Volunteerism… its about giving back.

My earliest memory as a volunteer was when I was 8 years old living in Eureka, California.  Our church had a firework stand at the Payless Shopping Center and I was given an opportunity to serve as a cashier.  I remember how good it felt to count change and to work alongside so many adults raising money for the church youth activities.  Over the years, I have volunteered in one capacity or another whether selling Scout O Rama tickets for BSA, walking in the March of Dimes Walk for Humanity, or the many service projects our church youth organization held.  

Volunteerism has been a passion that has followed into my adult life and I find great personal satisfaction by taking time to give back.  As society recognizes the week of April 15th as National Volunteer Week, I have again paused to reflect on the number of projects and organizations I have supported in the past and currently support today.  One thing I know for sure is that there is no shortage of worthy programs to support.  Whether programs geared to help our youth, seniors, disabled veterans, or homeless, the list is quite extensive and the need is great.   Anyone can serve. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said “Everyone can be great because anyone can serve.  You don’t have to have a college degree to serve.  You don’t even have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.”  Spending time serving others has a dual benefit.  First, you give your time freely to an organization that can use your talents.  The second benefit, which you will have to experience to believe is the feeling of humble gratitude you feel inside when you serve others.

Last weekend a dear friend was invited to attend a Spring Hog Hunt organized by the Halo Wounded Warrior Program in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area.  She had never attended such an event, but once there jumped right in as a volunteer helping wherever she could.  First task was helping to serve these wounded heroes lunch.  Next she worked at the firing range running errands back and forth helping any way they needed.  During the course of the day, my friend was introduced to so many attendees and their stories and their no quit attitudes profoundly changed her.  She found these wounded warriors, our heroes, to be full of optimism and positive energy and she further told me that regardless of what was happening in her life that she had absolutely nothing to complain about.  Her life was touched by the example of these wounded warrior heroes.

As National Volunteer Week winds to a close, I ask the following question.  How do you give back and who do you volunteer your time to? 

May you find joy in providing volunteer service to others.

When Good Things Happen for Good People…

Last week I was at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas attending the Reservation Economic Summit 2012 Conference.  The event was well organized and a busy week filled with the appropriate amount of content, exhibitors and business to business networking. 

During the closing session of the conference I witnessed the most important lesson of the week.  The conference organizers raffled Applie iPads to 20 lucky attendees and it was during this moment that I was again reminded that good things can and will happen for good people.  I was sitting at a table near the front and sharing that table was a young couple from New York.  As a number was called, the young man jumped with excitement holding his winning ticket and as he made his way to the stage to receive his new iPad2, his wife was openly crying.  My friend asked the young wife why she was crying and her answer touched my heart.   Through the tears she explained, “Our child is 3 years old and deaf.  His therapist uses an iPad to help communicate and teach our son.  Last month we went shopping for an iPad and sadly we just couldn’t afford it.  We didn’t know how we would be able to ever afford an iPad… this will allow us to do so much with and for our son.  This is truly an answer to our prayers.”

As much as I would have enjoyed being an iPad winner, the winning moment for me was to see the simple thankfulness from this young couple.  Everyone seated at that table was visibly moved by the tender moment that we were allowed to witness.  I finished my seven days in Las Vegas and as I reflect back on that moment, I cannot help but to find joy knowing that something special happened for special people. 


Do You have an “Identity” Crisis?

It was once said… “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” Do you know what it is that you stand for? Are you on a path to best achieve your dreams or are you like many others who live life always wondering “what if?”

Stedman Graham, during an interview in December 2009 stated, “True leadership is about developing an identity for yourself, knowing who you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there, then developing a process for continuous improvement.” “However, 95% of people never learn this, casually falling in line as followers with a deeply hidden desire to create relevance and take ownership of their lives.”

As I look around and see all the employees, workers, or subordinates who are struggling to hold onto their jobs, I cannot help but to agree with Mr. Graham that far too many of us spend our lives working to sustain a standard of living, not achieving to create relevance and take ownership of our own lives. I remember the feeling when I was working for a Fortune 500 company and received word that I was part of a “corporate downsizing”. The feeling of loss, the lack of control over my financial life, and the sense of rejection was a feeling that I have never forgotten. Have you ever experienced that stark sense of fear associated with losing a job? Were you like me and vowed to never be placed in a position like that again?

I cannot begin to number the amount of ideas I have had over the years but failed to get past the idea stage. Possibly I lacked the vision to formulate a proper plan of action, maybe my ideas didn’t have merit, but in the end I find that I feel better when I dream. Especially with the uncertainty of being an employee, I have found it important to always keep the entrepreneur dream alive and look for an opportunity that would afford me financial flexibility, security, and a sense of relevant purpose.

I have been counseling a friend through career choices and self assessment, reviewing where they are and what goals they wish to set for themselves. Although they have a career that provides a standard of living, they feel as though they have no quality of life. We have spent the last few weeks outlining the list of things that they would like to do that would help to provide that relevance they seek. The next step will be to identify that one dream, that one desire that stands out above all others, and help to create a plan to help them turn that dream into actual reality.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask… act! Action will delineate and define you.” I truly hope that each of us will not only dare to dream, but also to act and help create a life of relevance and joy.

“It’s What You Do That Matters”…

Success or failure, advancement or setback, security or fear, fulfillment or deep void, are all a result of decisions we make, the course of action we set for ourselves, the path we ultimately choose to take.

