Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Charismatic Leaders Emerging in these Desperate Times

Our country has experienced a severe crisis with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. CNN and the other networks are doing an excellent job at showing Americans what is happening to our neighbors in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Our TV screens are filled with people who are desperate to be rescued, desperate for food and water, and desperate to find their loved ones. Their lives have been reduced to the clothes that they have on their back and as they walk around in shock, they know they have no where to go.

After going through the shock of being in NYC at the time of 9/11, I know that these people are in survival mode. They’re unable to feel anything at this moment. All they can think about right now is how to survive moment by moment. They’re not thinking about their bills that they have to pay, or the things that they lost. They are thinking about keeping their families safe and how to get to somewhere that has the basic amenities.

What is so inspiring to me are the many, many people in our country who are stepping up to the plate to help. School children, churches, organizations and even Mary Kay reps are rallying the support of the people they know to collect money, food and items to help the people who lost everything. These are the heroes that are going to lead our country back to its greatness. These are the people that we can get behind and support.

During the aftermath of 9/11, one of my good friends Katherine went to ground zero and volunteered her services. Before she knew it, she was organizing the food for all of the rescue workers who were working for months. Katherine worked far into the night, for no money and no rewards other than it was her civic duty to help these people. She organized the food and distributed the food. She worked among the dust and the ruins and she got others to join her in her effort. That shows leadership and charisma in desperate times.

The other day, another friend of mine in Charlotte, NC, Shari sat by the TV like most of us and felt humbled by what she saw. She didn’t know how she could help, but from the deepest pit of her soul, knew that she had to help those who have been devastated by this hurricane. Her idea lit her up and she has now spread it across the nation. She’s inspiring Mary Kay Reps to contact every single client that they have to sell products with the intention that the income that is derived from it will go to the victims. She has 138 women in her direct unit and if each of them sell to 10 people and make $250 apiece to donate, then her unit can send approx: $25,000 to the Red Cross. is

THAT is taking immediate action. THAT is showing leadership. And THAT is someone who is charismatic and getting others to help NOW.

We can all gain insight from these women and thousands of others who are stepping up to the plate to offer assistance in the form of money, time, ideas and supplies. The call now is to each of us: “what can WE do to help?” Can we offer a home? Can we offer supplies? Can we offer money? Can we offer time? Can we pray for the survivors?

There is no doubt that our country has been blessed for years and years. We have our basic needs met on a daily basis and many of us live with luxuries that we now take for granted. We’ve been able to help many countries who are less fortunate than us. Much of that has been done by the politicians and the entertainers who have been so gracious to raise money.
But now the crisis is once again hitting us at home. We’re seeing the every day heroes emerge and encourage all of us to lend a helping hand. Lets support their leadership and support our neighbors and show the world, why this country is so great. We can’t be defeated and we won’t be defeated. We’ll rise up, and do what we have to do. The ones of us who are strong will lead the others to safety. No matter how desperate we get. We will still have great people who will help the weakened. It’s the great people of our country that will survive. We may not have our land, but we have the people and that is what makes up the U.S. We are still the United States of America, the greatest country in the world.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Sales Skills for the Non Sales Professional

Have you ever wondered how in the heck you’re going to do it? You are a lawyer who wants to make partner, an accountant, an engineer or other professional and part of your business plan is that you have to attract business customers? You’ve always detested selling, and you can’t see yourself doing it! As a matter of fact, sales people are a HUGE turn off to you!!!

Yet, you HAVE to bring in customers!!!

What ARE you going to do?

Many of my current or former clients fit the above description. Many of them finally contacted me, a coach, when they were in trouble because they had NO CLUE where to start. They decided that they did need help, and they realized that only a professional could rescue the mess that they’ve made.

And guess what? They survived! And not only did they survive, but they thrived! As soon as they realized that they didn’t need to change their personality, become a raving fan, or over the top, they relaxed and settled into learning what they had to do.

I’ll take you through a typical client and what they learn to do.

Kirk was a guy who found me in one of my Charisma classes! He was basically a smart fellow who was trying to make partner in his law firm. He had been told upon his hiring that he’d be responsible for attracting business to his company. He bluffed his way through the interview by mentioning how many people that he knew and how many big cases he had worked on successfully. He didn’t mention that the business wasn’t his, or that he was TERRIFIED of calling all of the people that he knew and asking for business!

When Kirk and I finally got together I asked him to start by naming all of his strengths. We went over all of the benefits that any of his clients or future clients would get by working with him. I had him post these in his office so he’d never doubt how talented he really is in work.

Next, we outlined what sorts of clients he should secure and then wrote a list of any current or former friends or colleagues that he knew. We developed an information sheet on each of them which would be later transferred to a contact management system such as ACT or Goldmine. On each of the sheets, Kirk had to go and write about the person. He wrote down anything he knew about them professionally or personally. These ranged from where they went to school to their spouses names, to their hobbies.

Next, we put them in order from A Accounts ( HUGE!!!) down to D accounts (Barely worth calling) and everyone in between. When all was said and done, Kirk had a list of about 25 people on the A list and those were the ones that we focused on.

Those names went into the computer. We then called and got all of their current information such as emails, secretaries names, firms, etc. We then wrote a letter that was sent to each of them announcing his new position and then said that Kirk would soon be giving a follow up call to say a quick hello. The letter was written in a casual manner, and not too formal. It definitely did NOT look like a form letter from a law firm!

Over time, Kirk redeveloped these people into friends. He did it by meeting them to play basketball, going to networking events with them, or inviting them to political speeches. He was able to get tickets for a few of them to different events and basically became a resource to the whole legal profession for most of them. Kirk became a FRIEND to these individuals, their firms and as a result, guess what happened?

Kirk started bringing in business of course! Not only that, but his bosses wanted to know what he was doing and how it all started. Needless to say, a few of his co workers were in the position to hire a coach and we duplicated Kirk’s experience.

Developing into a sales professional is a scary thought for someone who is afraid of sales. But turning into a resource for your friends and colleagues is not only fun, but a great way to learn and grow your business. And if you get stuck, call me! I’ll help you through!

Building a Strong Coaching Practice

As a person who has been around the coaching profession for a number of years, I wish I could say that my practice is full right now. But the fact is that I’ve been pursuing TV gigs in the last few years and haven’t put much emphasis on building my individual coaching practice. I’ve also been blessed to receive several corporate coaching and training jobs so the individual coaching has taken a back seat.

