Focus – on Believing

Selected Life Lesson
Believe and have faith.
-Leanne K’s Life Lesson from Conrad, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
Last week was an anniversary of sorts for me. You see, last year on May 2, I was fired from a job. If you have ever been let go in a quick blaze of fire, a sudden meeting, and completely shocked, you know what that feeling is like. For those of you who don’t, it is not fun.

When I walked home that day, I was shocked, stunned, and saddened. The day itself was a day I had been looking forward to for weeks. I had tickets to see a Broadway show that evening. Of course I still went, but not after some tears and fear. And I also called my dad. He reminded me of his own professional struggles and how we as a family got through them 15 years prior.

He reminded me to have faith in myself and when you’re at a terribly low moment, that is a priceless piece of advice. Remember something: No matter how tough it is right now, keep your strength and keep the faith in yourself alive and well. You will make it through.

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Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

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This column tri-weekly column, “From Richard’s Oft Cluttered Desk” appears every third Wednesday.

Not very often does a television program come along that tells a great story. Sure, a lot of what is written for television is quality. But when the shows go off the air, we are sad because we have become attached to the characters. Or perhaps we have become attached to sitting our asses down at the same time week after week for years to see these people entertain us.

Just take a look at the shows I have been passionate about: Coach, Seinfeld, The West Wing, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond and countless others that I can’t recall at the moment. I most distinctly remember the ending of Friends and Seinfeld.

Those are two of my all-time favorites (and I own the entire Seinfeld series). When Seinfeld ended it was an event. Millions watched. Some were upset at the ending but for a show about nothing, we weren’t attached to the story, we were attached to the comedy.

As for Friends, I cried during the final episode. I had grown up with the friends and as they all placed their keys on the counter and began their next journeys, we would not be going with them. But I did not desire to have them continue. They had run their course.

For five years I lived the ups and downs of Friday Night Lights. The show that NBC tried to kill only to hear from the show’s small, but forceful fan base. I was attached to the people, the team, the school, the town. Lucky for me, and the many other fans, NBC teamed up with DirecTV to team-produce two more 13-episode seasons.

Aside from being a huge fan of the show, I have written about it in the past. One of the re-used phrases on the show came from Coach Taylor and it was simple, yet deep. Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

Someday I will have that slogan, that motto, hanging for my kids to see. I’m not sure what it was meant to mean exactly, but I take it to me that if you have a clear vision, if your hearts are full of love and compassion, there is no way you can come away a loser.

As coach and his players completed their fifth and final season on television, I was struck by how different it felt. I wanted more. They made me believe. They made me dream. They made me cry and scream and sit on the edge of my seat.

Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

What other television show can tackle the issues of underage drinking, teenage sex, homosexuality, absent parents, marriage, abortion and live to tell about it? Not many, but Friday Night Lights did all that and more.

In my now favorite scene of the finale – and possibly the entire series – coach and one of his student assistants are talking in his office when she says, “This has been the greatest experience of my life.” The camera pans to coach and he smirks and replies, “You know, I think it’s been mine too.”

That is all I will ever need to know about this show and these characters. That no matter the opponent, the challenge, the obstacle, if you believe in your dreams and you love those around you, you can not lose.

Say it with me: Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

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: Up & Down Adventures! (v3n11)

Selected Life Lesson
Life is a like a roller coaster – when things are going downhill, if you hang on long enough, eventually you’ll go back up again.
-Betty K’s lesson from Mason City, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
I remember growing up that I never ever EVER would go on roller coasters. It wasn’t until high school when I was with my church youth group that I succumbed to peer-pressure and finally got in line to go on “Wild Thing” up at Valley Fair in Minnesota. And what a ride! On that one trip, I became hooked on the ups and downs, twists and turns, and the pure adventure of the roller coaster.

But life, just like the coaster, goes up and then goes down and then it goes back up again. But here is the great thing – on a roller coaster you know where you are going; no matter if you’re up or down, you know the end. In life, when you’re up you have a lot of choices. If you’re down, you also have choices.

In those down moments, you have the option of staying on the same course, taking a break, or completely changing your course to see your other options. Never close your eyes, keep them fixed on the horizon and you’ll be back up again in no time.

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Life is a Permanent Beta Test

Jon Foreman, the lead singer of my favorite band Switchfoot once said, “[…] unlimited undos. I wish I had that in life.” The great thing is: We do!

In life, we get as many chances as we need to find answers and ask questions. We have our whole lives to figures things out and reach our dreams.

No matter how many times we slip up and fall short of our dreams, we get to go back to the drawing board. 99.9 percent of people (yeah, I’m just guessing) get it wrong the first time. Remember, you’re a beta test. You’re testing yourself. You’re testing your plan. You’re testing your programming.

It’s just like me on a tennis court. No matter how many times I play and how many times I win or lose, I’m still learning. I’m still perfecting my game and my attitude.

I could list off tons of areas of my life when I am constantly testing myself and upgrading my skills and performance level. One of the things I’m doing a beta test on this year is my creative writing. (See my new Life-Debt Series.)

What are some areas of your life you’re like to speed up the beta testing?

(Flickr photo via 3d debay)

FOCUS: Don’t Worry! (v2n28)

This Week’s Lesson
The things I have worried about are never as bad if they actually happen.
-Linda L’s life lesson from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Richard’s Thoughts…
Growing up I used to worry about everything. I remember as a 10 or 12 year old, we were on a family vacation to the southwest and I constantly asked my dad where we were going next, what time we’d get there, did our hotel have a pool. Boy, what a pain I must have been! But this has me thinking: What other things have I spent too much time worrying about?

