anything is possible

My Sitcom Pilot

Years ago two friends (Evan and Eric) and I wrote a situation comedy together. It was just something fun for us college friends to do over the summer. I spent a lot of time that summer shopping for an agent for us as well as doing the lion’s share of the writing, as I was the “writer” of the group and the other two were the “comedians” coming up with the material. About a year later, I found a contest being run by some television network to write a sitcom that would go into a contest. I decided to write and enter something. That was years ago. I thought for sure I had lost it.

Everybody Loves Raymond

But in cleaning out some files a few weeks ago, I found the only hard copy that remained! I was thrilled to find it and flip through the pages. It is titled, “In This House.”

The summary reads in part: “Sheryl and David West have three children and their oldest, Katie has just had her first baby, Sarah, with her husband Carter Walker. They live int he garage apartment. Her brothers are Eric and Jay and they are very different people. Life offers challenges and there is nothing this family won’t face – and face with a little humor, a little emotion, and best of all, a little heart. Each person has friends and talents, but in the end it’s the family that makes life interesting and complicated.”

The writing itself wasn’t bad and was, surprisingly to me, even a bit funny. But finding this project is significant for a different reason. It shows that we can really do anything. Of course, I didn’t win the contest, but I, Richard Dedor, took the initiative, took the challenge, and wrote a pilot for a sitcom! Have you done that?

More importantly, what have you been telling yourself “no” to? It’s time to get going, on whatever it is. Anything is Possible!

What I Learned From My First Tennis Match in 4 Years

Rafael NadalLast Friday night (August 13), I made my long awaited return to a competitive tennis court. In what was a 1,400+ day hiatus from the game, I returned. It was on August 18, 2006, that I played my last match. After the match my back problems began.

I wish I could say that I won the title, but that was the dream I had on Thursday night. Actually, my visualization on Thursday night was just playing solid points and giving myself a chance. Coming back from anything is always a tough proposition, let alone a four-year absence. So now a few days after a tough loss in my opening round match, I have a few thoughts.

Breathe. I knew coming into the match that I would be nervous. I am a competitive person by nature and so I always want to win and I went into this match believing that I could. It wasn’t until he third or fourth game that I finally got my breathing under control.

Be Prepared. Physically I was more than ready. Mentally I am close. But the game still isn’t there. I actually served really well and my backhand was pretty solid. But I was not even close to prepared for the way my opponent struck the ball; nor was I prepared to hit as much slice as I needed to on either wing. I need to get better at that and develop my all-around game to be ready for any opponent.

Attack. I did this well on a few occasions. I knew from talking with my fellow players that against my first-round opponent, it would be imperative to get to the net as often as I could. For those who know me, that is not my strong suit. I prefer to sit on the baseline, play the percentages and be aggressive only when necessary. It’s how I am best. But in the first couple of points, I was insanely aggressive coming to the net. And surprisingly, I enjoyed it. I will have to work on that part of my game if I want to add it as a weapon, but I think it could be.

All in all, it was good to be back on court. The court is a place I have loved most of my life and it was a gift to just be back for that one night. I can’t wait for my next tournament. After losing this match 6-0, 6-0, my goal it to win a game. But as they say, love means nothing (in tennis of course).

(Flickr photo via nicogenin)

I Am Back

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*Beginning in 2010, I started writing a bi-weekly column, “From Richard’s Oft Cluttered Desk” which appears every other Wednesday.

Two days from now, I return. Nearly four years ago to the day I tennis career was in jeopardy. I played in a weekend tournament in Iowa City and at the end of the event, my back was immobile.

I remember walking into the restaurant to have dinner with my fellow tennis player and good friend Tylor. I remember that my back was really tight and uncomfortable, but didn’t think much of it. I had dinner and enjoyed my time.

As I stood to leave, the back was much tighter. And by “much tighter” I mean I had to shuffle my way to my car like a 90-year-old man. It was not a pretty site.

After trying to treat my back by myself (imagine that, me trying to avoid doctors!) I decided to go to a doctor. Nothing we tried worked. So I had to have an MRI. Not the most fun. The results were inconclusive. But the diagnosis was simple: don’t play as much.