But I’ve recently moved to a new state and have had a chance to evaluate what I want my schedule to be in the coming months. I’m currently working from home so I can be available for my son because he is in school for the first time and I feel I need to be around. I’ve decided to ramp up my individual coaching once again so I’m making my plans. Since I’ve done this before I have a plan. I did it in NJ, NYC, and NC and now I’ll be doing it in FL. I’m also pursuing corporate coaching and training opportunities. For these I use professionally designed promotional materials and videos of me speaking and leading workshops.

For my individual practice, I have a website which has attracted people nationally. In addition, I’ve done speaking in different parts of the country which has brought in clients. This past year I did a few national TV tours and secured a few clients from there. In years past, I’ve been highlighted in the newspaper or magazines and that always brought interest, but to be honest, mostly from curiosity seekers! I’ve gotten several clients that were referrals from other clients. But most of my individual coaching clients have come from me doing workshops.

What workshops can a coach provide? We’ve all heard about branding and finding a niche. That is true to a certain extent, but I started from what I already know. I started where I felt I was already an expert. I was an expert in selling. I decided to teach that, and from that sprang many other courses such as communication, customer service, telephone skills, time management, creativity workshops, team building and so on. Once you deliver a few workshops that you build from scratch, you’ll be getting the experience you need to accumulate information for articles, books, workbooks, tapes and other products.

What are you an expert in? Where do your talents lie? Have you trained people in getting in shape? Have you taught people better vocabulary skills? Were you a computer trainer? Start wherever you are, get training, free clients, and the word will spread. Start giving workshops at local community colleges, learning centers, at your church or even out of your home. Advertise ahead of time at least 3 workshops that will be presented. Give out free information at each seminar in exchange for their business card and when you get home, develop an email list where you can send a newsletter discussing your business.

As for me, I’m now in the process of building more workshops to my repertoire. I’ll write several new programs this year and start marketing them locally and eventually nationally. Now that I’ve discovered I enjoy writing creatively, I’ve started and am writing articles for different ezine newsletters.

Building a coaching practice takes time. It’s a process that takes a few months or even a few years, but worth it. The lifestyle of knowing I can pick up my son nearly every day at 2:30 and get to work out almost every day while still adding value to my clients every week has its advantages. There’s a lot of work up front, but the personal and professional rewards are enormous.

How to Handle Getting Caught off Guard

I remember the time that I swore to myself that I’d never be caught off guard again. I was in my new job on Capital Hill and it was the first week on the job. My new mentor at the office was the daughter of the other US Senator from Nevada so she knew everyone who was anyone. I tagged along with her one day to a meeting and I found myself in a mess!

She introduced me to the President of Zimbabwe! I shook his hand and all of a sudden about a thousand flashes went off! None of the photographers knew that I was just a newcomer on Capital Hill, but every single one got a picture of me …. And I’m sure what turned out was the “deer in the headlights” look. I completely froze, and looked up completely shaken up. I had NO idea that the photographers were even THERE and then on top of that, why would they want a picture of me?

I’ve since learned to take a great picture anywhere. You name it, the driver’s license, Sam’s Club to get a member card, at weddings or any function, I have trained myself that the second that I know a camera is around, I “eyeball the eye of the camera” and give my best smile; for as long as I need to!

But how do we handle situations in which we get caught off guard? Like asking to speak on a moments notice? What if someone yells at you at work for something that happens? What if you are asked to deliver a toast at an event? Or how about being asked to deliver a message or read a poem at a class reunion? That happened to me at my last reunion, and I told them that as a professional speaker, I never go anywhere unprepared. Therefore, at the encouragement of my husband, I turned them down.

But what if you can’t turn them down? What if you HAVE to get up and give a speech? What if you are lambasted in front of people at your workplace and can barely come up for air before you are supposed to respond?

I think that in any crisis situation, and these are DEFINITELY crisis situations, that it’s best to always have a plan. Here is what I recommend that my clients do:

Know that you are going to be caught off guard at some point.
Make a plan and memorize the plan.
When it happens, tell yourself to take several breaths and calm down.
Next, identify WHAT it is that the person wants from you. Do they want and need a response right then? Can the response wait?
If it can wait, then tell them thank you for expressing their views and that you’ll get back to them as soon as you have had a bit to think about it. Then, go to your office or get somewhere quiet and process what you need to do and say. Call a friend or mentor that you trust to help guide you through it.
If you have to address the situation right there, your plan is to come off as poised and confident as possible. Hold yourself together until you can respond without flying off the handle or saying anything stupid.
Address the situation. Ask yourself: What is the bottom line? What do you need to do or to say to make the other person or people happy?
Deliver your lines. Look the other person or people in their eyes as you deliver your lines. Do it with the most amount of sincerity as possible.
Be available to discuss it afterwards. Remain calm. You can always freak out later.
After the fact, reassess how you did. What would you have changed if you could go back? Store that in your memory bank and chalk one up to being ready!

A great example of someone being ready when they were caught off guard was Mayor Rudy Gulianni of NYC after 9/11. He went on TV almost immediately after almost being suffocated by the towers. He remained calm and showed sympathy to others even as the news of his good friends’ death was delivered to him.

Mayor Gulianni had been prepared. He had been reading about leadership and Winston Churchill the night before the tragedy. He was able to recall the story of how Churchill led his people in desperate times, and Guliani was able to call to memory this story as he himself had to present himself as a strong leader.

Being prepared takes time of course. But being prepared and ready for the unexpected can catapult you to the next level in your career. It can make people stand up and notice, and can teach you that anyone can survive and thrive, when they expect the unexpected!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Key of Being Remembered at a Party

Today was the first birthday party of the school season. Everyone at the party was fairly new because all of our kids are in kindergarten so no one really had the advantage over anyone else. Everyone was great at introducing themselves and meeting each other.

At one point the host of the party walked by and asked me: “is there anyone you don’t know?” I laughed because I’ve lived here for 1 month, and everyone is new to me! But a few of the gals noticed that I was introducing everyone to each other and they seemed to be impressed. They said they were going to have to take a class to learn how to remember names and I told them that I taught one! At first they thought I was joking, but then I told them that I really DID teach communication skills, and it’s actually EASY.. if you just know how.

