Photo Credit: Collider.com

Photo Credit: Collider.com

I’m inspired today thinking about the boys in the movie McFarland, USA. 7 boys whose families had never been past 9th grade, found a way to college. Their status quo could have swallowed them. Instead, they created a new status quo. With a coach who believed in them, a brand new cross country team from a predominantly Mexican town in southern California managed to win 9 cross-country state championships in 14 years. Totally unrealistic in 1987.

Today, it’s a story worth telling – and believing in.

There’s a scene in the movie in which Tomas is speaking with his father about the possibility of winning the state championship, and that winning a state championship might give him an opportunity to go to college. His father, worn down from hard work and struggling to support his family tells Tomas to forget about college.  He tells him spending time reading is going to ruin his eyes.

It was that moment when things could have completely changed for Tomas (and the team). If Tomas had succumbed to the reality of his father’s words. If he had bought in to the mindset that he was never going to be any more than a “picker,” that may have determined a different outcome for Mc Farland’s cross-country team. But he managed to hold on to hope – an idea that maybe, just maybe running could take him further than his father could see.  No one would have blamed him if he had given up. It was totally unrealistic to imagine their team could ever win the state championship. But they did.

The belief in a dream/idea is so fragile, almost fleeting.

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Photo Credit: Colider.com

We all know that not all ideas are great. But who determines if a dream has legs? Only us. To vet a dream is to learn a lesson. By trying, we can learn for ourselves what works and what doesn’t work.  No one can accurately predict the viability of an idea without testing it. The first iteration will be clumsy, awkward, and might be a flop – we’ll probably come in 4th out of 4 teams – otherwise known as last place.  But that process of failing – that is when the idea grow its wings. The courage to show up at the next race and the next. That is what greatness is made of.

As a young girl, I grew up in a family filled with love. There were no barriers to the love, but I felt barriers to my abilities, and, as they say, my perception was my reality. For reasons that don’t matter today, I felt limited in my abilities. My ideas were disregarded as idealistic – and they were, because I was never brave enough to take action, to test my dreams, to shoot for the stars.  Today, I realize that idealists – people with dreams – are special people.  People who are encouraged to try (and fail) are the most creative people on Earth. They follow their heart, even if everyone else thinks they are crazy.

mcfarland-image-3

Photo Credit: Collider.com

As a dreamer, I will warn you: To put yourself out there is a risk. People will laugh at you. They will criticize you, they might even call you stupid. But if we dreamers can remember one simple fact, we might get beyond the fear and change the world anyway: If it’s our dream, it’s our job to make it a reality. No one else can – because no one else sees exactly what we see.  Thank goodness for people like Jim White and for the dreamers who are willing to take the risk, daring to be champions.

“You guys are superhuman. What you endured just to be here, and get a shot at this; the kind of privilege that someone like me takes for granted… There’s nothing you can’t do with that kind of strength – with that kind of heart – you kids have the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. Go win the race.” – Jim White, McFarland, USA

 

Be Part of the Solution

October 13, 2014 — 4 Comments

be-part-of-the-solution

In response to the commentary found on an Editorial published today on the Ledger.com I share these thoughts.  The Internet is powerful.  I believe we must use it for good.  In our country, we can speak freely. Yet, it seems more people choose to speak freely negatively than to create positive change.  This message is my small effort to keep fighting the good fight.

Ron Alexander, thank you for your commitment to our community.  I don’t know who you are (you seem to hide your true identity, probably because you have very good reason), but I know that you are very passionate about what happens in our community.

You and I have something in common.  I too am a passionate person.  The difference between us is that I use my passion to try to make a positive difference in our community; therefore, I am willing to listen to people like Tom Phillips.  Tom is not a native to Polk County – and I know that it’s not easy to be an outsider in this community, but that hasn’t stopped him.  He came to Polk County less than 5 years ago, with one purpose: to improve the mass transit system in Polk County and if you spent some time researching all that he has done, you’d discover that he has done some amazing work since he arrived.  We are fortunate to have him in our community.

Imagine being Tom. A smart guy with a lot of passion, energy and desire to make things around him better.  To apply the knowledge and experiences that he has had, he came to Polk County because we needed someone to help change the status of our Mass Transit – maybe this isn’t something you or I need to take advantage of, but then again, not everything is about you and I.  It’s about the big picture.  It’s about the entire picture – not just the view of one or two.

