The Times Square Light

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

This is my next-to-last column that I will write from this chair. Well that is not quite true. This chair will have this same ass in it two columns from now, but both the chair and my ass will be in a new place.

I’m not just moving. I’m catapulting my life to a whole new location.

On January 24, 2011, I will leave Kansas City, my home for the last 1,200 days, for the last time. Yes, I may visit again. I’ve made some great friends here, but to live, the light is quickly fading on this chapter of my life.

It’s been an interesting chapter to say the least. I’m leaving the day job that brought me here. But I’m taking the “job” I created with me.

Over the course of the last three years, I have given speeches and workshops all across the Midwest. I’ve taken one true vacation to my hometown of Denver, Colorado. I’ve picked up painting. I’ve more than picked up running as my main workout. I’ve had a surgery and been put “under” for the first time in my life. I’ve written two books.

But much remains. There is still so much I wish to do and experience. New York City was always a place I wanted to visit growing up and my family traveled there back in 1998. It was a great day/afternoon in the city. I’ve since been back twice and in about 21 days, I will be a resident of New York City.

The closer I get to the big move, the more nervous I get – but oddly – the more excited I become as well.

I’m excited for the endless possibilities. I’m excited to take some time for myself and find the right day job for me. I’m excited to pursue some consulting opportunities. I’m excited to run in the NYC Half-Marathon on March 20. I’m excited to finally live with my boyfriend of nearly four years. I’m excited to take new photographs, to paint and to write. Yes! I want to write more and dive into that craft.

Sure there are downsides to a city like New York City, but at this moment, I’m excited. That giant, sparkling ball in Times Square represents possibilities, opportunity and a light to a new day. New York City … here I come. But first, my hat is off to Kansas City. I couldn’t have done it without you. Cheers.

Cafe Namaste

When I saw this picture months ago I knew I’d be saving it and using it for a blog post eventually. It was nearly three years ago when I met my friend (and one of the Anything is Possible editors, Stephen Barnes). He introduced me to the word and concept of “namaste.”

For your reference, Wikipedia defines it as: “Namaste (Sanskrit: नमस्ते, Hindustani pronunciation: [nʌmʌsˈteː], from external sandhi between namaḥ and te) is a common spoken greeting or salutation used in India and Nepal. It has multi-religious or else common usage where it may simply mean “I bow to you.” That said, I have found it to mean that “because you are human, I offer my utmost respect.”

That is my personal interpretation. It is true that we are all humans and we should be able to respect each other, no matter what. We don’t have to be best friends. We don’t have to date. We don’t even have to have weekly coffees together.

But certainly we don’t have to hate each other. Certainly there is enough of that in this world.

If you have ten minutes in the next few days, take some time to watch this video. It is from this year’s ESPY Awards where the Ed Thomas family is presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. If you don’t remember, Ed Thomas was the football coach from Parkersburg, Iowa, who was shot and killed in the weight room a year after a horrific tornado destroyed parts of the town. The Thomas family’s resiliency and compassion for the killer’s family can teach us all something. Namaste.

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.

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.

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!

Book Review – My Brother’s Voice

The last time I went to the library and walked out with a book I hadn’t planned on was nearly two years ago with Man and Boy. I went into my local library a few weeks ago before a business trip with a list of three books I wanted to check out. Sadly, all three weren’t there. So I just started roaming the shelves. I didn’t find anything, so I ventured to the “books you might have missed” shelf and found this one. My Brother’s Voice by Stephen Nasser.

Aside from simple Young Adult reads, I’d never read a true account from someone who lived through a concentration camp. This book changed that.

Why You Should Read It:

  • It is a true and honest account of the late stages of Nazi Germany and the concentration camp life.
  • If you’ve never read a book about the Holocaust, this is a good start.

What You Can Expect to Walk Away With:

  • It may not be a selling point for most people, but you will be angry.
  • You will be sad.
  • But you will have a greater appreciating for life and overcoming the obstacles in your life.

I will admit, I think this is a good read. I know it made me cry in a *very* public airport. It made me get mad at the world, at our country, at Germany, at the world. But I needed to read it. Stephen, better known as Pista in the book is an inspiring 14-year-old, now in his late stages of life.

I want to leave you with a quote from Stephen: “First, to all of our loved ones who can’t be here tonight: may this occasion prove to them that their lives were not lived in vain, and that their memories will live forever, as long as we keep smiling.”

Keep smiling.

Anything is Possible

What a journey it has been! From the first moment I became inspired to actually developing the idea and then finally putting pen to paper until the day the book finally arrived it has been a labor of love.

AIP Turtle

My life has certainly been a journey. This book is the first of a journey I hope to take into the world of authorship. I already have an idea for another non-fiction book and also an idea for a novel as well as a novel already in first draft form. Who knows where this journey will go or if this is the end of the road for this dream. All I know for certain is I’m not going to get in my way. I’ve done it! I had the idea and ran with it and I couldn’t be happier.