I realized a LONG time ago that remembering peoples’ names is definitely a skill worth learning! It’s something that other people admire and it will be at least ONE “thing” that will help people remember YOU.

I told the ladies that the easiest way to remember someone’s name is to repeat it a few times within the context of the conversation. One lady said that she’d FORGET the name even before she would even get to SAY the name again! I told her that it’s perfectly fine to touch the person on the arm, look in their eyes, and ask what their name was again! This way they’ll know you’re sincere and TRYING to remember their name.

The conversation can be sprinkled with questions and using the name during the question process is easy! “Sue, it’s nice to meet you! Now, who is your child? Ahh.. yes.. And Sue, is your husband here?”

Another GREAT way to remember everyone’s name is to introduce anyone new you met to someone else. That way you get to say his or her name once again and it’ll remain fresh in your mind.

No telling whether I’ll remember everyone’s name the next time I see them if I don’t practice seeing their names in my mind now, but from what I can see, this group is worth getting to know. The people I met today were interesting, charming and memorable.

And I’m happy that I know how to remember names, because now, I can focus on getting to know THEM, and not just their names!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Growing Your Network of People can be Easy and Fun!

A few years back when I moved to Charlotte, NC for the first time, I came with high hopes of starting my business for the first time. We picked Charlotte because it was a growing city with a lot of potential. There was a booming down town and cultural events were starting to make their way to the area.

I didn’t know a soul in town so I did what any self respecting business professional would do! I opened the Yellow Pages and started calling. I called the first company that listed Public Relations. And literally that was ALL I needed to do! From that one call, I met everyone I needed to in the city!

What happened was this. The man on the other end of the phone said, “what are you buying or what are you selling?” I said, “neither, I’m a new in town, a former celebrity agent and I want to meet people”. That opened the conversation, and he gave me 5 names which I followed up on, and they gave me names, and so on and so on. Before I knew it, I was hosting a party at my house for 50 people… all new friends!

Granted, now that I’m a mommy, my social network has to do more with fundraising for the schools than with building my business. But I still use the same concept when I’m out and about, and I encourage my clients to do the same.

When meeting new people, identify with people for who you WANT to be, or who you WANT to meet. For instance, you are currently at “xyz” company but HOPING to make a career switch into “the dream job”. This way, people will respond to this and if they have any contacts that might be able to help, you’ve opened the door.

After they’ve been gracious to offer help if they can, then turn the conversation immediately over to them. What do THEY do, where are they from or how do they like this lovely city where you now both live? Give them a chance to show their expertise, and share about their life. Be enthusiastic about what they’ve done and ask questions.

When you depart, ask them if there is anyone else that they think you might enjoy meeting? Then promise to email them the next day to follow up. When you write them the next day, be sure to thank them and offer to help them if they need it.

Start keeping a list of new people that you meet and what they do and what it is that they WANT. If you can bring value to these people along the way somehow, then they’ll remember you and be a resource for you when you need it too.

Moving to a new city, or starting a new business are great times to start networking. But growing your network of new contacts or friends can happen at any time you want. And all you have to do is to open the phone book and start calling!

The Art of Giving a Toast

Today one of my clients is throwing one of her good friends a 40th birthday party. She actually used to date him and now they’re good friends. She has the perfect dress, has supplied the beautiful country club for the party and now she was considering whether or not she should also give a host!

My answer to her? ALWAYS give a toast if you can!!!

First of all, whoever is throwing the party has a responsibility of welcoming people to the event. It’s nice to publicly introduce yourself and welcome everyone. It also establishes your credibility when you speak in front of people

Next, it’s an opportunity to show off! When people see you completely composed in a somewhat stressful situation, they’re impressed. Little do they know how much preparation when on behind the scenes. You can make it look like you pulled the toast out of thin air!

When writing a toast, there are a few things to do that will make your job easier.

How do you want to come across? Do you want the toast to be fun, lighthearted and funny or do you want it serious? This will help you determine the “story” that you share during the toast.
How do you feel about the person? What do they mean to other people? How do people respond to them as individuals? Are they funny, articulate, smart, a great dresser or a terrific story teller? Be specific and write down all of the adjectives that you can to describe this person.
What is a funny story or a really great story that you can tell about this person? Is there some secret passion that this person has that causes them to spend excessive time on something? Was there a time that the two of you were together that impressed you or made you laugh? What story can you think of that EXPLAINS what this person is to you? This can be lighthearted or serious, depending upon the tone that you want to create in the room and with the toast.
Lastly, what does this person mean to YOU? Do you want to honor them? Do you love them? Do you admire them?

After you’ve put together your toast it should look something like this:

“Welcome to the 40th Birthday party for our friend Clyde. It’s great to see everyone here. For those who know Clyde, you’ll know that he is a determined, fun and successful individual. But there is something that you might NOT know about Clyde!!

Tell funny or poignant story here…. And when the laughter dies down..

“So tonight, we wish to honor you Clyde, for who you are to all of us. We appreciate you, we love you and we wish for you many more happy and healthy years to come.”

The story that you tell is extremely important. But even MORE important is how often you practice this speech! Practice it in front of the mirror dozens of times until the words role off your tongue gracefully. Tape yourself as you practice and rewrite it as you go along. Practice visualizing yourself in the room beforehand, and practice looking at people in the eyes so during your speech you’ll be able to do that with ease. During the last part, when you’re bringing honor to the person, look at that person RIGHT in the eyeballs with as much sincerity as you can muster up, to let them know that you genuinely do care.

If you do all of these things, you’ll blow the people away. The response you’ll get is “wow, I wish I could just pull something like this out of my hat” and “that was such a great toast… good job”.

No one has to know that you practiced over and over until it felt right. No one has to know that you changed the toast dozens of times until you got the story right. But what you and everyone else WILL know is that after you’ve given the speech and knocked it out of the park, your status will be elevated.

By presenting an incredible toast you will have created a great memory for the person you are honoring. And THAT is who its all about, after all!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Conversation Starters

This arbicle just got written for I thought I'd drop it into my blog since I didn't get to write today!!! :)

Conversation Starters:

In my many charisma courses that I teach, I am constantly amazed at the high quality of person that shows up to take the classes. The people are usually attractive, articulate and professional. I’ve had many doctors, lawyers, accountants, sales professionals, entrepreneurs and other professionals in the classes. The reasons they come are usually to feel more comfortable in something that some of us take for granted: The dreaded SMALL TALK.

