Personal Development

Focus on opportunities

Life Lesson Of The Week
When one door closes another opens.
-Linda G’s Life Lesson from Kansas City, Mo.

Focus On It
It has been 987 days since I moved to New York City from the safe fields of Kansas City. In those 987 days, much has happened.

I have been firedI have played at the US OpenI have written another book. But through it all, it feels like I am getting closer to “graduation.” I’ve worked my ass off to get something and after speaking with my friend Kade a few week ago, I am coming to terms — and peace — with the reality that my “dream” may not become a reality. It is beginning to sink in and it sucks. I’m starting to really feel it.

But in this sadness can come joy. I am beginning to ask the question: What’s next?

Focus on Opportunity

Life Lesson Of The Week
Make the most of each day.
-Anonymous’ Life Lesson from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Focus On It
There are any number of cliches that I can use with this week’s lesson. Each day is a gift that we are given and it is up to us to use it to our advantage. Recently, I saw an image that said that dads only have 960 Saturdays until newborns go off to college. The point was to make the most of each and every moment.

Our lives are short and there is no point in letting fear and worry get in the way of the good in your life.

How do we do this? Enjoy today and repeat that tomorrow.

Fears Are Imaginary

This article is not about a wheelchair. And it is not about tennis. It is about self-motivation, improvement and simple decisions to eliminate invisible barriers.

While Jamie Burdekin and Esther Vergeer’s stories are different, their lessons are quite similar.

Jamie and Esther represent some of the best tennis talent on the planet. They are connected through the game, but also the chair through which they play it.

Esther VergeerJamie was already an up-and-coming wheelchair tennis player when he injured his wrist while training. The diagnosis was not good. In order to have a chance to play again, he would need surgery. Even then, playing might not happen again his doctors told him. It is one thing to become a great wheelchair tennis player. It is another to re-learn how to be a world-class tennis player.

But for a man who has beaten the odds before, Jamie took it in stride and  blocked all of the negativity out. He even went so far as to ease the worry of the doctor, assuring him of his faith in the doctor’s skills. What would happen, would happen.

Jamie did make it back to the court, but it was slow and sometimes painful, both physically and emotionally. For a man who had been the fifth-best player in the world prior to the injury, it just wasn’t the same. And to add insult to injury, during his rehab his coach had Jamie use a smaller racquet, tennis balls made for beginners and a mini-net. It wasn’t all fun and games for Jamie. He said it was a bit embarrassing at times and people gave him strange looks, but he was back on the court playing tennis. Before the accident the landed him in a wheelchair, Jamie had never played tennis, and after his accident he started playing with a full-size racquet and on a full-size court. Having the surgery on his wrist was a risk, but also a blessing. It gave not only the coaches a chance to improve every aspect of his game but also it allowed Jamie to learn the game like children do every day around the world.

And while Jamie did not win a medal at the London Olympics, he does not fear what is next, just what he can do with what he has.

For Esther, who recently retired, she became wheelchair-bound at a young age, but did not let that stop her.

Of all the athletes, politicians, doctors, and writers I have met, Esther is probably the most humble, honest, and hardest working I will ever meet. I will never forget when I re-connected with her in 2010. I was at a tournament site when she checked in with the tournament director. She had come straight from the airport to get in a short hit with her coach. I left the site to get to the tournament hotel for a quick workout before my dinner. Who did I run into in the hotel gym later the night? Esther. Here is a woman who is the No. 1 women’s wheelchair tennis player on the planet. She was the Roger Federer of her sport. But what struck me was the fact that while all her competitors were out having dinner and relaxing, the best player in the world and favorite to win the tournament was at the gym continuing to work to get even better.

Who knew that when Esther had spinal surgery at age eight (which landed her in the wheelchair), that she would change the face of wheelchair tennis 25 years later. As an eight-year-old, she first picked up basketball, but soon added tennis, and in 1998, decided to focus only on tennis. A year later she was the best in the world. She is a woman who, even as a young child, took the unknown and embraced it. One other thing you should know about Esther, who retired in early 2013 from the game, was that she last lost a tennis match in January 2003. In that time, she won 470 straight matches and spent an astounding 668 weeks as the No. 1 player in the world.

