Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Authentic Reflection - Adios 2008!

Tonight, as we close the door on 2008 - I can honestly say, as challenging as it was, this has been a phenomenal year for me. There were many triumphs and many more tears but through it all... I would not change a thing.

Let me quickly recap the high and low lights of 2008 for me personally - I'll leave something to your imagination and not point out which were highs and which were lows.

1. Started the year leaving a job that I'd outgrown without the safety net of another job

2. Started a new job in April

3. Abruptly stopped constant travel in April after 5 straight years

4. Discovered that my marriage had hit a major roadblock when I was most attentive to it in the late summer

5. Enjoyed a 7-day Mexican Riviera Disney Cruise vacation the week after my discovery

6. Learned what it REALLY means to rely on the Lord for your very next breath this fall

7. Met a wonderful warrior princess simply asking my church for prayer via the website

8. Touched the surface of unbearable pain through the loss of a child via a co-worker and I was torn up for days - weeks. Cannot imagine what she does...

9. Went totally unaffected (ok yeah my 401K died like everyone else's) by the economic crisis due to our downsizing and path to debt free living we chose almost 18 months ago (Thanks Dave Ramsey) - we had no changes in our lifestyle and we are blessed!

10. Realized my true values and put myself on a path to honor them daily

11. Started this blog and have touched at least two lives positively in the last few months - making one of them a friend..

12. Engaged an executive/ life coach

13. Scheduled and conducted a motivational talk

14. Declared myself a candidate for local public office

15. Started a couples program with my husband and a wonderful counselor

16. Intensively studied the lives of Jesus (simultaneously as I ran into number 4 - what an amazing lesson in grace that I could immediately use) and King David.

Wow - that was quite a year. Through it all - I would not change a thing! In fact - I am thankful for each and every item on the list.

I grew tremendously this year - personally, professionally and most of all spiritually.

Adios 2008. I can't wait to start 2009.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Authentic Endorsement - Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell

I spent a great part of my recent vacation to Mexico completely absorbed in the latest work of one of my favorite authors.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell is an excellent read and I suggest that anyone who is interested in success read this book.

I do not say that to say that if you read it, you will be successful - it is just a great look at all the factors that contribute to success that are not always apparent in the sound-bite society we live in today. It had me on my toes the entire 320 pages.

Interestingly - it challenged me to look at my life and the many "breaks" and "opportunities" that I had (and continue to have) that contribute to my success.

It is a very sensitive topic to deep dive into here without possibly hurting others but I can't get my mind off all the seemingly little differences that have been there for me and not others.

Yes - I am a type-A, choleric, extrovert blah, blah blah. Basically - I am self-motivated and very little stands in my way when I want something.

Yes - I believe it working smart vs. working hard

In the book - Malcolm Gladwell asserts that whatever cliches we seek to attach to our success - there are outside factors that contribute heavily to whether or not we are successful. He says - yes - there are brilliant people but even for all their brilliance there are a series of variables that also impact their ability to "make it."

I agree wholeheartedly and this book has only kindled my fire for my current journey. Why?

The current climate we live in is completely self-serving. People are not really concerned with others unless it somehow benefits them also. There is a lack of community in our country and in our world right now.

The idea of genuinely caring and putting yourself out there for the benefit of others is such a foreign concept. I am certain that my ideas, which all center around uplifting others - especially young people, will catch hold. The time is now and in classic marketing style - I will seize the moment to continue to tell my story and expand my reach and influence and I know that many will benefit.

Many already have.

The one absent thought in the book was faith - which is a huge centering beacon for me. Without it, I would be lost, bitter and possible not here to share. My faith in and relationship with Christ is the rock from which I draw my motivation. Yes - I am all those things I stated above but only because He made me that way. And for that I am grateful, every day, every minute.

I agree with Malcolm on all points and hope you will read the book and come and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not So Authentic Break

Merry Christmas ALL!

I am suppossed to be chillin in Mexico with my husband´s family and letting it all go.

I could not resist to opportunity to encourage everyone to enjoy Christmas day and make it a break. Almost everyone gets this day off from work so be sure and use it wisely.

Don´t check email

Don´t talk to anyone unless it´s someone you ENJOY talking to them

Tell someone you love them

Give someone a hug

Do something special for someone who needs it - if that person is you, EVEN BETTER (by the way, one of my anonymous commentators inspired me for this one- THANK YOU)

Above all - relax and eat well.