I usually ask for a show of hands to find out who LIKES small talk. Two or three hands go up but usually, the people are shrinking away under a table when they are facing the very thought of it.

It always surprises me even still that there are all of these articulate, confident and knowledgeable people out there, who really just don’t know what to say to start a conversation. The majority of them are extremely comfortable in their job or talking about their work, but when it comes to the getting to know people part, outside of work, they just freeze up.

There are some really good things to remember about small talk. First of all: it’s necessary. Second, MANY people don’t like it so it’s worth YOU getting comfortable with it. And third, it really doesn’t matter WHAT you talk about, it just has to remain SMALL. I’ll explain later.

The small talk part of the conversation is really just to warm each other up. It’s an opportunity to feel the person’s mood out, their status, or your compatibility. You get a “feel” for a person and that’s what small talk is mostly about. You start thinking… “are they all about themselves? Or, do they care about me, the listener”.

I usually get a few different types that come to class:

The conversation hog – who eats up all the time chatting about him or herself.
The interrogator – Who drills others but never volunteers any information about themselves.
The “Let’s pretend I’m not even here” person – who fades into the background and lets everyone ELSE do the talking
And, the warm, delightful conversationalist who just doesn’t have the confidence in themselves.

The last item, happens to be the bulk of the people. And it’s something so important to know: That nearly EVERYONE feels uncomfortable even if they LOOK comfortable.
Social situations are nerve wracking for MANY people so the most important thing is that you TAKE CONTROL of the situation and be the one who LOOKS comfortable.

Your job is to make OTHERS comfortable. I like to say, to pretend it’s a party that you’re giving, and you’re the host. So your job is to find out about others and make them glad they came to your party.

Start by asking people questions about the OBVIOUS. What is obvious at that minute? How about …. “so how do you know our host?” Or, “have you taken these classes before?” If you are at a networking event, you could state the obvious, “so you work in Human Resources? How long have you been at your present company?”

It really doesn’t matter what you ask them. But, make sure if you lead in with a comment about the weather or something that you follow up with a question that they can answer.

Remember: WWWHW – Who, What, Where, When, How, and lastly Why? (Asking WHY questions can sound like you might be challenging the person so it’s best to avoid if at all possible.)

Next, an easy formula to remember is FORM: Family, Occupation, Recreation and Message. ( aka; their passion). You can ask about any of these things and people will light up because they are now talking about themselves.. their favorite topic!!!

Lastly, small talk is SMALL. Many people go off on tangents and start talking about something more in depth than they should in a small talk environment. This is the time for BULLET POINTS.. not the whole story. For instance, if someone asks HOW you injured your leg, just give them the brief story, “I hurt it in kickboxing”; rather than a long winded story that will bore everyone to tears!

Conversation starters are really easy if you focus on getting to know the other person. If you focus on engaging them and making THEM feel comfortable, rather than worry about how you are appearing, you’re bound to make a new contact, a new friend, and hopefully, have a good time in the process!

For more information contact: or visit Mary at

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

God Can See your Heart

Today is the day that I’m getting back into exercise. I sprained my ankle last week and although I’ve been swimming and rode the stationary bike, today was the day that I decided to go for a 1 hour walk.

Near the end of my walk today I got yelled at. No, SCREAMED at would be a better choice of words. I was about to cross over across the street and a car was whipping around a circle to the left of me. I hesitated as he did because I thought he was going to go around the circle and turn back around. I didn’t know that he intended to turn left, right in front of me. Still, I hesitated to see where the car went.

I was staring to the left to see what the car would do with one foot on the street. The car whizzed by and slowed down just enough for me to hear the expletives coming out of his mouth about me using the sidewalk. He said, “Jesus &^% / Christ, why don’t you use the crosswalk, I’ll fun your &*%$# over!”

Now I can pretty much guarantee that this guy wasn’t praying to Jesus Christ at that moment. He was using the Lord’s name in vain. And an interesting thing happened to me… for the first time!!!

I felt sorry for him!!! I actually felt sorry for this young guy who was driving to fast, screaming obscenities out the car window and being basically a jerk to me. I also know because I have some years on me now, that that poor guy will “get his”. He’s either got a lot of stress in his life right now and doesn’t know how to manage it, or he’ll be dealing with a lot in the future. These are the things that I actually thought about!!!

The reason that I’m so shocked at my own reaction is that previously, if anyone would get in my face about anything, it would take me a bit of time, but I’d get it together and then I’d LET THEM HAVE IT. I’d just tell them off or somehow get back at them with every bit of certainty that they had displayed earlier.

Once in Charlotte, I had a neighbor who I complained to at 1am that their music was on too loud. They never responded to my knocking so I rang the doorbell. The next morning, the wife reamed my husband out so bad that when he came in, he was calling her crazy! I went over to try to smooth things out and she screamed and yelled and cussed at me just as much. I cowardly walked away but got my revenge. Not only did I tell everyone what bad neighbors they were, I got the music to stop by going to the board of the neighborhood and forcing them to stop the constant pounding every night.

That ruined the relationship for the first 2 years that we lived there. I never wanted to be friends with someone with such a violent temper.

But what was really going on for her? Was she in a bad place in her life? Was there a time where someone else had pressured her or her family to do something?

I never chose to look at those things. I chose to ignore her and treat her like she didn’t exist. I can tell you from experience, it is not a good way to live! There are many awkward moments that occur, and it’d just be easier to forgive and forget.

She was actually the one who initiated the conversation again. One day she just waved and said “Hi, how are you?” I responded somewhat pleasantly and from then on, we waved whenever we saw one another.

But I can’t tell you that I liked her. No, I still felt like she was an awful woman who didn’t want to be a good neighbor.

When I compare my two reactions, I felt so much more peace just forgiving the guy and going on with things. I didn’t react at all to him but I know that his day is probably ruined. Holding a grudge is HARD. You have to avoid the person so you don’t have to be in an awkward position. You have to look the other way when they approach you to act like you don’t see them and then having to totally ignore a person takes so much creative work and effort!

Forgiveness is a whole lot easier! All you have to do is forgive the person and realize that they’re not at their best at that moment. Hopefully, they’ll regret their actions and make amends but even if you don’t, you’ll feel better just by forgiving them right away. When you don’t forgive someone, your emotions become bitter, and bitterness eats away at your insides. Literally. It can cause stress and even sickness.