As I get older, and hopefully a bit wiser, I better understand that where I am right now in my life is largely due to decisions that I made five, ten or even twenty years ago.   I further understand that most setbacks and failures in my life were self-imposed and with few exceptions were a result based on a decision made some time earlier in my life.  And for those successes I have enjoyed, the same rule applies giving myself at least partial credit for good choices made at some earlier point in life.  So, as I consider that fact, I have to ask myself this, “Why do some people always find themselves unhappy, unfulfilled or always struggling to get ahead?” 

On June 26,  2011 I was attending an event in Savannah, Georgia.  The keynote speaker was a man who I knew little about, yet he made a statement that helped to provide clarity to the question I had been seeking my answer for.   Andy Andrews, an author, speaker and trusted advisor, offered the following comment, “It’s not what you say… it’s what you do that matters.” 

With a desire to fully embrace those simple words, I stepped up my reading about personal improvement, leadership and studied success stories of individuals who had accomplished remarkable things.  During my reading, there was always one personal trait that was constant.  Every person who is successful (and might I say define success however you desire) was a “doer”.  That’s right, it’s what you do that matters. 

I have worked to put that principle of being a “doer” into action with my life and have shared this principle with a few friends and share it now with you.  Ask yourself this… are you happy with your career choice?  Do you complain about all of the problems at work or complain about your personal situation?   Have you simply carried these feelings of uneasiness or unhappiness inside you or have you made a change?   If you dislike your employer, have you searched for a new job?  If your relationship with someone important to you is not going well, do you sit there and silently complain or are you seeking to make that relationship better?  Remember, it’s what you do that matters.

Whether in business or your personal life, remember that where you are today is based on decisions made some time earlier in your life.   Where you will be in five years is based on decisions you make today.  Become a leader of your own life, your own destiny and don’t be afraid to make a positive change.  It’s not what you say, but what you do that matters. 

The Birthday present ….

This weekend was a special weekend at our house.  My eldest son was turning 10 years old and like every other birthday, we spent the weekend busy with special activities for the birthday boy and his best friend.  So, this Saturday was bowling, lunch at the local pizza parlor and then attending the Shriners Circus.   What surprised me was how that night I would see such wonderful examples of compassion, friendship and patriotism from my two little men.

At the circus, the Shriners began the event with a marching band, introduction of the local troop of Clowns and then a local dignitary was invited to lead the auditorium of 4000 people with the Pledge of Allegiance.  I was so proud of my first grader as he stood tall with his hand over his heart reciting the pledge in a clear, loud voice.  Having never heard him do this before, I was immediately struck with such humility and pride as I watched the example of a six year old showing such patriotism.  I looked around at the sea of adults, many still wearing hats, talking with others, and generally uninterested in this ceremony.  But not my first grader, he was proud that he could recite such an important message without help from others.

Later during the intermission, the Shriners held a drawing for two new bicycles.  I had entered my sons into the drawing and to my surprise, my fourth grader was announced as a winner… what a fabulous birthday gift!  After having his picture taken with the organizers and while on the way back to our seats, my son looked up and asked if he could give his bicycle that he had received from Santa last Christmas to his friend who didn’t have a bicycle of his own.  Again, I was humbled and proud that my son would show such compassion for a friend.

Life comes at us fast and amidst all we have to do to push ahead, I do the best I can to teach my sons good values, character and the importance of being a good person.  The most important gift this birthday weekend was not the new bicycle or even the parade of presents from family, but was the gift given to me by my two sons and I am forever grateful for their examples. 



How I Finally Taught the Big Guy a Lesson… a humorous story about perspective

I found this story quite humorous and a great way to make a point regarding positive mental attitude and how perspective is everything.

I did not provoke the fight so I feel no remorse for what I was forced to do.  We were arguing and seeing I was right and he was wrong, he decided to fight to cover up for his stupidity.

He swung at me first, but being in the top of condition, I was able to act quickly and blocked the punch neatly with my head.

Where upon I jumped to the ground knocking him down on top of me.  Then I placed my ear in his mouth and poked his finger several times with my eye.

His teeth hurt so from the strength of my ear, that he became irate and tried to kick me, but I cleverly blocked the onslaught with my ribs and face.

I scrambled to my feet and ran to my car in hopes I would get away and save this man from my deadly hands.  Before I could start the car he pulled me from the still open door.  I then proceeded to swing at him, but only managed to hit myself in the head.  To this I said: “What’s this…. Two against one?”

That was the final straw and I lost control.  There will be no mercy!

Taking him in my death grip, I pounded him in the knee with my stomach then hit him two or three times hard in the fist with my teeth.  He had had it!  I could tell.  After that he didn’t even try to pick me up off the ground. He was too chicken!



A life of meaning and joy.. thoughts from Tony Robbins

“Ultimately what shapes the meaning of our lives is not what we get, but what we give.  If you can make it your goal to each day find a way to add more value to people’s lives than anyone else, then you’ll never have to worry about success.  But, if  you’re constantly just trying to make a deal, trying to make a trade – “I’ll give you this if you give me that”, you will find yourself struggling to prosper.  Remember, the secret to living is giving.  We’re not made to be selfish.  We can succeed and achieve, but what we want deep in our souls is to feel like life matters… that we’re givers, not takers.

If each day you can sincerely feel like you’ve given something of value to those around you, I can promise you you’ll experience the ultimate victory of life.. a life of meaning and joy.”  Tony Robbins – Success Magazine Dec 08

This is a quotation that I carry in my planner.  As I work towards my personal and professional goals, I always strive to remember that success is best achieved when being a giver, not a taker and always work to add true value in the lives of those I come into contact with.  – Ken