After reading your comments, I believe that this isn’t about taxes for you. This is about revenge.  From the hundreds of comments I have read that you have written, it’s obvious that you feel like you’ve been given the shaft – you don’t look at things objectively, you don’t see both sides of an argument, you don’t weigh out the debate and consider anything other than how you can stick it to the man – to give yourself some personal satisfaction… you use your words to lash out at people who work to bring value to our community, and I think that’s the wrong approach…. I also think you are damaging the future of our community in many ways.

What you don’t realize is that your insightful comments may be doing more harm than good.  Today, social media is the public forum that used to exist offline.  Instead of attending a commission meeting, or town hall meeting, people can share their opinions in a safe environment, in the comfort of their own homes without consideration for those they are attacking.

I am sure you are aware of this, and it is probably your intent, but I want to explain the possible side effects of your incessant bashing of our “corrupt leaders” as you so frequently call them. Have you considered the future leaders of our great community?  What they think when they read these comments from a bitter, angry avatar?  You indicate you are an elderly gentleman… maybe you don’t care about the future of our community… and if that is the case, you are not only bitter and angry, you’re selfish.  Whatever you do, from wherever you are, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.  I encourage you to become part of the solution, because we need more people like Tom to continue to choose to be leaders in our community.

Tom didn’t need me to come to his aid… But I truly felt it was time I shared my thoughts, for whatever they are worth.

Gratitude

July 22, 2014 — 4 Comments

YOU
There’s always hype when there’s something good.  But gratitude is more than hype. It’s a reflection. And we can never show enough gratitude to those who make a difference in our lives.  To show appreciation for those who help us “BE.” When we look back and see how much we have accomplished we must celebrate.  But once we have patted ourselves on the back, we must also acknowledge the people who have helped us achieve that success.  Today, I am filled with immense gratitude and the list is long, however, I need to say thank you in a very big way…

If you have ever sent me an encouraging word – via Facebook, text message or email,
If you have ever attended an event that I organized,
If you have ever shared something I have written,
If you have ever given me a hug,
If you have ever told me the truth about something that involved me, or something I was involved in,
If you have ever smiled across the room,
If you have ever sent me a card, or a newspaper clipping,
If you have ever thanked me for a referral, or for making a connection that helped you in some way,
If you have ever just listened to me, let me cry or allowed me to share my doubts, fears or insecurities,
If you have ever forgiven me for anything,
If you have ever complimented me, encouraged me or just shared kind words in my regard…

 

Thank you

 

You are the wind in my sails, you give me strength to keep going, doing, believing that there is greatness in the world.  You help me overcome the negativity, the cynics, the haters. You have been part of this journey and I would not be here if it weren’t for you.

 

 

 

You can be Better

July 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

You Can be BetterI really don’t care whether you believe me or not – you can be better than you are today. You can be more valuable, more consistent, more loyal, more kind, more considerate. It’s not what you say to others or behind someone’s back that determines how remarkable you are. It’s in your own beliefs that awesome lives.

If you are satisfied with yourself – that’s fantastic. Celebrate your success… then go figure out how you can be better and give a little bit more of yourself to someone who can benefit from your knowledge, experience and awesomeness. That’s what Awesome looks like. That’s the difference maker. ‪#‎EXCELSIOR‬ ‪#‎LeadwithLove‬

My personal mission: To inspire the citizens of Polk County to Awaken the Leader Within themselves and share their greatness with our community. Awaken the Leader Within

I am on a mission.  When I speak to friends, business owners, teachers and leaders in our community, I am always amazed at the quality of people I encounter. The conversations and ideas we share make it clear to me that we have everything we need right here in our community.  All we need is a way to tap into this unattended well and begin fortifying our local army by creating a reason for them to connect.  The silos in which we currently exist have slowly deteriorated our sense of community and wrecked our morale and willingness to work together to create a productive environment that serves a greater purpose.

“A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.”

By providing resources, tools, and conversations that focus on discovering collaborative solutions, we can create an environment in which “Sleeping” Leaders (those who have not yet identified in themselves the leader within) can grow, learn and share – encouraging them to look within and find and share their greatness with the world.  This will not be an easy endeavor.  We will be required to make sacrifices, compromise our desires for the greater good, and be willing to fail along the way.  And the biggest difficulty will be fear.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins by taking the first step.”

When I embarked on my own journey (Lakeland Business Leaders) several years ago, I began my “journey of a thousand miles,” as Lao Tzu says, by “taking the first step.”  I took positive, intentional actions for the greater good of the community.  I believed if others shared my vision, together, we would be able to make a difference in our community.  I took many steps, consistently moving toward a simple goal: Bring out the best in the people around me, so that they can do the same for those around them.  Every day, I celebrated the small, but wonderful things within my community – the people, the events and the businesses.