I can just imagine that today, the angels that were watching today, recorded something good about me. Perhaps they all nudged each other, smiled and said.. “yah, NOW she’s getting it! Now she understands what it takes to become mature”.

I know in my heart that I felt better this time about the lousy experience. I know that God saw me honestly feel sorry for that young guy. And I know that it made God happy.

Now, if he can JUST work on making that GUY happy…. !

Friday, August 19, 2005

Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

They say that if you really want to stretch yourself and grow, then try doing something every day that scares you. What does that mean? Does that mean to rent the latest blockbuster thrillers that have all of the gore and guts and get your adrenaline going a million miles a minute?

Not in my book, but I like the philosophy. There are so many things that we quite possibly take for granted that others find intimidating. If you turn on one of the tabloid TV talk shows, you’re libel to see someone with a weird phobia of balloons, or even trying to conquer a more normal one of heights.

I know that I used this test in my classes on Charisma about being UNCOMFORTABLE. Most often, with a few questions, you can normally find normal people who find regular things to be uncomfortable.

How about this list:
Going to a movie by yourself
Going to dinner alone
Walking into a party by yourself
Traveling alone to another city, renting a car and locating a destination all by yourself
Getting in a bathing suit in front of your friends
Speaking before a group of people
Leading a meeting
Flying on an airplane
Driving in a race car
Handling a snake

Okay, did anything in this list give you bit of nerves? Usually, all of us have things that give us the jitters. But the trick is to keep doing it over and over, until it becomes easy.

According to the book of lists, public speaking is the number one fear of all people. I’ve been in the public lecture business for a long time and have seen my fair share of professional speakers and performers. I’ve seen many people get nervous on stage and hide it well, but one performer really stood out to me as a glowing example of having fear and doing it anyway.

It was Scott Thomas. Better known as Carrot Top!

I saw him perform in front of a college crowd years ago when his career was on the way up. He was doing his funny act of showing the creative uses he’d designed for particular people using regular items that he combined to make something ridiculous; like putting a long haired pony tail on the end of a tennis racket for Andre Aggessi when he had long hair. He was always guaranteed a lot of laughs because he was so outrageous. But this particular time in the middle of the show, he stopped for a brief second and said to the audience, “oh my gosh! I just had a panic attack! Have you ever had a panic attack? I just had a panic attack right here in the middle of my performance!”

Then, with a rush of relief, he went on with his show and didn’t skip another beat.

I was blown away by his understanding of the human mind and personality. Not only did he allow himself to behave out of the ordinary and admit to having a panic attack but he shared his stress with the audience and then continued the show. For that moment alone, I knew that that guy would never be stopped. He faced his fears head on, acknowledged them and then walked through the fear.

If you turn on Oprah or Dr. Phil, you’ll find that peoples fears range from the fear of flying to the fear of being around balloons! Some are realistic and some are off the wall crazy. But one thing is for sure, the more you are exposed to the thing that you fear, you’ll learn to deal with that fear and manage it.

The people who I coach for public speaking often times get sick in their stomach just at the very thought of having to get up in front of the audience. But taking time writing their message, rewriting it, doctoring it up and then ultimately practicing it makes them realize that they can conquer their fear of public speaking. When I coach someone with this issue, I work with them over and over in a small room with the camera ON. I’m the only other one in the room. In that safe environment, I’m able to first tell them, and then show them, when they are improving upon their message. My whole goal is to just GET THEM TO BE THEMSELVES in any situation. When they reach the point that they are able to laugh and joke, as if their friends are in the room, then I know that they have tackled the issue and triumphed!

What is it that scares you? Is it meeting new people? Is it going out and getting a job? Are you afraid of doing taxes? Are you afraid of heights?

Having some fear is healthy for us as it can allow all of our senses to be at their greatest capacity of alertness and will be fully functioning, but having our fear run us is a different matter. It holds us back, makes us lose out on things and events in life because we won’t even try.

This weekend, challenge yourself. Take on something that is scary. Talk to that person in the hall you’ve seen for years and never had the guts to meet. Take a trip to the pool and venture out into the deep end. Just do something… ANYTHING.. that will stretch yourself.

I promise, when you do, you’ll feel accomplished and you’ll want to challenge yourself even more. You'll like the feeling of getting uncomfortable more and more. You'll be toughening up your mind and be conditioning yourself for greatness. It's a proccess but its rewarding. Good luck and have fun!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sometimes Leaders Get the Boot

Today I stood up to a guy right in front of his boss. I challenged him, the former leader, to change his position and give up his position of power. He had fallen from that position though no fault of his own, yet, he didn’t deserve the power that he desired.

Yep! I challenged a 5 year old today, right in front of his dad. Here’s what happened:

Jason, this little boy who I challenged is at school first nearly every day. He takes his rightful position of line leader. This means that he is the first boy in his class to enter the school after the kids walk in a straight line in from the parking lot; where they say The Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Today, as in the last few days, my son Jeremy and I thought that he was going to be first but right before he got there, another boy landed the coveted position. Today, it was another boy, Cory. Every day, my son Jeremy takes the second spot and doesn’t grumble.

Today, the first kid was Cory, and Jeremy was second. When Jason arrived, he plopped his backpack on the line right in front of Cory. I started chatting with his dad and his son got comfortable. That’s when I had a decision to make. Did I challenge the kid in front of his dad? Was it fair that he gets used to being the leader every single day even though he didn’t deserve it today? I decided YES.. I was willing to challenge his position.

So I said to this ‘future leader of America’, “you know Jason, you’re going to have to get behind Jeremy today because you weren’t here first today”. I turned to his dad and said, “Yah, you know how important the line leader is in kindergarten!” I then said to Jason, “Jeremy wants to be the line leader every day, and you beat him every day and so you get to be it! Today it’s Cory’s turn since HE was first”. At the very suggestion that he wasn’t going to be in the first position, Jason tried to enroll his father at taking his position. He told him he WANTED to be the line leader… PLEEEAASE!!” His dad made him move and Cory moved back into first. Jason wasn’t happy, but he obliged.

