Monday, January 30, 2006

Goodbye, Dad

I haven't written in a while. Real life - and real death - came to me this past week with my father's passing last Monday. Although he had been ill for some time, the reality of his condition didn't really occur to me until I got the call Monday that he had died.

I'm so grateful for so many things regarding my dad's life and even his death, but I'm still sorting many of them out.

My dad was a smoker my entire life (he started when he was 15). In addition, he was diagnosed with diabetes when I was a senior in high school in 1981, so I hardly remember him being completely healthy. He developed complications because of his diabetes and his smoking, including emphysema, heart disease, and, toward the end, kidney failure. He was going to have to go on kidney dialysis in the near future, and I know he wouldn't have wanted that. Despite his health issues, he was an indepedent guy and didn't like to have to rely on others.

But I'm grateful that he died in his sleep, at home, with my mom by his side. I'm grateful that he had a fabulous final weekend. Just like my dad, he was active to the end. He and mom went for a drive (he drove) on Friday, they spent Saturday with my dad's brother and sister and their spouses, and he even went to the fireman's smoker on Saturday night. Sunday he was tired, and just kind of rested at home. On Monday morning, Mom couldn't wake him up, and it turned out his heart was just done fighting.

I'll miss him, that's for sure - but I know he's finished with this stage of his existence. I know I'll learn more about death and life because of him and I'm looking forward to having some of the conversations with him now we weren't able to have in this lifetime.

Goodbye for now, Dad.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's All About Connections

I'm reminded today of the power of genuine communication - the give-and-take, the listening and speaking, the "giving to give, not giving to get" mentality that works so well in building networks and friendships.

I first met Ben McConnell, co-author of Creating Customer Evangelists, in February of 2002 when my friend Chris Young of the Rainmaker Group in Bismarck brought Ben to Bismarck and Fargo on the promotional tour of his then new book (North Dakota is a hot-spot for new book tours, let me tell you!).

I had already been reading Ben and Jackie's book, which I found compelling, and found it fascinating that one of the people profiled in the book, Gerald Haman of SolutionPeople in Chicago, was originally from the great state of North Dakota. I wasted no time in picking up the phone and calling Gerald, which was the first step in creating a business relationship with SolutionPeople which continues today (I'm a certified Master Trainer for SolutionPeople).

Through my relationship with SolutionPeople, coupled with my relationship with Ben and Jackie, I've met so many other people, including Paul Williams and John Moore, formerly together in their Brand Autopsy project, but now on separate paths as Paul promotes his Idea Sandbox concept.

Paul recently introduced me to my new friend Kyle Coolbroth, who has a fabulously cool company in Minneapolis called Unlimited Options. Kyle and I had a phone conversation yesterday, and it appears as if we may be able to collaborate on some projects in the near future as I look to expand my market to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

I already sing with the City of Lakes Sweet Adeline chorus in Minneapolis, where we will be singing the National Anthem next week at the Minnesota Gopher women's basketball game where they host none other than the North Dakota State University Bison, where I am a statistician.

It is a small, small world - and the connections we establish for ourselves and our lives, when made with authenticity and selflessness, come back to us many fold.

It's all about connections - and about relationships.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

You're Never Out Of Toothpaste

Do you know - really know - the limits of your capabilities? That question reminds me of something my chorus director says to us after we've rehearsed a song from front to back. He'll ask us "how many of you feel that was the best performance you've ever given?" Very rarely will any hands go up. Why not? What are we waiting for? If we're not giving the best performance of our lives - up to that point - what is the point?

My best friend became a grandmother today. She's been very supportive of her 21-year-old son and his no-longer girlfriend (but still friend), throughout this unplanned pregnancy. She supported him when they broke up, she supported him when they decided to have the baby, she even supported him when they decided to have the baby together and even when they decided to have the baby together at home - without a midwife.

Some of us might think wanting to bring a child into the world through an unassisted home birth is crazy, irresponsible, immature, dangerous, scary and many other emotions and adjectives. I'm sure she went through all of those herself. But her son and the mother of this child did a lot of research and determined, together, that they wanted to do this and asked for the support of their parents in respecting their wishes - and even assisting in the birth.

Not being a mother myself, I can only imagine the emotions that would run through a mother's (and future grandmother's) head when faced with this challenge. But it all seemed to be worth it when I heard how she - personally - delivered her grandson this morning at 7:31 a.m. I'll be excited to hear more about it, but she said it was a amazing experience.

How did she know how to do this? She's only been on the other end of delivering babies. She said she's glad she's watched House of Babies on Discovery Health and A Baby Story on TLC - that was her training.

This story inspires me to think about all the areas in my life where I think I'm doing all I can do, but know there is lots more out there (or lots more in me). Remember the toothpaste tube when you think you're out of toothpaste - there's always more in there than you think.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

InBubbleWrap says I'm A Winner!

OK, OK, OK already, Phil!

