Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "Job Well Done"

It was the early stages of a recent drive across America: 2,930 miles, four time zones, 12 states and a lifetime of memories. My two children and I are in Chicago staying with loved ones.

It’s the morning after an annual Christmas party and a “hostess with the mostest” was busy cleaning away the prior evening’s fun. I’m helping this fabulous cook with the process when she slides a hand-written card within my view.

Written by her husband’s aunt, the note thanked Mary Gans Schmitt for all she is as a loving and supportive spouse to Victor and a devoted and responsible mother to two darling children Shannon and Nolan.

Aunt Dolly, the note writer, and her sister Kay – Mary’s mother-in-law – are Kilgallon family members. This family, a half century ago, started “Cousin’s Christmas.” It’s a warm family gathering where Santa Claus - or one of his assistants – makes a surprise appearance with gifts for the younger children present. A few years ago, I had the honor of serving as Santa and wrote about the experience in Lemons into Margaritas.

Anyway, the cleaning and conversation are going well when Mary shared this loving note. I find my reading glasses and read the short message: it warmed my marrow.
Auntie Dolly had taken the time to express thanks the family’s hopes and prayers had been realized when Victor, exercising patience and intelligence, found the “right girl” in waiting to marry, Mary.

Whenever I get the privilege of giving a Pep Talk to a group, we talk a lot about teamwork being “the key to success.” Much time is spent discussing the value of working well with others for the betterment of our families, workplaces and communities. Three things about this hand-written note really resonate when speaking of teamwork: gratefulness, appreciation and acknowledgement.

Auntie Dolly went out of her way to express gratefulness and appreciation, to Mary, for a job well done. This week I encourage you to do the same. It might be for your spouse, significant other, co-worker, child, neighbor, sibling or complete stranger – it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is we never lose our sense of gratefulness and appreciation for a job well done. Write it down and give it away, okay? You never know when that sincere acknowledgement might inspire the recipient – or even you – to “carry on” in ways that continue to honor, nurture and add value to communities we serve.

We are here to encourage – give hope and confidence to – one another. Let’s never grow weary of saluting a job well done.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "The Fantastic Foundation"

On a recent road trip across America with my two kids a wonderful stop was St. Louis, Missouri. Home of Anheuser-Busch, the Gateway Arch and my former in-law’s, the Martirez’s: Emmanuel, Dawn and their three darling children.

In Lemons into Margaritas I wrote about this family and the events surrounding it and the television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

The story centers on Evan, a handsome young boy who was born with an abnormality on his 9th chromosome that makes life challenging for him and his loving parents. The five-year-old either crawls or moves around with the aid of a walker. The young couple’s aging St. Louis home was not built for this beautiful soul: too many stairs, levels and tight turns, to quote Emmanuel, “Said no to Evan.”

A little more than a year ago, the award-winning show, in less than a week at the same location, built a new home that says “yes” to the entire family. It’s beautiful, energy efficient and incredibly functional. There are few walls and the wide-open design allows Evan unlimited mobility. There’s even an elevator to the basement and the kids’ very cool playroom.

As we visited and dined on delicious pizza from Imo’s, a St. Louis institution, Emmanuel shared a touching tale of the teamwork required to build – in five days from start to finish – this spectacular gift. “Often when we’re out and about, we’ll run into someone who worked on the project,” beamed the advertising professional. “People will say to us, ‘thank you’ for allowing me to work on your home!”

Whenever giving a Pep Talk to a group, I always encourage them to never grow weary of doing good things for others because of what it does for us. It’s the “law of circulation” in effect. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, contractors – folks who often don’t work side-by-side – united to transform a lemon – the heck with lemonade - into a sweet and savory margarita for a husband and wife desperate for housing solutions considering their unique challenges.

And the people who performed the work are thanking the recipients? It’s a great reminder of a real truth: the recipe for a successful life – at home, work and community – must have, as a critical ingredient, a heavy dose of generosity toward others because WE benefit as much, or more, as the recipients.

Generosity with our time, talents and treasures is a fantastic foundation to building a life that honors us, nurtures those dependent upon us and adds value to the communities we serve. And boy does it feel good.