Okay, so maybe I stuck my nose in a place where it didn’t belong. Maybe I’m pushing competitiveness among the kids. But, perhaps it’s what gets my son MOVING in the morning. It’s the GOAL that he wants to achieve. He WANTS to be line leader. He WANTS to get dressed because he might get to lead the line into the school that morning. So for us, it’s worth it to get rewarded for a job well done. It’s my way of teaching Jeremy goal setting and how good it feels to accomplish what he achieved.

I liked it also how the parent accepted my challenge. He was fine with my correction and he supported me. Of course I was nice about it, but I keep hearing how parents aren’t doing what is right by their kids. So many of them don’t WANT to interfere and so they don’t. Could it be that they just don’t want to take responsibility? As parents, we should be willing to be involved. After all, we are their role models.

Yes, I stuck my neck out for the kids. I didn’t let the usual leader return to his position when he didn’t deserve it. And I know that tomorrow, Jeremy WILL be the line leader, even if we have to get up 1/ 2 hour early!

How about in your life? Is there anyone in your company that doesn’t deserve to be where they are? Are they still in a position that they shouldn’t be? Have you been patient long enough?

Have you considered that it might be time to demote that person and to ask them to take a step backwards? Is there someone you need to encourage to go into counseling? Is there anyone whose drinking habits are running interference with their work? Do you think it may be time to realize that they are doing more harm than good to your company?

Managing people takes care, concern and a lot of planning. It takes dedication to knowing the strengths of the people you manage and knowing what they can handle and what they can not.

And when you approach the leader who isn’t pulling his weight or needs a bit of encouraging to get with the program, make sure you are direct, sympathetic, and of course respectful.

Because who knows, YOU may be the next one who will be challenged to wake up and get going.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Surviving the Storms of Life

August in Florida has a daily ritual that Floridians take with a grain of salt. It’s the daily storms that pass by and that are filled with more electricity than in a 4th of July fire works display. It’s no wonder they call Florida the “Lightening Capital of the World”. Because rain clouds can be literally feet away from you and dump a huge storm on the people across the street and meanwhile your side of the street remains dry. It just depends on where you are located at the moment to the degree you get rained upon.

The other day, the clouds were trumpeting and announcing the coming of a storm, or so I thought. Most of the people remained in the pool which totally surprised me. In Charlotte, at the very sound of thunder, we all jumped out of the pool for the next 20 minutes. Here though, they wait for the serious stuff, the lightening. That’s what signals to the people here that the real storm is on the way.

The storms here remind me that many people are going through different degrees of their own personal storms. The older I get, I see how life is full of hardships and triumphs. There isn’t a time where anyone has just “made it” unless they’ve died and gone to heaven. Life is full of ups and downs, big storms and tiny rain clouds that we get through with little or no effort.

In my own circle of friends and family, my 28 year old cousin Paul has brain and testicular cancer. He is having the fight of his life in North Carolina while the rest of his family flies out from Oregon to be with him. His girlfriend Christine, has been with him through the whole ordeal. Chemo and radiation treatments are a lot to handle for a young couple.

My brother just found out that he has skin cancer. The prognosis is good, but it seems to come at an unthinkable time. He just sold his house and he and his family have 2 weeks to be out of the house and settled in somewhere new.

My niece’s boyfriend is being sent to Kuwait. My good friend just put her mom in an assisted living facility. Another friend is having a difficult time dealing with her new step son. Another friend is trying to find a new career which is proving to be difficult.

Everywhere I turn, I see people dealing with the stress in their lives. It seems that everyone has different degrees of difficulty at different times. But in every case, I see people rising up to help the people who are going through the storms. It seems that we get the strength that we need to help others when they need it. And in our days of difficulties, if we review the rough times we’ve had, we can see how others have helped us through as well. Maybe it was just a kind word. Maybe we took our friends kids for the afternoon if they were at their wits end. Or maybe we helped someone financially in their darkest hour.

If you read any motivational book, any bible or religious work, we should know now that we are here to serve. We are here to help others through their rough times. We are supposed to help those less fortunate than us and those who need a helping hand. And what about those people who always seem to be enduring difficulties? Perhaps they are in our lives to teach us a lesson. Perhaps we can be a constant reminder to them that supportive people are a blessing in our lives.

When I consider complaining because I sprained my ankle this week or that I’m now squashed into an apartment while we find a house, I’m reminded about the people who are really suffering. I may be having some of those inconvenient rainy days where it’s thundering, but the lightening hasn’t hit. We’re all healthy. We’re talented and we have friends and family that love us. We have our whole life ahead of us.

For my friends who are in the thick of the storm, I know that I can reach down deep and help them somehow. I know that I can send a card, an email, or even send up prayers on their behalf.

I know that this is how you build self esteem in people. I know its how you get people thinking about how great their own lives are. Just get them to start helping others and soon, their own attitudes have shifted to a sense of gratitude.

Who can you help today? What kind word can you give to a person today? Do you have any extra money this month that you can send to a needy family member, like a college student?

How about your neighbors? Is there anyone quietly in need that you’ve sensed that a warm cooked meal can help? Did anyone lose their parents to death? Can you send them a card? Is there a mother struggling with a difficult teenager? She just might need a word of encouragement and not another piece of criticism.

In our media driven society, it seems that if you’re not 25, gorgeous and on TV, then you’re not a star. But in REAL life, as a member of a community, each person can be the star to those around them. And there is no better feeling, then to be able to actually help someone else.

And when the thunder and lightening come into your own life, you’ll be ready. The thunder won’t bother you much, and for as for the lightening, you’ll get a chance to see how awesome your family and friends really are. They’ll step up to the plate and surround you with care.

What a beautiful place to be, in the eye of the storm.

Friday, August 12, 2005

One Way to Beat Stress: Arrive Early!

I’m so excited that I have discovered this secret today. It’s something that I promise will reduce the stress level in your lives. It’s easy, convenient and all you have to do is plan: THE NIGHT BEFORE!

Today was the third day of school for my son Jeremy. Today we were among the very first people at school. Every single day, the kids line up in the parking lot at the school with their teachers. At 7:55am, the principal, Mrs. Katie Walsh, directs the students in The Lord’s Prayer, and the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s a wonderful tradition and unites the school every single day.