I´ll be back in the saddle in a few days.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Authentic Gratitude

I am a very thankful person with a truly grateful heart. Some days I wake up with my heart full of thanks just for being alive again. As  motherless daughter since I was 4 - I have a different perspective on being "grateful for another day"

My mom - Betty Jean (Jackson)  Wilmer died four months shy of her 25th birthday back in 1976. This past Friday after I blogged about my hair - it hit me that she would have been 57 on that day - December 12. It is such a mixed feeling to think that I have lived longer than she did. It is mind boggling to know that she has been dead longer than she was alive.  When I think of her - I am grateful. For everything.

I am certain that my personality today was directly affected by her absence. The  trajectory of my life is forever changed by events that took place back on August 19, 1976 and I am forever grateful.

Authentic gratitude is not flimsy - it really looking at a person, an event, a situation - fill in the blank and seeing past the immediate view and understanding the how all things contribute to our lives.  The dictionary definition of gratitude is "the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful".  

There are obvious positive connotations to that but I assert that we also have to be grateful for the tragedies.  

I have no idea why my mom was allowed so little time on this earth but I am grateful that she was here - even for that ever so brief moment.

I am thankful for my life. I am thankful that Betty Jean Jackson met Albert Wilmer.

I am grateful for my family.

I am grateful for my career and all the new twists and turns it is taking.

In the holiday period - we all reflect on gratefulness a bit more - I challenge you in the new year to be grateful always. 

Make it a habit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Natural Hair = More Natural Through and Through

Back in April - after a few salon mishaps and a general MUST DO SOMETHING NEW with my hair feeling - I decided to "go natural". You can see the photos before and now - it is quite a transformation! The transformation is not only on the top of my head. I assert tonight that it is much deeper than that... read on.

For black women - you hair is your crown. It is a generalization that is pretty on target. (take a look at the black women in your life or just black women you see at work or on the street or on TV over the next few days - you will see what I mean, if you don't already know)

As a professional black woman - the decision to go natural came only after I'd recently changed jobs so the "fear" of my natural hair (kinky tight little curls on their way to a beautiful full afro) would not hinder my confidence. It also must be noted that my entire life - I've treated my hair - either straightened it or had some kind of chemical in it to control it and make it look "presentable." 

I spent many weeks online looking to others who been on the journey before... my favorite was TraceMa - who made a rap about "going nappy" and I highly recommend it for a good laugh and inspiration to do anything radical in your life

Through this process - I noticed that "going natural" REALLY meant more than just the follicles on my head and I challenge you to do the same.  This is NOT a case for "natural hair" but a chat on what "letting go" can truly mean.

Look at these statements about my hair and see how they are parallel to life in general:

My hair was and is a representation of who I am - taking off the "mask" of chemically treating it really altered my view of myself for the better. 

When I look in the mirror - I fall in love with the inconsistencies I see in my hair. The funky grays are wild but not like before - now all the hair around the gray is wild too! My new hair has a life of its own.  I let go of control over the "outcome" of my hair on a daily basis and I like what is happening.

A bad hair day is really insignificant because I no longer take time to control the "outcome"

In the early days - when people were reacting to my natural hair - there were times when I was very uncomfortable but the longer I am natural - I barely notice reactions anymore. They may still be there but they don't matter to me.

Some people outright told me they liked it and others were very critical (what did you do to your hair? Shock look with "you got a hair cut") - neither comment matters - I am not overly flattered with the validation nor does the criticism shake my resolve to have natural hair

I have tried many "products" to help enhance the curls or nurture the style. It is fun to try them but only my precious care routine really makes the difference.

Ultimately - my natural hair has freed up time and caused me to rely on my instincts- a picked out fro today or a headband  tomorrow or just curly, curly - no nothing.

Do you see a pattern? All these statements could be applied to a career choice, accepting yourself at your current weight or size or those relationship woes that seem to linger with your loved ones.

I spent many years trying to control my hair and in the end  - it really controlled me. Now my hair is just a "part" of my identity  - and the place that it once held for me is now reserved for bigger more important issues.

Did I mention that I love my new nappy hair?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Week - New Era

This Sunday morning I wake up in a new era of my career. I am officially a motivational speaker and teacher.

