my consciousness and was lost to the galaxy. Man, that takes tremendous faith to follow someone “if only for curiosity.”

To possess that type of leadership skill one must possess many values: trustworthiness, dependability, intelligence and vision, to name just four. And you know what, those types of leadership traits transfer from the battlefields of war and diplomacy: they are true on the front lines of our lives at home, work and community.

This week, through demonstrating proven leadership skills of trust, dependability, smarts and creativity create an environment – in all areas you roam – where others would be willing to follow you, “if only for curiosity.”

It obviously has worked for Colin Powell. It can work for each of us too. Leadership is leadership, the venues may change, but the strategies – and values – are the same.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This Week's Pep Talk Blog: "Opponents as Allies"

A friend recently needed a ride to a counseling appointment. I was honored to assist. While this wonderful human being chatted with a psychologist about life’s challenges I sat in the waiting room, reading. My attention turned to a recent edition of Psychology Today and an article about the three Emanuel brothers: Rahm, chief of staff to President Obama; the eldest Zeke, head of bioethics at the National Institute of Health; Ari, a Hollywood super agent and inspiration behind HBO’s hit show Entourage.

What jumped out at me was the atmosphere prevalent at the family dinner table as the three siblings grew up in Chicago. The conversation was always robust. Rahm called it “gladiatorial.” Zeke on the other hand, remembers the exchange of ideas within the Jewish family as more of a “Talmudic debate” where an opponent’s views are considered an ally in the search for truth.

I just about levitated from the comfy chair: to view an opponent as an ally in the search for truth? What a fantastic proposition! My thoughts immediately focused on our elected politicians. Imagine what they could accomplish if they began to view the views of brethren-across-the aisle as allies in the search for truth?

But a nanosecond later, my thoughts shifted to other areas where a similar philosophy of engaging the so-called enemy - instead of avoiding or disdaining them - might lead toward more harmony and goodwill: our homes, workplaces and communities.

As the Comeback Coach, I’m always talking about being “limited only by imagination, not fear, in creating productive choices to the challenges we face.” Often, when we’re in the midst of challenges at home, work or community, it’s quite tempting to dig our heels in and refuse – often out of fear - to consider a differing viewpoint. But in keeping with the Talmudic debate theory, could it be wise to embrace our perceived opponent’s thoughts as an ally in the search for truth?

It’s always been my belief that a willingness to consider diametrically opposed viewpoints can open the door, not for compromise, but for creativity in creating mutually satisfying solutions far greater than imaginable if one is left to personal thoughts, beliefs and opinions.

This week, let’s all take a cue from the Emanuel’s. When our viewpoints are challenged, embrace differing opinions as an ally in the search for truth. We can also remember the wise words of English poet Alexander Pope: “A person should never be ashamed to admit they are wrong, which is but saying they are wiser today than yesterday.”

Monday, October 12, 2009

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "A+: Leno's Imagination"

One of the real blessings of my life is, often, others ask me to be master of ceremonies for their various events, whether the event is to raise money or awareness. I love helping organizations achieve either productive goal.

Recently it was my honor to perform such duties at an event for Savio,, and its mission to, as the website says: “offer comprehensive services that strengthen families, prevent child abuse, neglect and delinquency.” This wonderful evening also included a comedian, Frank King. He’s a North Carolina native who’s funny but in a caring way, if that’s possible. Anyway, we’re sitting next to each other through dinner and we’re chatting away – swapping war stories from the speaking and media world – when he tells me a story about Jay Leno. “I have written jokes for years that often Leno uses,” King confessed. “He’s always good about paying up.”

Then King, who has been on the speaking circuit for 20 years, tells another impressive story about NBC’s comedic superstar. “Jay at one point in life wanted to be a Rolls-Royce mechanic,” King tells me. “The dealership turned him down. But he noticed what the servicemen were wearing. Went to local store and bought similar outfit. Showed up the next day and acted like he belonged.”

My eyes were growing wide as King continued: “Finally, the service manager and general manager figure out what’s going on. They are ready to confront Leno when a fellow serviceman pulls out from under nearby car and grunts: Whomever decided to hire this guy is smart, because he’s talented.”

Leno had the job. In each and every Run to Daylight presentation, I challenge others to be “limited only by imagination, not fear in creating productive choices to the challenges you face. That’s what Leno did. His imagination created “act like you belong” and overcome the internal, or external, fear-based objections that shouted, “Are you crazy!”

This week, let’s take a cue from the legendary Leno and really believe in imagination conquering fear. But here’s the key: make sure in your attempt to achieve that goal it’s done in ways that honor you, nurture those dependent upon you and add value to the communities you serve.

That’s running to daylight and play like a champion. Leno’s imagination, in getting that mechanic’s job, was stronger than his fear. It can be the same for you. Be trust me, it won’t happen without you putting, as I like to say: “fear and self doubt aside and allowing wonderment to win.”

Monday, October 5, 2009

This week's Pep Talk: "The Roller Coaster called Life"

There are moments in a parent’s life when it is tempting to do whatever necessary to erase the frustration and sadness present on our children's faces and permeating their souls.

I had one of those recently – shared by my daughter’s wonderful mom too – as we witnessed our beautiful and moody seventh-grade darling have one of those “days.”

This day started with much elation: Rachie finally, after much discussion, was allowed to get contact lenses. No more squinting to see the teacher and instructions being written on the whiteboard at school. “Wearing my glasses in school? Dad, are you kidding me?” Logic is often in dispute for teens and parents, right?

This bundle of wonderment passed the “can you place the contacts in your eye and take them out” test in quick fashion and we headed for the car energized by her “freedom from four eyes.” The mood changed dramatically a few hours later, when, while at the orthodontist, the doctor put braces back on ALL her upper teeth. We were expecting a few braces to return, but not all. “Too much shifting since we took them off. This will be just a month. It’s the right thing to do,” said the ortho. He shared everyone’s disappointment.

The drive home was quite somber. Hating the silence that engulfed the car like bad gas, I blurted out, “Life, man, it will throw you curveballs when you least expect it.” I really didn’t expect a response. I just hoped she realized if her mother or I could, we would have done anything to eradicate her sadness and disappointment.

As the Comeback Coach I’m always trying to encourage others to keep a healthy attitude toward change. I know it’s not easy, but quite often, once the dust settles and the pain subsides we realize change bring things into our lives worth keeping no matter what. I didn’t say that to a 12-year-old image-conscious girl at the moment, but I’m saying it to you now.

Life has its share of ups and downs. It’s a roller coaster ride without question. So the question becomes, “How are we going to deal with the pain and disappointment? Are we going to be a victim of the circumstance or a student of the experience?

Choose wisely. If for no other reason, young and impressionable lives – our kids – will learn from us and our ability - or inability - to effectively deal with change, challenge and adversity. We are teachers, be a good one, okay?
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