Today, because Jeremy was the first boy in his class to arrive, he got to be the line leader! Now, if you know anything about kindergarten, The LINE Leader is a VERY special thing to be. It’s the first person in line. It’s the leader. It’s the HEAD HONCHO!! And today, Jeremy was the line leader! That made him feel special and I know this because he told the teacher that he was the FIRST person in the class to get there this morning. He was quite proud of that fact.

Yesterday though? A totally different story! Yesterday Jeremy and I were running across the parking lot to get there before the class went inside. We completely missed the prayer AND the Pledge and I was rushing him so much he started crying and nearly sat down in the middle of the parking lot. When we got there, I pretty much threw him in line, kissed him goodbye and both of us were nervous with adrenaline as we said goodbye. Whew! We JUST made it. The alternative was the go to the principals’ office to sign him in. I just can’t see me going to the PRINCIPAL’S office during the first week of school. Especially since I was NEVER sent to the Principal’s office in my whole 12 years of school! (Yes, believe it or not.. I was one of the GOOD GIRLS!)

So I vowed last night to get to school early. Sway and I double checked all of our clocks with the world clock. We set them all on time and I set my wrist watch a bit fast. I made sure last night that his book bag was ready, his uniform was ironed and we all got to bed early. My clock went off 15 minutes earlier this morning and we didn’t let Jeremy linger in bed this morning. We fed him, got his snack put together and got him dressed with time to spare.

Was it easy? OF COURSE not! We struggled like crazy to get him to get out of bed, to get him fed and to get dressed. But Sway and I worked together to get it done. Sure we had some crying fits and I think there were a few tense moments from all of our ends, but we did it and we got there early with a LOT of time to spare.

It was great! We got to sit in the car and talk about the day. We got to talk about what the day could be like if he had really good behavior. We talked about him meeting some new kids and introducing himself to others and being kind to others. We even got to call Jeremy’s daddy and tell him how early we were.

When we got to the parking lot, I got to talk with Mrs. Dowell, his teacher and he got to share with her how he helped me yesterday when I sprained my ankle. She was delighted that he helped his mommy and showed the appropriate amount of pride.

Then Jeremy got to stand in line as the other boys lined up behind him. I got to socialize with the other mommies which is always fun. I got to kiss him goodbye as they walked away and he seemed fine today.

It was such a great day that I’m convinced that our habits can change. We can get to bed early EVERY night. We can prepare everything in advance and have a smooth morning and get to school early every day. It’s worth striving for. I want my little boy to get in the habit of being early and enjoying the feelings that it brings.

I want to apply this tactic to every part of my life. To my coaching appointments, to church, or anywhere I must be on a regular basis. I like the feeling of being prepared instead of just arriving in a rush and trying to catch up with everyone else. I like not having the adrenaline rush and having to calm down. I learned this lesson years ago when arriving to the airport and I’ve never regretted getting there early. I’ve always been perfectly calm, cool and collected when I travel. Of course I learned the hard way and remember racing to the gate and being out of breath more than once.

So I know I can change my habits since I’ve done it before. And now, I’m instilling new habits in my son, and in my husband. I think it’s going to make the school year easier. And somehow, I think it’s going to make our life easier too.

So if you have that rushed feeling when you are driving around town or getting to meetings or appointments, try planning the night before. Get the whole family engaged in the new rule of thumb. It can change your whole outlook on school.

So try using this secret of planning to arrive early. It can change your life, your stress and your reputation!

Besides, it’s a whole lot more fun. And isn't that a better way to live?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What’s In a Name?

How often have you thought about the name that you were given? Do you know what your name means? Have you lived up to the wonderful meaning of your name?

I haven’t given much thought to my name in a long time until recently. For several reasons, my name is giving me a lot of respect in this community that I’ve joined. I think it’s so ironic that something so simple, as ones name, can give you a leg up or potentially initially harm ones’ reputation.

Think of these names, and what comes to mind?


Just the name Jennings.. (AKA: Peter Jennings), is now reminding all of the smokers that their lungs are quite possibly getting sicker and sicker every day. I just heard this morning that Peter Jennings death is waking up smokers all over the country about the dangers of smoking or being a former smoker.

How about the other names? It’s a mix of first and last names, and every one of them will bring up images in your mind of a person, an event, and of course, a reputation.

How about your name? Are you doing everything you can to give your name a good reputation? Are you living up to the dreams and aspirations of your forefathers? Are you a living example of all of the hard work that your parents and grandparents and those before them struggled for all of their lives?

Coming back to Florida and seeing how everyone I meet has such intense respect for my family helps me want to live up to their expectations. I see it as a challenge and as an honor that has been bestowed upon me. Its like a gift that I didn’t deserve by my own works.

Before now, My name Mary Gardner meant little more than how I told people to remember me: “Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your GARDNER grow?” But now, the GARDNER name has significance; at the school, at the church and in the community. My first name Mary also holds special sentiments around the Catholic church that I now attend. It’s special. And somehow, for the first time, it makes ME feel special. And I believe it’s changing me, for the better.

Now I feel like I want to be more poised. I want to gain more spiritual insight and wisdom. I want to be able to serve people more. I want to be a better parent. I want to be a better wife. I want to be a better friend. I want to help the community at large.

Living up to the stellar reputation that my parents and my relatives have created is going to take a lifetime of commitment and of service. But I’ve seen people seeking fame or fortune become lonely and bitter in their old age. I see now what my future holds. If I can manage to do a tenth of what my parents and family has done for others, then I will be making a difference in other peoples’ lives. I’ll be contributing to the community and helping build stronger people, mentally, physically and spiritually.

Names don’t tell everything. But they do tell something. They give us a starting point. They give us something to live up to or to live down. If you are one of the lucky ones who have a name to live up to, then strive to continue that fine reputation that has been started. If you aren’t so lucky that you’ve been given a name that has to be lived down, then do whatever you can to make YOUR name shine like sterling, so no man can find fault with you, regardless of your family.

What’s in a name? That’s entirely up to you. Your name; Your reputation, It’s up to you.

Your name is what you make it…Make it matter.

Comments from friends:
Oh my goodness Mary! Whenever I miss you I am just going to read your blog!! It's like have all you right here!! It's great!

You go girl!!



I just read your last 4-5 to read, the last one about your name is so very true. Our reputation is everything and will be the legacy we leave to our children and to those we impact.

have a great day and weekend!

