FOCUS: Your Talents! (v2n29)

This Week’s Lesson
Live your talents; use them all and give them all before your life is over.
-Barb O’s life lesson from Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Richard’s Thoughts…
Talents are amazing and are meant to be shared. Just think if the birds outside your window only sang when they had an audience. Or your children only colored when a sticker would be given. Life is amazing and beautiful because we all have talents. And it would be even more beautiful if we shared them with those around us every day!

Think about you: What talents do you have? Can you write? Can you sing? Can you paint, take photos, are you good with your hands, your mind, your feet, your speaking skills… the list goes on and on! How can you share your talents?

This Focus Your Life e-mail is part of me sharing my talents and passions. I love doing this! I love that I get the chance to connect with you all once a week and share a tiny lesson from someone else and share my own thoughts. I love that I get the chance to motivate you and help you change your life. It’s amazing! And it is simple. What simple action can you take with you talents this week?

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The Never-Ending Journey

Anytime you put something you created into the public sphere, you have to be ready for public scrutiny. I’ve been doing various forms of public events for the better part of ten years. I was a competitive speaker in high school and in college. I was a high school tennis player and then assistant coach for a year. I was a candidate for political office. Now I’m a leadership trainer and motivational speaker. And I’ve written a book (more on that in the coming weeks). I have also been in an art show and will be showing the work again at a local coffee shop next month.

I recently joined a local writer’s group to help me get better, but also offer my critiques of their work. It’s always a nervous moment when your work is being read for the first time, by anyone.

When you’ve poured so much of your own sweat and tears into a piece of work, you want it to be the best it can be. But also, you want it to be the perfect reflection of you, your vision and your passion.

But what would happen if it wasn’t your best work? The world doesn’t end, it simply finds ways to make it better. That’s the journey I’m on, to be a better writer. To be a better painter and speaker and photography. To simply be a better me. That’s a journey that never ends.

(flickr photo by stolensnapshot)

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)

FOCUS: Change! (v2n25)

This Week’s Lesson
The future is essentially unpredictable because change is the one thing we can always depend upon.
-John B’s life lesson from Prairie Village, Kan.

Richard’s Thoughts…
The winds of change are upon us… literally. Here in Kansas and across most of the world, the season is in a drastic change and the Jack ‘O Lanterns are lighting the way.

The great thing about change is that it is always happening. No matter what you try to do and no matter how hard you try, change is going to happen. The seasons change, we grow up, cars get older and books become classics. But here we are with this unpredictable future. But that’s the great thing: change is always happening so we must embrace it. We can’t stand at the bottom of a waterfall and make the river go back up… but we can change our attitude towards the things in life that we can’t change. Rather than fight the change; embrace it!

That’s this week’s lesson: embrace the change around you. It will make you stronger, see opportunities where you didn’t see any and force you to challenge your creativity. Change is all around, depend upon it in order to grow from it.

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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!

3 Cups of Tea, We Are Family

I’ve been wanting to read, Three Cups of Tea since I picked it up last Christmas and I finally was able to work it into my schedule and I’m glad I did.

Tea is written by Greg Mortenson (the guy who the book is about) and David Oliver Relin, and the story begins when Mortenson was a child and how his family lived around the world and it is these travels and these experiences that set Mortenson up for his future adventure that is changing the world.

The challenge of any man, of all people, is to leave the world a better place than they found it. In a twist of fate, after failing in his climb up K2, Mortenson ended up in a tiny village clinging to life. The people there in Korphe saved his life. Upon his departure, he made a promise that would save both of theirs.

Mortenson made a promise upon his departure that he would come back and build a much needed school in Korphe. Korphe is in the northern portion of Pakistan, the part that bread the birth of Al-Qaeda. He journey is long and painful and with brief moments of sheer terror for the life of Mortenson.

Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything–even die.
-Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoral Mountains, Pakistan

The is a read you won’t want to put down and will surely inspire you to want to pick up a hammer and build a school yourself.

Learn more about Three Cups of Tea.

FOCUS: One Stream! (v2n21)

This Week’s Lesson
You will never be truly happy and successful unless you do things for other people.
-Less’s life lesson from Minot, North Dakota

Richard’s Thoughts…
Community service has often been called noble service. I started volunteering back in 1999 and now, ten years later things have changed. Not only can I volunteer in my own community, but we can help people all around the world with small and simple actions. That’s what One Stream is about. It’s about you and your neighbor. Your human neighbor. It’s about the power you have as one person at this spot of the stream, taking a positive action today to change the life of someone down the stream who depends on the sustenance of the stream, just like you. We are one. What happens to you, happens to all.

For one month, September 16 – October 16, 2009, we’re running a fundraising campaign. There are tons of ways for you to change the world. After all, we are all part of One Stream. I’ve created a team on Kiva, a micro-lending organization. In a nutshell, this non-profit collaborates with lending companies all around the globe to loan money to entrepreneurs in any country in the world. You get updates on their business and their family. The money goes to their business and so far I’ve personally helped a carpenter, a farmer, a person in the clothing business and others! The best part is you can get the money back after it’s repaid! Even better, if you choose, you can re-loan that money out again!

It starts with you my friends. Come with me! We are all at this One Stream. Let’s change the world. If you can’t donate money, donate time, it’s just as valuable and changes just as many lives.

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