When I was just a freshman and sophomore in high school, I was emailing teachers and college professors questions about how to get the career I wanted. Little did I know then, ten years ago, that this is what I would be doing! I’m loving thinking about how much energy I wasted back then worry about what today would look like.

Instead, today I am living in the moment, but still planning for the future. I do spend a lot of time planning my weeks, months and years and I’m proud of that. But I don’t worry. I have a rainy-day fund set aside in case I need it, but I don’t worry about it. I don’t worry as much about where my career is going to take me. Things are always changing and I’m doing my best to enjoy wherever that journey winds. I hope you can do the same.

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Continue the Ripple of Kindness

I recently received an email after one of my FOCUS emails from someone who signed-up at one of my workshops this summer. My FOCUS message was about the ripple effect of kindness and what I did to start my ripple. (In case you are wondering, I sent a greeting card with a gift certificate inside to an old friend.)

I received an email from this woman now only thanking me for the message, but praising the idea of a random card. Of course, she works at Hallmark so it’s in her blood to have this mentality. But she said, working for a company that is all about “enriching” people’s lives, it was exciting to see me write about the ripple effect that these random acts of kindness have in the enrichment of all our lives.

So, I implore you to do two things:

Finally, as a special gift, the first person to comment on this post with the correct answer to the following question (and who supplies their email address, which is kept private from the post) will receive a personal card from me within the next two months with a special message inside!

Question: What was my campaign slogan when I ran for mayor of Mason City in 2002?

(flickr photo by mrsenil)

Are You in Debt?

Over the last year, there has been a lot of talk about our spending habits and how we were living on credit and how that’s bad and five-step plans to get yourself out of debt and get the creditors off your backs and how to make sure you have a good mortgage and ways to have a cheap vacation all while living your dream.

Sorry for the run-on sentence, that was done for effect. It’s been a stressful year for a lot of us, myself included. Each of us has had to fight and battle through different challenges, but we’re here and we’re still ticking – chasing after that elusive dream each of us holds near to our hearts.

That begs the question today: Are you in debt? No, put those checkbooks away! I’m talking about your life.

Think about it in terms of your dreams and your passions and the activities you enjoy most.

Do you have too little time for you passions?
Do you have too much stress in your life? Or at work?
Are you spending too much time on tasks that don’t inspire you or push you to do after your passions?

If you’re answering yes to those questions, then yes, you are running a life deficit. It’s time to turn that around. As we near the end of the year, a few times a month I’m going to dive into this topic of running a “Life Deficit” and ways you can turn that around to run a surplus.

Let’s start with this though: What areas of your life are you running a surplus?

(Flickr image via samsmith)

Dream Big Dreams, Take Small Steps

This is a guest post by @SamDavidson of CoolPeopleCare.

Someone said (either Victor Hugo or Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, depending upon where you look online) that small dreams aren’t worth dreaming because they have no ability to stir the hearts of others.

I agree.

Dreams (the kind you have when you’re awake) are fun. You (usually) have no limits. Like a golf cart with the governor removed, why not see how fast you can take it out for a spin? Imagine – with no restrictions, rules, possibilities or barriers, what could you do?

In daydreams, cats can talk, gravity disappears and our critics are silenced. In daydreams, we’re a lot taller, our bank account is a lot bigger, and we seem to know all of the right people. And why shouldn’t we? It’s our dream, for crying out loud. We’re the author of this fairy tale, free to write and then edit as we choose.

In fact, if you have a daydream where you fail, flounder or give up, I encourage you to seek professional help.

Henry David Thoreau reminded us that we build our castles in the air, and rightly so. He then challenged us to go and build a foundation under them.

And perhaps that’s what is so tricky and daunting about dreaming big dreams. At one point, we have to back up, wake up to our present reality and go to work. We have to get our hands dirty, our feet wet and our muscles tired in order to do the hard work of turning our dream into a reality.

Dreaming is fun and encouraging because it’s so easy. Working and toiling to make that dream come true is not as fun. Sometimes, it’s downright awful. It sucks, it’s boring and very quickly, we can give up the big dream for a small one – one that seems more manageable and keeps us sane.

That’s why so many dreams stay small and why big dreams don’t come true and stop getting dreamt. It’s not because big dreams don’t come true; it’s because real action never follows.

So then, the first step towards real change is perhaps the easiest. As Robert Greenleaf so eloquently said, “Not much happens without a dream. And for something great to happen, there must be a great dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality; but the dream must be there first.”

And so the dream is dreamt. Step one is complete.

But what about step two? Or three? Or four hundred? How does that happen? How can those of us – regardless of the size of our dream – help those dreamers of great dreams see their great dreams actualized? Is there any role or part that we can play in the great, wild dreams of others?

Absolutely. Because dreams come true, one step at a time.

While our dreams start big, their actualization comes in very small steps. This is why I set out to create Cool People Care three short years ago. Providing one idea each weekday, we use the power of 99 words (exactly) to inspire, compel and motivate you to take the small steps towards your big dreams.

We really can save the world. Sure, it’s a big dream. That only means we need to get work, five minutes at a time.

Join our One Stream team at Kiva to change the world!