Jeff, Charlotte, NC

There’s No Place like Home

Yesterday was Jeremy’s first day of Kindergarten at his new school, St. Margaret Mary. It’s been my home church since I was 5, exactly his age. My family moved to FL when I was in Kindergarten and now he is going to grow up in the same environment that I did.

Growing up in FL has its perks. Besides being a beautiful place, with the lakes situated at nearly every corner, the people are laid back and the weather is decent all year long. No, we don’t’ get snow, but everyone takes trips up north to see it, and many escape the torrid heat in the summer months and go somewhere else.

Being at the first day of school was exciting. I ran into several women I went to high school with and was introduced to others who are now married to the siblings of my high school friends. It seemed that everyone was connected somehow, and it felt comfortable.

Since my father has played an active role at the church for the past several years as the Owners Rep which means he’s been building parts of the church, everyone knows him. Every single time I mention that I’m Walt’s daughter, people light up like a Christmas tree and tell me what a wonderful man he is and how competent he is and how valuable his Cell phone number is!!! Everyone adores my mom too. She’s the world’s best mom, after all! My parents have so many friends that it’s been remarkable to walk into a place and by having parents like I do; people just welcome me with open arms.

I’ve also been compared to this woman several times, Julie. Yesterday I was asked if I had met her yet. I laughed because I’ve been compared to her my whole life and explained that Julie B. was formally Julie Gardner, my cousin! Julie has two boys at the school already and is well known and loved as well. I have no problem being compared to her since she’s beautiful, poised and a super great gal.

What I didn’t expect was the feeling that I’d get from returning home. I knew that I’d know people, which to me is a huge benefit, but I had no idea the warmth that I’d find. I had no idea that people loved living in their hometown so much. Sure, I’ve heard Bruce Springstein’s song, but I never thought it applied to me. I have felt somewhat displaced all of these years, even though I was able to accumulate dozens of friends in every city in which I lived. These friends became like family to me but I never had the extended associations that you get from growing up in one place.

Every person desires to have connections and to feel loved and accepted for who they are. I’m no different. I’ve lived in many places over the past 20 years and developed strong friendships that will remain a lifetime. I have friends from college in Alabama, friends from camp in South Carolina, friends from the Washington DC area, NJ, NYC and those that have moved to LA, CT, CO, PA and of course, Winter Park, FL. But besides a few friends who I keep in regular contact with, I never really ran into people who knew me, and had to reestablish myself every single time that I moved.

I had to move away for myself though, to discover who I was, and to see who I was in the world. I accomplished a lot, thank God, but I am just so thrilled to be able to come home and to have friends, to be accepted and to be loved just because of my family. These are the exact reasons I left, and now they’re the reasons I came home.

And I’ve decided that home is best for me and my family.

And it’s true, that there is NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

Comments from friends:

Hi M,
I am up at 12:40am reading your blog and I love it!!!!! It gave me so much inspiration and COMFORT!!!! People should read your blog before going to bed every night. They would have bigger better dreams of what they want and permission to pursue them.


Friday, August 05, 2005

Want Some Stress? Try Moving!

Want to lose some weight? Want to get your adrenaline rushing? Want to get an incredible workout? Want to see what you’re REALLY made of?

My husband, my son and I just moved this week. Or was it last week? I seriously can’t remember what day it is.

We relocated from Charlotte, NC to Orlando FL. I’m thrilled with our decision to relocate to Florida for many reasons. First and foremost, we have tons of family here and I want my son to grow up around his family. Then, my husband will be closer to his business partner and we won’t have to take a dozen trips here a year by car. And lastly, I’m happy to be in a place that celebrates creativity rather than squashes it. Orlando is the home of the “world’s most famous mouse” after all, and Walt Disney was a HUGE dreamer. I felt Charlotte was so reserved that people with big personalities were dubbed as trouble makers. I guess it’s true though, because people with big personalities do shake things up and get people out of their comfort zone. Yep, that’s me… in a good way of course!

But the moving? It takes FOREVER! Because we packed ourselves we started about a month early. The movers came on Friday and we were feeling pretty good about things. But when it came down to the wire, our neighbors Tim and Heather and their kids were cleaning and vacuuming just as much and as hard as we were to get us out of there the next morning by noon. There was tons of last minute items that somehow my husband managed to shove into one of our two Ford Explorers. We were packed to the max and had our dog in the front seat with me and son in the back. There wasn’t an inch of space in Sway’s car. I don’t know how he did it.

We drove all day on Saturday and an 8 hour drive turned into 11 ½ because of traffic and bad rain storms. We stopped for some good meals too and were exhausted when we rolled into my parent’s house around midnight. The last hour of the drive when I was begging my husband to let me sleep or get coffee, he encouraged me to stop listening to Zig Zigler on tape and listen to music instead. As much as I LOVE ZIG.. that did the trick and I danced in my car the rest of the way home. Latin music REALLY wakes you up!

We rested on Sunday and the movers came on Monday. I fed them breakfast and lunch, brought out a cooler of Gatorade and water and they probably lost about 15lbs each that day. It was a hot summer Florida day and they had to climb 3 stories for every piece of furniture and item we had. I had to provide towels because even their hats were dripping with sweat. But we got everything in.

That’s another issue!!! Everything doesn’t FIT in. We moved from almost a 3000 sq. feet home into a 1100 sq ft. apt. Of course 1/2 of our funiture is in storage until we buy a place but I have been unpacking for days and still there are boxes upon boxes to unload. Thank goodness that my sister loves to cook and is going to appliance "sit" for us for several months. I loaded her up with everything from a pasta maker to dishes and decorations. My parents are housing our lawn mower, bikes and some pictures.

Not to mention that I needed and have gotten shoes and uniforms for Jeremy for school, am getting all of his records sent to me from NC for school, and keeping up the search to find a new house for 6 months down the road.

Oh, and did I mention that the new kids at the neighborhood pool want me to start a swim team?

It sounds fun, but would add just MORE to my already full plate.

So in times like these, one must prioritize:

Get Jeremy’s school stuff
Go to the pool and relax

Ahhhhh, I’m glad I was able to figure this all out. And if YOU need some change in your life, then announce to yourself and to the world that you’re going to move. Then DO it. It’ll shake you to your core, and you’ll have to dig down deep to get every last bit of energy to accomplish your goal.

But one never knows the unpredictable surprises that will come along the way. And perhaps that is JUST what our lives need to keep us fresh and alive.