My friend Phil Gerbyshak over at Make It Great! is making me feel like I used to feel when Fast Company magazine first came out bi-monthly, as big as the Sears catalog: like I can't take in all the GREAT information!

Phil's at it again (you really need to check out all the incredible resources if you haven't already).

He told me about InBubbleWrap, a product of 800-CEO-READ, which you also must check out! Click here if you just want more info. about InBubbleWrap's FAQ page.

Anyway, Phil got me turned on to this site, which gives away free stuff (wrapped in bubble wrap, no less), and I won!!

It's certainly no coincidence that I won this book, given my recent interest in all things creative (see the mosaics below for more evidence of this).

I'll give you more information about this book as I get a chance to read it. I think this may be the impetus for a new workshop - I'll let you know how it develops!

In the meantime, don't forget to head over to 800-CEO-READ, too!

The Creative Habit

What? Did you think that Seth Godin spent his life on the couch eating potato chips while watching General Hospital, and all of a sudden realized, "Hey, I think I'll be a creative marketing genius." Did you think Matt Groening was on a smoke break at the factory and said, "This isn't fun. I think I'll create the most innovative cartoon of my generation." Nope. As Twyla Tharp says in The Creative Habit, "Creativity is not a gift from the gods, bestowed by some divine and mystical spark." Creativity, like anything else, is the result of hard work and practice.

Here are the winners of that book:

Jeffrey from North Reading
Brian from The Bronx
Carol from Conway
K from Boston
Dan from Milwaukee
Michael from Farmington Hills
Chuck from San Diego
Amber from Aurora
Janet from Hayward
Khalid from Thousand Oaks
James from Braintree
Jodee from Fargo
Robert from McDonough
Carson from Milwaukee
Ben from Dallas
Justin from Wichita
P from Winston-Salem
Tim from Algonquin
Manuel from Laredo
Matt from San Angelo
Benjamin from Cambridge
D from Peyton
Jackie from Chicago
Patrick from Elmhurst

Thanks, Phil - and thanks InBubbleWrap!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Finished Products!

I know you've been dying to see the finished products from our adventure at Big Break Mosaics. This entire experience was not only fun but also demonstrated that beauty always lies within the midst of the chaos.

So here are our masterpieces! Thanks to Ann and Sheila for all their inspiration and guidance. We had a BLAST!

Ann and Sheila

Gail hard at work



My Finished Frame

Friday, January 06, 2006

A Couple of Clearinghouses for Success-Minded People!

If you only had 15 minutes to get some quick hits of inspiration about being all you can be, you could either run down and join the Army or you could visit Jacob Cazzell's website SuccessMinders.

Jacob found me through my friend Phil Gerbyshak's blog "Make It Great" which you also need to check out. But here's a word of warning: you'll find yourself taking more than 15 minutes when you get to each of these sites.

Phil's blog is chock-full of inspiring thoughts and an amazing number of fantastic links and suggestions for getting beyond "nice" and "good" to making everything you do "GREAT"! Not only does Phil have his own unique and thought-provoking ideas, he is an amazing connector, who has a resource or reference for any challenge I can possibly think of. You MUST visit his site!

Jacob worked with a coach for a year, and through that connection, he says he learned so much about personal development and achievement. He says he also read tons of books and filled his brain with all kinds of positive material.

In an e-mail he sent me earlier this week, Jacob says: "In the last six months I've just felt called to give something back and try to help people. I certainly don't think I'll be the next Norman Vincent Peale, but if I can inspire others then I think I will have helped in my own way."

Don't miss either of these blogs! You will find them on my Blogroll, along with other sites that really inspire me. Give them a visit, and make sure you share a comment with them to let them know what you're thinking. Don't miss this opportunity to Make 2006 GREAT by taking control of your own Success!

Report from the Big Bash

I thought you may be interested to hear how the Big Bash turned out at Big Break Amusing Mosaics last night. There were seven of us there, along with Sheila and Ann (our instructors, who also served up huge doses of moral support and creative inspiration). The idea behind Big Break is that people can show up there to break ceramic tiles, old plates, cups, saucers and such, and then create works of art from the destruction.

The first thing I noticed when we all got there was that there was visible air of anxiety among my friends, along with the feeling that they were under pressure to be creative among all the pretty colors and books of inspirational ideas from others who are undoubtedly more inherently creative than any of us thought we were.

But it didn't take long for the breaking, bashing, nipping, clipping, cementing, and yes, creating to happen (of course the wine didn't hurt!). By 9:00 all of us were amazed and even a little surprised at the beauty we had created.

It's a perfect analogy for most of our lives at work and at home. When it comes right down to it, we really are capable of much more than we can initially see in the midst of the problems, chaos, upset and even destruction of our lives. How often do we give ourselves permission to get in there and get dirty, much less to celebrate the inevitable victories we either witness or create?

I have to go back to grout my picture frame on Saturday, but as soon as I have it finished I'll post a photo so you can see what I created with my own two hands - and by getting rid of the need for it to be perfect, whatever that is.