I didn’t like that plan and I tried to keep playing. But anytime I did, my back would be tight for a week.

In fact, for nearly a year, I had to be conscious of lifting, moving and even rolling over in bed.

But that is over now. I still have to be careful but I recently decided to throw caution to the wind. I am back. On Friday at 8:00 p.m. I will make my return to competitive tennis. You can follow my progress here.

To say I’m excited would be an understatement. I had dinner two nights ago with Tylor who was with me at that last tournament. He gave me some good advice. He told me to just play. To have fun. To get my nerves out in the first ten minutes.

I will definitely have nerves. I will definitely need to focus on keeping myself calm. But I’m excited to be back. I’m excited to be on court. I’m excited to stand on the base-line and get ready to serve. I am excited and honored to be back.

Orbiting the Giant Hairball

I love when randomly recommended books turn out to be amazing! Then I find out that the book has been one of the favorites amongst leadership folks for 15 years! I will say this before I give my review for the book … you need to read Orbiting the Giant Hairball. There, now if you want to know what the book has in store for you, read on! And on a side note, he self-published his book just like I did with Anything is Possible.

I have read a lot of management and marketing books, but right now this is the best one. It comes from Gordon MacKenzie who spent the majority of his professional life inside the walls of Hallmark here in Kansas City. And when I say “inside the walls” I’m playing a bit with words. To say he worked inside the corporate bureaucracy is a complete fabrication of what he did. For 30 he fought the Pyramid of Management as he calls it. In fact, his last job with Hallmark had a simple job title and no description: Creative Paradox. His job was essentially to encourage any employee to keep their creative juices flowing and to keep their great ideas from dying in the meeting room.

Why You Should Read It:

  • There are countless ideas you can use in your own creative brainstorming sessions.
  • You will walk away energized to re-take your company from the boardroom back to the creative world it began.
  • This book isn’t just about business, it’s about life.

What You Can Expect to Walk Away With:

  • You’ll definitely walk away energized about your life and with some ideas to take back to work.
  • An appreciation of the past but understand why the past means nothing in going forward.
  • You’ll have some tools on how to respond the next time your great idea is about to be shot down.

Let me just ask you this, just as Gordon once asked his old elementary school. “How many of you are artists?” Did you raise your hand? If you did; high-five! If not, when did you stop? We are all artists, but as Gordon posits, somewhere along the line, you were excited about your art, but were waiting for someone to come along and say it is okay to continue. When that doesn’t happen, creativity isn’t a safe place anymore.

This book should be a requirement of anyone in business, and especially anyone in upper management. It may not change anything, but just a slight change in their thinking is all that is needed to retake companies and bring the creative process back into the everyday operations of so many companies that are bogged down in the “business” of business.

FOCUS: Embrace Challenges (v3n10)

Selected Life Lesson
Challenge yourself to do something you never, ever thought you could do.
-Cindy B’s life lesson from Springfield, Mo.

Richard’s Thoughts…
Today I am off on a big adventure! I’m in the Big Apple meeting with public relations folks as well as book publishers and agents! I never thought I would even start this journey but here I am; on my way!

What about yourself? What have you been too scared to do or too reserved to try?

Now is as good a time as any! Check out this video from a recent retreat I did… Adults, flying kites! Amazing things can happen when you take life by the horns and embrace the challenges and opportunities in front of you. Good luck … Anything is Possible!

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Toy Story Builds From Screw Ups

I remember going to see the first Toy Story when I was a kid. I saw it in theatre’s with my dad and my brother. It was Pixar’s first animated film I quickly fell in love with Woody, Buzz and the whole gang. Everyone did.

Think about it. Growing up, our toys are our best friends. To us, they are alive. Some of us (myself included) even had imaginary friends. As kids, our imagination is free to run wild – and boy did we let it!

Now, as adults, we’re locked into what’s possible … what’s right … and what the research says.