Jamie and Esther are living proof that limitations are choices and that those limits are just manifestations of fear.

Be Not Afraid

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In life, there are very few things that we have the ability, the opportunity, and the pre-knowledge to stop. Life happens.

Just the other day I got rained on here in the city. It happens. Did it affect my mood? Sure! But only for a time. I kept my focus on the fact that I would be seeing an old friend later that day.

That is the power we can have over our own minds. But sadly and some might say consequently, we don’t exercise it nearly enough. We let the fear of the unknown and sometimes probable event, impact our enjoyment of the moment.

In fact, just the other morning a friend of mine couldn’t sleep because they were working their mind into a frenzy about a terrific job opportunity. They have spent nearly a decade out on their own and this new corporate position would take everything they have learned and studied and roll it into one fantastic position. But he’s nervous about the move. He nervous if he will be good enough. He is so nervous about the decision that he can’t sleep. And this is a guy who studies this for a living!

His experience is a simple case of letting something outside of your control impact your health. In fact, 45% of people in a study in the UK said that fear and worry had negatively impacted their health. Now I can see how that is possible.

I am also not immune to this epidemic. I think back to Thanksgiving 2006 and realize I was not able to enjoy a family vacation because of worry. Earlier that fall I had met Senator John McCain at an event and decided I wanted to work for him and his presidential campaign.

I interviewed for a position on his Iowa staff and shortly before the holiday, was offered the position. I took off with my family for the Colorado mountains where I was unable to relax. I called my current boss and discussed my future at the company with her and called my closest friends and advisers for their input. I prayed. I made a pro/con list.

Through it all, I was worried about the following issues:

  • What if he loses? What do I do then?
  • What if he wins? Will I get a job in the White House or be unemployed?
  • What about the life I am building?

When I made the call shortly after returning home, I reluctantly declined the McCain offer. Don’t get me wrong, it was the chance of a lifetime, but it was not the right time in my life to take that leap. But I worried so much about the future that I did not look at the present. I didn’t look at the true questions at hand and instead, let fear and worry of the unknown control the decision-making process.

I worried so much that I did not enjoy the trip with my family. I worried so much that I was unwilling to fail. I worried so much that I ruined my vacation.

Fear is within your control.

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Running From Yourself Book Tour

Time is running out!

After speaking on ‘fear’ this past weekend at TEDxUpperEastSide, I know this book is a hit.

As I stood on the stage overlooking the audience, they were engrossed in the statistics about worry and fear and left with a sincere desire to re-take their own lives … and I believe you will feel the same way.

Speaking at TEDxUES 2013

You’re running out of time to get some great packages (and discounts!) on “Running From Yourself”.

If you pre-order your book now, or have your company or organization purchase a package, I can work your city into the book tour that is currently being planned.

Remember how my first book was on possibilities? Well this book is about one of the reasons we don’t allow those possibilities to come to fruition. It’s on us to get rid of our own road block.

Please support the tour today and share this with all your friends and family. Thanks for your support and I hope to see you on the road!

I Wanted to be an Architect

architectGrowing up I also wanted to be an architect. But when I saw the amount of engineering that went into design, I took a different path. But the cool thing is that I still get to create.

Whether I am taking photos, painting, doing construction, or leading seminars and workshops, I still get to create something from nothing.

The path may not always go where you thought it would. Life is about embracing that unknown.

Newsletter – Fear Nothing

This is part of my monthly newsletter (which is free, by the way)! Sign up below to get this each and every month!

I have started the promotion for my latest book, Running From Yourself, and my friend Derek tweeted with a great hashtag: #FearNothing. And it’d true. That’s why I wrote the book.