Yes, I did want to quit and scrap the whole project at various times. But I kept reminding myself why I got started writing this book in the first place. I wanted to create a product that would be a road-map for people to guide a journey. Each of our journeys is very personal, but all very similar. We all have dreams and it is what we do with our dreams that matters. It is that tiny difference that makes all the difference in our lives.

Three years ago I wasn’t doing anything to go after my dreams. Today it is what I live for.

Ultimately it is up to you. I’m not looking for the glory. It’s all yours. I did this for you. I see unlimited potential in people I meet and I want the best for you.

“What have you done today to achieve your dreams?” Not happy with your answer…? Remember: Anything is Possible.

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Creativity, I am Waiting

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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.

This is the fifth column I’ve penned officially for this blog. Each time I’ve sat down to write I’ve been concerned about the outcome. Heck, half the time I have not had an idea what I would actually write about. It is still scary. And as I thought about what I wanted to write about this time, I have been pulled in many directions.

I could write about the amazing weekend I had at the end of February. Everything has been a dream come true and some has just been really nice.

I could write about the painting I recently finished. I tried a new technique and I’m very pleased how it turned out.

I could write about Joe Mauer and baseball. I could write about my UNI Panther basketball team. I could write about politics or the pulled chicken I’m trying to make as I write this. The options are endless – and welcome to the world of the mind of a writer.

With the completion of my book, Anything is Possible, I’m awaiting my next project. I have a few ideas of what I’d like to write next, but I’m not sure where I will go. I would like to give fiction a go, but I’m debating whether I should do short stories for awhile first. I have a book that I try to use to keep the creative juices flowing, but I find I do one activity and then don’t touch it again for a month. That doesn’t really help keep the creative juices flowing. They just flow freely for five minutes and then dry up.

I have hopes that writing this column will get my mind off the non-fiction writing that I’ve spent the last 16 months perfecting and get me to write more freely. I’m not sure if it is happening. Of course, five columns in, I wasn’t expecting to be amazing. Just something. I wanted to feel like my writing and my passion was getting closer. Instead, I’m just writing about writing. I’m writing about the struggle I’m having within myself to find that one creative spark. I’ll be in the shower and just thinking about a story I’d like to tell, but then it goes away. I’ll be on the treadmill, sweating out the stress of the day and I”ll get a brilliant idea that would be certain to win me an Oscar, but then I still have two miles to run and by the end, the idea is gone.

Creativity is like that – fleeting – always waiting. I hope it jumps out at me soon. Come, I am waiting.

Finding Inspiration

So what if my book is done? (by the way, I’m not actually asking that… I’m using it to push me at the moment and you’ll find out why if you keep reading.) It is a tremendous accomplishment for me. I almost quit the project at numerous times, but I kept at it and have a book to show for it!

But now what? No one ever told me what comes next! It took over a year of my life to write Anything is Possible, and here I am, with 80 copies sitting my office, the book for sale on Amazon, but not project in the works. People tell me to enjoy the success for awhile. To take some time for me. I’m trying but as I find my schedule easing up late last month and this month, I’m finding myself with an extreme case of work-fever.

I want to work. I want to create. I love taking photos and painting, but I absolutely love learning about words. I love pushing reading not only intellectually, but personally and emotionally. And right now, I’m not doing that. I need a new project.

I have a few ideas for fiction stories, but I have never written a full-length novel, so that is another barrier to overcome. I also have an idea to take the Life Lessons to another level, but am putting that into the five-year plan at the moment. So, I’m going to spend my time and energies getting in front of more audiences (can you help?) and doing some short-story writing. I have a ton of room to grow as a writer so I’m looking to get inspired.

That begs my question for you:

When you are challenged (or in a rut), who inspires you?

(flickr photo via Stephen Poff)

FOCUS: Your Mission! (v2n32)

This Week’s Lesson
Stressing over the interruptions that I thought were taking me away from my purpose, it dawned on me that my interruptions were part of my mission in life.
-Janice F’s life lesson from Kansas City, Mo.

Richard’s Thoughts…
Over the last year, I have been working on a lot of projects and most of them have probably taken longer than they should have. For instance, I am in the final stages of my book, Anything is Possible. It has been a long journey and one at times I wasn’t sure I would finish. But here I am, picking out a cover and working out the final details.

Reading this lesson from Janice got me thinking about my daily life and how many things I have my hands in. From non-profit work, speaking clients to now shopping for the holidays, I’ve had the busiest year of my life. But I’ve loved every second of it! From every interruption and everything I get involved in, I have the opportunity to learn something about myself and the world around me. I relish that chance every time it happens.

I like being busy. I enjoy the fast pace of life. But as I near the end of 2009, I’m going to work on focusing more energy on the people around me. I won’t get rid of the outside projects and interruptions that I enjoy so much, but I want to spend more time on people and our shared dreams. Keep focused on the things you care about and the things that make you smile.

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