I recently ran across an article about how the latest, and final, Toy Story came to life. One quote stuck out to me …

“We know screw ups are an essential part of making something good. That’s why our goal is to screw up as fast as possible.” -Lee Unkrich, Toy Story 3 Director

Imagine if we lived and worked in a world that really thought that way! Yeah, go ahead and screw up! So… I’m going to give you permission today. Screw up! Screw up big time! But make it worth it. Learn something. Screw up challenging the status quo. You’ll be amazed at what becomes possible.

Good Things are Coming

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*Beginning in 2010, I started writing a bi-weekly column, “From Richard’s Oft Cluttered Desk” which appears every other Wednesday.

As I worked last week, my mind kept thinking about what I wanted to write for this column. There were so many options from the last week. Just look at the sports world. The US Soccer team made not one, but two dramatic comebacks in a matter of five days. Yes, I was sad to see them lose on Saturday, but in my opinion, they played better this time around than in 2006. I could easily write about the day when I lost more work time to television than ever before. Yeah, I am talking about Wednesday.

I was getting caught up on e-mail, listening to Radio Wimbledon (since I don’t have a television in my office) and I happened to glance at the scoreboard. John Isner and a guy I’d never heard of, Nicolas Mahut were around (I say around because who knows anymore after the tennis we saw between the two) 14-14. I knew I wanted to see the end, because any match that reaches that level deserves a sportsman’s support.

We got a bunch of people into our conference room to watch. The match kept going back and forth. Then I took control of the remote because I knew the US Soccer team was nearing the end of their game versus Algeria; and I knew we were down. Every chance I got, I went to soccer – then back to tennis – soccer – tennis.

But the match was in a tight spot… and the soccer game was going into extra time. Then Brad Gilbert, the tennis commentator, who was obviously watching the soccer instead of the match right in front of him screamed, “g … gggooooooaaaaalllllll!” We quickly changed over to the soccer game to see the celebration. There was immense pride in our team.

Then we went back to tennis. Then back to our office. Then we ordered pizza. Then back to our offices. Then back to the tennis. Then it was called at 59-59 in the fifth set. Of course, the rest is history, 70-68 in the fifth set. 11 hours and five minutes. But I feel I must comment on soccer.

I remember watching the US Women win the Cup in 1999. It was awesome and amazing! And I remember watching the men back in 2006. A co-worker and I talked soccer all the time during that month. She was a bigger fan than I, but I am a Patriot. I do remember watching us play and we were, in my opinion, terrible. We couldn’t get shots to save our lives.

But 2010 was different. Yes, the results are essentially the same, but here are the differences.

First, we made it out of the group stage. That is a pretty big feat in all honesty. You have to play well for three games against the top teams in the world. Not only that, we won the pool for the first time since 1930!

Second, we did score goals. Of the two goals we scored in 2006, only one was off our foot. The goal we scored against Italy was scored on themselves. In fact, in 2010, we had two goals that were incorrectly disallowed (but didn’t end up factoring into anything). This year, we scored five goals. Not bad in this writer’s opinion.

Third, the country was a part of it. I don’t remember any excitement four years ago. But it’s coming. 2014 could be a banner year for US Men’s Soccer. Dempsey and Donovan will probably be playing in their final World Cup and our younger guys will have four more years of experience.

Fourth, they are starting to believe. You could see it.

Just wait … amazing things are around the corner for this team.

Life Size Jenga

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Last week Wimbledon kicked off (my second favorite tennis tournament) to much news. On the first day Roger Federer was down by two set to love and then from days two to four, American John Isner and Frechman Nicolas Mahut were locked in the longest tennis match in history. But somewhere on the hollowed grounds of SW19, other players were practicing, winning matches and playing, yes, life-size Jenga.

This photo is of my favorite player, Scot/Brit Andy Murray taking a turn at the game. Now tell me that doesn’t look awesome! Imagine that at a barbecue! Bags, the golf-ball game and life-size Jenga.

But this photo reminded me of something I try to tell share with as many people as I meet and speak to.

Never quit being a child.