We (myself included) can’t live in fear. We have to be dedicated to our owns lives and recognize what we are afraid of. Only when we do this can we truly find not only happiness, but success.

fearSuccess in our professional lives and our personal lives.

Here is a quick story to illustrate my point:

Love hurts. But you know what hurts more? Losing yourself.

Sometime this decade, I lost myself. Sure, I still followed my passions, but I was changed. I still haven’t figured out all the reasons; perhaps one day I will. But I was in love. And love makes you do crazy things, including changing who you really are. I became angry. I lived in hiding. I said things I didn’t mean. I filtered my own voice. I fell to fear. I was afraid of losing someone I loved.

Instead of losing that person, I lost myself. I hope my mother doesn’t mind e sharing this, but she thanked my boyfriend Steve this past Christmas for giving her her son back. She was referring to the real Richard being back. And in that moment, I was proud, touched, and angry. I was angry at myself for letting the fear of a lot of things cloud my own life.

I encourage you to check out the IndieGoGo campaign I have to take Running From Yourself on a national book tour. The rewards are great (and you get the book at a great discount!) so please help me go after this crazy goal. I’m not afraid to ask.

In fact, I am no longer afraid.

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Cher Proves There is Nothing Left to Fear

Not  much can be said about Cher. She is a world-renowned artist who has been performing in one form or another since she was one part of Sonny & Cher in 1965. She is credited with creating a sense of female autonomy and self-actualization in the entertainment industry, not to mention her 140 million records sold throughout her illustrious career.

It is no surprise that the fearless Cher is releasing a new album this fall: Woman’s World. Give a listen and watch her below. Even at 67, she is fearless.

Newsletter – Don’t Ask

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There is an old saying that we would rather ask for forgiveness than be told no. That concept can be virtually applied to anything in life. I’m currently working on a major project (will be announced in the next two weeks) that has me thinking a lot about fear.

I’ve been thinking about it’s origins, it’s power, it’s failures, and it’s opportunities. With all the weather-related destruction of the past month, I have been thinking more and more about community.

Large Crowd of People Cheering and Raising Their FistsHaving membership in any type of community, no matter if it is religious, professional, or just your neighborhood, means there are rules and policies to follow. But it also means that there is a “family.” I believe that is why religious institutions are strong places of community, because there is an attitude of family in those communities.

And families have a unique character trait:

Families don’t ask. They do.

But “communities” are different. Members usually wait to be asked to help and to volunteer their time. All of my research into the origins of fear have me wondering about a lot of things, this subject included.

I wonder why we don’t step up for a friend when we know they need us.

I wonder why we don’t give the $10 to disaster relief even though we could skip that trip to Chipotle.

I wonder why we don’t volunteer five hours of our time a month instead of watching America’s Got Talent every week.

And in my opinion it comes down to this:

We fear doing something. Anything. We fear giving too much of ourselves even if we’re not giving a lot away to begin with.

We fear being left behind, but we don’t do anything to get ahead.

There are so many things to be afraid of in this world, but helping others can not be one of them.

We are part of a community. You. Me. Your neighbor. And the neighbor’s dog. We are one. Together. And we don’t need to ask permission to help.

The only thing to fear is that we are going to discover one day how truly powerful we are. Hopefully we aren’t too late.

Focus – on Character

Selected Life Lesson
It’s not what you say about yourself that defines your character. It’s what others say about you.
-Gary A’s Life Lesson from Leavenworth, Kansas

Richard’s Thoughts…
In thinking about Gary’s lesson, I am taken back two weeks to when President George W. Bush dedicated his library. There was a lot of news coverage, and not all of it good. Many writers and reporters took the time to remind the public why they despised the man, five years since he left office.

But then there were others that surprised me. One was Donna Brazile’s column for CNN: Bush came through on Katrina. She writes how the President made her a promise and came through in more ways than one. That is character.

What will others say about you? Whether you are the president or who you are today, your actions matter, but the history is up to others. Make what others say a virtual guarantee.

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