The things I did were not special or even unique:  I checked in at local restaurants using social media, and told my friends how much I loved the food there.  I shared events for people who were trying to get their messages out to more people, answering questions and sharing my knowledge with the community I was building.  There was nothing special about these things.  But each little action I took, followed by more, consistent actions, created something wonderful:  a chain reaction.  I discovered that people did believe what I believed.  I wasn’t doing these things to get anything in return. But the connections I have made, the relationships I have built have been the most incredible reward I have ever known.

When you discover people who believe what you believe, it’s an amazingly satisfying feeling!

It was a little over a year ago that my friend Abby, (who came into my life as a result of some of the actions I mentioned above) shared a song with me.  It wasn’t a new song, but I had never heard it.  If You’re Out There, by John Legend is a song that calls out to whoever is listening, suggesting that we can change the world.

"If you hear this message, wherever you stand.
I'm calling every woman, calling every man.
We're the generation, we can't afford to wait,
The future started yesterday and we're already late."

When I heard those first words, I was inspired.  I knew the words were directed at me.  But halfway through the song, I began to cry.  I remember exactly where I was – driving – when I started sobbing.  At the point in the song when the lyrics said:

"I searched for a leader, but the leader was me."

I realized this was exactly right.  As a result of the actions I had been taking, I had become a leader.  People were following me.  They believed what I believe.  But these words struck me at that moment because, in spite of the successes we’d had, the people we were helping, the energy that was catching on, I was terrified.  I am not talking about a little bit of doubt, I am talking about white-knuckles-stop-the-ride-I-gotta-get-off-NOW-terror.

Who? Me? A LEADER? What in the world did I know about being a leader? More to the point, who was I to believe I had any right to be a leader?  I wasn’t equipped with the background, resources, confidence, education or experience that would qualify ME to be a leader.  I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!  I was working without a business plan, there was no guidebook, no adviser, no one to say, “Yes, that is the right thing to do.” Or, “No, let’s not try that, it won’t work.”  I was working on the only thing I did have, the one thing I was completely confident of, and about which I had no doubts: My Passion.

Follow your passion? Yes! It’s there for a reason.

Admittedly, that’s not always they best way to move forward, but it was literally all I had.  My passion and my partner and best friend, Craig. Craig believed in me, but he didn’t always understand what I was doing, or WHY.  There was one day about a year and a half ago, that we were discussing my efforts and I was feeling very frustrated. I was emotionally charged and he was questioning whether any of this still made any sense.  He didn’t like the toll it was taking on me personally, and he asked me if I was ready to quit. I thought about that question for a few minutes.  I considered what that would mean.  I imagined how nice it would be to have the pressure taken off my shoulders; to not have to worry so much about so many different things.  And yet, there was this voice in my head.  I told Craig, “I can’t explain it, and I have no idea where this is going to go, if it’s ever going to become something valuable to us or not, but I feel “compelled.”  There’s a force bigger than me, calling me, and I have to believe it’s calling me for a reason.  Please don’t ask me to explain it, but I feel like this is what I have to do.  I have to keep doing what I am doing.  I am here for a reason.”

Today, I believe I have discovered why I exist.

As humans, we all want to make a difference.  Yet, for whatever reason, we fail to see ourselves as someone who can make a difference.  Is it society?  Our upbringing? I don’t know, but I want others to find within themselves the sleeping leader.  It’s time to wake them up from their slumber and start challenging the status quo.  We need more leaders in this world.  Maybe the difference we make will not end war, or starvation.  Maybe the difference we make will not mean much on the global radar, but the difference we make can be the difference one or two people need to make it to tomorrow. The chain reaction starts by helping those around us, making a little difference, helping others make a little difference, and on and on.  It’s not a new idea.  Nothing brilliant about the concept of starting where we are to inspire the sleeping leaders in our community.  But I believe I exist to inspire everyone I meet to awaken the leader within themselves, to become the leaders we need in the world – leaders worth following.

Calling all Leaders and Sleeping Leaders

Join me on May 9th, 2014 as we bring Leadercast to Lakeland.  If you trust me, if you’ve received any inspiration from me in the past 3 years, if you are someone who believes what I believe, you’ll be there.  It’s an entire day of inspiring leadership experts sharing their messages, and experiences to inspire our current leaders and to help awaken all the “sleeping” leaders in our community.  If you’ve ever thought to yourself that you might be a leader, but you didn’t have the background to actually do anything about it, here’s your chance.  If you’ve never even considered the possibility that you might be a leader, I guarantee you’ll find some powerful messages that just might be loud enough to awaken the leader within you.  The details of the event are here: http://lkld.co/Leadercast