Monday, January 11, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "Truth and Responsibility Rule"

It was late December and the morning after my son’s 20th birthday party. I’m in the kitchen concluding cleanup of a wonderful evening where family and dear friends laughed often, ate too much and toasted Kyle: a fantastic young man with a bright future.

Anyway, I’m wrapping up the cleanup but then pause to read “Heene’s Grounded” the front-page headline story from the Denver Post. The “Balloon Boy” couple was sentenced to brief jail time because of an ill-advised hoax that didn’t pass the transgression-trumping test of honoring them, nurturing those dependent upon them or adding value to the communities they served.

The presiding judge, in punishing the Heene’s, said their actions were of “deception and exploitation.” Not exactly two words you want associated with your name, right?

Oxford American Dictionary defines “deception” as “acts that cause a person(s) to believe something that’s not true.” The definition of exploitation, “to use others for one’s advantage”, is equally damning.

Whenever I get the opportunity to encourage others with a Pep Talk, we talk a lot about the value of effectively working with others. It might be at home, work or community. Regardless of venue, the strategy’s the same: we realize we need each other, that teamwork is the key to success. We believe in the law of circulation which, in the Comeback Coach’s world, means one good deed leads to another.”

It’s tough to be on that team, at least for long, if we’re participating in activities that cause people to believe things that aren’t true and use others for personal advantage. That type of behavior, while perhaps successful for a short while, will ultimately come back to bite us in the butt. Hard. Just ask the Heene’s, Tiger Woods or Bernie Madoff as recent examples.

Deception and exploitation are two behaviors we must avoid. It’s not always easy. We’re tempted on a daily basis to tell people things that aren’t true. We are also tempted to take shortcuts that appear, at the time, advantageous personally despite the effects on others. We are human and vulnerable.

When is it okay to be deceptive and exploitive? Ever? Take inventory of where you’re at right now: at home, on the job or within community, is there room for improvement when it comes to truth and responsibility ruling over deception and exploitation?

I finished reading the Henne story, tossed the newspaper on the counter and resumed cleaning the kitchen, with renewed purpose. Truth and responsibility must rule over deception and exploitation: today, tomorrow and forever. It’s a rare time where there is any exception to that rule.

Monday, January 4, 2010

This week's Pep Talk Blog: "Win in Ten"

It’s a new year, a time when making resolutions are popular. We make a mental pledge to ourselves, “this year is going to be different.” It might be losing weight, exercising more, smoking less, finding a new job, returning to school, getting involved more in the community, less in unproductive stuff – and many others.

The big challenge with these “New Year” resolutions is keeping them. We start the journey resolute to become superior to our former selves. But let’s be honest, it’s often the exception, rather than the rule, when our goal is met. It’s tough to break old habits.

When giving Pep Talks to others it’s one of the main topics of discussion: how we often start something and, for a while, demonstrate great determination in reaching our goal. But then “life” distracts us and efforts to fulfill the resolution are comprised, by our minds.

Audience members when asked what happens at this moment - when resolutions become compromised - offer many suggestions: “boredom” or “distracted” or “fear of failure” among the most common.

The well-known definition of resolution is “a mental pledge to do something.” However, there’s another definition, that is critical in keeping a New Year’s resolution, it’s this: “the solving of a problem.”

The ability to solve the problem of a bulging waistline, smoker’s cough, dead-end job, lack of education or whatever you’re resolute in changing, starts, and ends, with a shift in thinking.

So the year 2010 has begun. Come as you are, just don’t leave as you were, okay? Open up that space of possibility that lies within each and every one of us to shift from whatever “is” to what “could be.” Let’s transform potential that lies within each of us into prosperity by solving a problem that’s preventing us from becoming superior to our former selves.

This is not easy. There will be many times when you want to quit – don’t. Try three things to keep you on track. First, don’t beat yourself up in weak moments – we all have them; Second, realize you’re not alone. There are many folks out there trying to lose weight, quit smoking, find new jobs – connect with them; Third, put fear and self doubt aside and allow wonderment to win – focus on that dress you want to wear, the career you want to pursue, the life you want to live.

Finally, constantly encourage – give hope and confidence to – yourself and others. It will be the fuel firing the resolute engine within, empowering you, and others, to win in 2010.
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