Yeah, our bodies say we are adults and we are certainly (hopefully) smarter than we were when we were ten years old. But does that mean we can’t be kids? Does that mean we can’t have fun doing the little things in life. Or enjoying the small joys? Yes, we can still play with balloons!

Here is a video from a recent retreat I did at Drake University. I could tell watching these adults do this activity that this was the most fun they’d had at work in a long time.

My advice: always strive to have fun! You are just a kid in an adults body. Live it up!

Who is Going to Stop You?

I have written extensively, both on this blog about my journey as a speaker and also my journey as a writer and a politician. I do it for two reasons. First, I try to live my life as a journey and not just a destination. Secondly, I am a big believer in sharing my stories and the stories I find as inspiration for my readers. The following quote opens up Chapter 7 of my book Anything is Possible. The chapter is called: “Chase Your Passion.”

The question isn’t who is going to let me; its who is going to stop me.
-Ayn Rand

The book was published this past January, but in my next motivational book, I will definitely use the story of the 2009-10 Men’s UNI Basketball team. Do you remember them? Maybe this will refresh your memory…

I am a graduate of Northern Iowa and I bleed Purple and Gold (not the Vikings, by the way, the Panthers)! The reason I bring them up is because they are perfect examples of this quote. They were a No. 9 seed going up against a prohibitive favorite for the Final Four. But they didn’t blink. From the opening tip, they played with organized abandon. Kansas had been their before. Maybe they thought that no matter how hard the Panthers played, in the end, they were the better team so they would end up on top.

But the Panthers didn’t quit. They didn’t take their foot off the gas. They played their hearts out. It has gone down in Cedar Valley history. This Panther squad was the perfect epitome of Rand’s quote. Who was to stop the Panthers from not only believing but from living their dream? Ultimately, no one but themselves.

Picture this: let’s say the Panthers lose that game by four points. But the guys know they played their hearts and out and left every shot, every drop of sweat in their bodies on the court; sure they lost, but I think years from now they would look back and say they lived their dream. It’s cliche, especially in sports, but it’s true. For athletes and anyone with passions.

Who is to stop you? Who is to stop me from picking up a paintbrush with no training in the medium? No one. Just me.

So, what are you going to do?

The Revolutionary Paul Revere – Book Review

Last year I finally accepted the massive undertaking of reading Team of Rivals. If you’re any level of a historian, you know that book is about President Lincoln and the team he assembled around him during his years in Illinois and then Washington. One other fact of note, I am a history buff. I love reading about the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War II and any American president. So, it was no surprise when I won an autographed copy of this book that I was excited.

This book was an interesting read. As I said, I recently read arguably the most in-depth book on Abraham Lincoln and sad to say, I was looking for more of the same from this book on Revere. If you do that, I will say this: you will be disappointed. This book reads more like a historical fiction, but it’s not. It’s a biography of his life and efforts for the Colonies. Needless to say, I did walk away with some amazing new knowledge of someone who was very important to Boston and the American Patriots.

Why You Should Read It:

  • In school, all we are taught is that Paul Revere alerted his fellow Patriots that the British were coming. There is so much more to that story!
  • Even though is name isn’t on the Declaration of Independence, he was very instrumental in the vents leading up to that event.
  • Did you know Paul was a business owner his whole life? And a cartoonist? Those are just a few of the things you’ll learn.

What You Can Expect to Walk Away With:

  • We all read about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, but Revere is oftentimes left out. Why? He wasn’t from the “upper” class and thus was held back from higher service, both in the military and in the Mason Society. He’ll begin to feel his pain and his passion for the cause.
  • You will definitely learn more about the events leading up to the Boston Massacre. What a crazy few years it was in Boston.
  • Finally, while it only very briefly touches on the Revolution itself, you will see how hard it was in that period to not only live, but have the passion to fight the cause.

Paul is an American hero. I only wish we’d learn more about these men – and women – who played a role in making this country. This is a very basic book about Revere and I will admit, I am disappointed it wasn’t more like Team of Rivals, but in the end, I know more about Revere now than when I started and isn’t that what books are supposed to do?