Last week - I started the week as a corporate marketer with a ton of plans, dreams and aspirations of bigger, better things.

What a difference a week makes? I even feel different. Let me catch you up on things....

I started this blog in late October, in preparation of my new career. At the time - I'd started down a path to schedule one motivational talk within six weeks. Well I made two calls that week and tentatively scheduled FOUR TALKS. All different audiences but a very common similarity - people who could possibly be touched by my knowledge and my gift. No solid dates were booked and no outlines were written. One of the talks was a class I dreamed up for our park district in an effort to reach the busy adults in our community that spend 98% of their time "developing" their offspring through activity. Honestly - I had no idea where all this would net out. I am an eternal optimist and knew that a positive outcome was in store but no one could have told me that this transformation week would come less than two months into my quest.

This past week - SEVEN WEEKS from when I decided to pursue my new career - I had my first motivational talk. The same day - I got home and the  2009 Winter/Spring Activities Brochure from the Lake in the Hills Park District Parks and Recreation was in my mailbox with my class on page 27.

Tuesday night I spoke at my alma mater, Judson University to a group of sophomore young ladies about integrating your faith into your daily life - "Living What You Believe" - was the title.  My class for LITH is called "Expert You! - Discover Your Inner Passion and Put It To Work Today!" I am speaking to a group of McHenry County moms the third week in January.

Did I mention that I am also running for an elected Trustee position for my village? The other thing that happened this week to confirm the transformation was the fact that at an event for my daughter - a fellow mom - introduced me to someone not only as Emma's mom but as a candidate for Village Trustee.

All my thoughts, day dreams and planning are bearing fruit and much sooner than I'd expected. 

The message to you today? - Go get it! Whatever "IT " is  - go and start doing "IT" today! 

I'd been in planning mode for my future career since the spring and really had no progress other than some notes in lots of places. It was not until I made the first call in late October did it become a reality.

You will be surprised at what just a few steps (even baby ones) in the direction you want will deliver towards your goals.

I am and continue to be... join me on the journey!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Authentic Connections - In Honor of My New West Coast Buddy!

This past weekend, I sent a pal of mine off to start a new life on the West Coast. You can see us here at the party.

At the farewell soiree, I met other folks equally sad to see him go. The common thread in the room was this person who has an amazing gift of connecting with people - almost instantly.

Much to my surprise - I was one of the most recent folks "smitten" with Phil and, in contrast to almost everyone else in the room, I'd met him online.

After telling a few people our amazing "connection story" - it hit me just how unique it was.

You see - I met Phil on LinkedIn in June 2007. From shortly thereafter, we began this whirlwind friendship where we really only saw each other a few times in person but OH did we connect. Whether it was the formation of our trademark organization, S.N.B.P. or our marathon chats about everything from politics to our common interest of everything sports, we truly connected and have an extraordinary friendship.

As always, I spent the last few days unpacking my thoughts about Phil, his move, our friendship and this amazing thing... the authentic connection with another human being.

Here are a few things I imagine when I think of authentic connections with other people:

One - There is no "right place" for a good connection, only an open heart and mind.

Two - Authentic connections have no time issues. You know you've connected with someone authentically when the space between your last contact does not diminish the depth of your sharing.

Three - Man or woman - gender really doesn't matter. There was time when I'd say "Oh, I connect more easily with guys" That was so far from the truth - see addendum to point one

Four - Mutual respect makes every topic a relevant one - people who are authentically connected can talk to each other about all topics - regardless of whether they agree or not - the respect for one another fuels the spirited discussion that always ends with "Thanks, I never thought it that way."

Five - Authentic connections are never broken. This is a bold one but one I stand by. Neither time, nor distance or the most common connection breaker - conflicts, can keep people who are authentically connected apart. It is through our conflicts that we grow with one another. This will start a controversy but I believe that folks who have drifted completely out of my life - never to be heard from again were never authentically connected to me, nor I to them. How do I know this is true - FACEBOOK. Man, I have re-kindled connections dating back to high school, my first job - people I met traveling in Europe - there is a person I cherish from every era of my life within my 197 connections. Are all 197 connections authentic? I would say 90% are. There is the 10% of folks who I knew only in passing but I would argue that if I did not feel connected to them - they must have felt connected to me to even ask me to be their FB friend.

So - now I push it to you...

What (in your mind) makes an authentic connection possible with another person?