Thursday, December 26, 2013

Anniversaries & Lessons Learned



There is just something about anniversaries.

Think about it … Wedding anniversaries have you looking back through life with your partner — recalling the excitement of the engagement, the joy of the day and all of the ups and down that your road together has taken. Your child's birthday has you remembering the wonder of that little imp growing inside kicking its way through the night as you try to sleep, the wonder of the birth and all the firsts that follow: Rolling over, steps, words, even first soccer practices. Christmas Eve is another anniversary of sorts for us ... we were reminded by my uncle this year that 2013 was the 80th consecutive gathering of my mother's side of the family on that day … and the memories flowed ... all of us sharing events of Christmas Eve's past from Santa visits to talking about family who are no longer with us physically, but are most certainly forever in our hearts. But, there are other anniversaries that aren't as pleasant … and often times those are the ones we learn the most from.

Five years ago today marks the day when my dance partner landed in a wheelchair and I have learned much in that time that can be translated into five lessons that can be used for any occasion.

Day 10, the Big Guy's first attempt at standing

.
1.  Newton was right … gravity will win every time. In other words, there are those who know more than me and you about a great many things. Use their knowledge, take it to heart and apply it to whatever it is you're trying to accomplish. If you don't know how to set up your web page so that it will generate the most traffic for you, find someone who knows the game and can help you make it work for you.

2.  If you can't use tools well on the ground … don't think that when you're 15 feet in the air that God is going to magically grant you the ability.True, the Big Guy was and always will be lousy with tools. But when I saw what he was accomplishing through sheer determination, I knew that I didn't have any excuse not to follow through on something that had been a long unfulfilled dream … I went back to school and, three years after his accident, I graduated with my bachelor's degree.

 Know your craft (tools), but never ever stop learning. Whether you do it formally by going back to school, by attending seminars or by using the vast amount of knowledge available on the web, read and learn from the experts who have achieved success doing what you do or want to do. There will always be new ways of doing things and new ideas that can help you do what you love faster and better.

3.  Don't try to do it on your own. While the Big Guy was in surgery, I didn't want to bother anyone so I sat there alone. The Chaplain at the hospital chastised me and waited while I called my sister. It was 9:30 p.m. the day after Christmas and she had her own little guy, but she immediately brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and stayed with me until the wee hours of the morning until he reached post-op.

What you do, whether as part of a team or as a solopreneur, will ALWAYS benefit from networking and talking with people who not only do what you do but also have expertise in fields that you may need in the future. And, more often than not, they are happy to share their knowledge and talk about what they do. Use your contacts, join professional organizations, go to Chamber coffees and use their experiences to help you through yours.

4.  Preparation is key and be ready to improvise. There was much that had to be done to prepare for the Big Guy's return to our home … a ramp had to be installed, doors widened and supplies purchased. There is no way our home will ever be handicap-friendly. It's 100 years old and just wasn't built with those kinds of accommodations in mind. But with some improvisation, we've managed to make it as comfortable as possible.

After 3 years of physical therapy,
the Big Guy can walk with the aid of crutches.
The same can be said for your business. Make your business plan … but be prepared to change course, improvise or even grow when the time comes for it. When Business A who has been your longest running client decides they can have someone do the work cheaper (though not necessarily better), make sure you have Clients B, C and D rolling as well. Or when Client B who has always used you for short marketing pieces contacts you to help write an RFP for a potential new client, be prepared to move forward in that new direction as well.

5.  And, finally, never EVER give up. The experts initially told the Big Guy that he wouldn't walk again. His response? He had two daughters to walk down the aisle! Through sheer hard work, will power and help from above, he can not only walk using crutches … we continue to celebrate another anniversarial tradition … our annual New Year's Eve dance to Etta James' "At Last." And, while we'll never cut the rug like we used to, I still get that chance every year to look up at the man who works so hard every day to make the best life possible for me and our kiddos.

Your business, your craft, will always experience the same ups and downs as your life. Friends and clients will come and go, roadblocks will be put in your path and disappointments will happen, but no matter what situation you face, by never giving up and always doing your best, you can be guaranteed with some form of success.

                From our home to yours, wishing you a very happy and successful New Year. 



Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Art of Never Giving Up



                Welcome back! It’s May 1st and today we’ll experience our “favorite” Midwest phenomenon … the air conditioning and furnace running in the space of a single day. The last few days have given us a sweet taste of spring/summer with beautiful, sunshiny days with temps in the 80’s. Unfortunately, it was all too short-lived and, tonight, the furnace will be turned back on as the weather gurus predict “measurable snow” for our area.

                I’ve written about the correlation between sports and business before … they’re almost one in the same. However, while the sun shone and the flowers bloomed outside, I had a first-hand lesson inside about how we adults can learn from the single-minded determination of young athletes. How, when the chips are down, we can all dig deep and end up higher and farther than we ever thought possible.

                A little scenery? The Industrial Building at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, 18 volleyball courts filled with hundreds of players and each court fringed by proud, nervous parents, siblings and loved ones nervously watching and cheering on every point scored by their team or groaning and shouting encouragement for plays missed and points lost. We would either gnaw on our knuckles or absent-mindedly munch on hot chocolate chip cookies by the bucket not knowing how things would turn out and how our
first-time Regional players would react at the end of it all.

The Attack 123-Black’s didn’t have a good Saturday morning. In fact, they lost more games than they won. You could see their drooping shoulders and frustrated expressions as they struggled time after time to come together as a team. We all thought we were destined for a pretty short weekend by the time lunch break rolled around. The parents talked among themselves about the girls gaining experience for next year and lessons learned; and about how to help them recover from their loss.

But while the parents commiserated, something happened within the team itself during that lunch. The girls sat in a circle on the floor, played The Cup Song, goofed and giggled and spent time just being 12-year-old girls. When lunch was over, they lined up for their next match … and split it (won one, lost one and won the tie-breaker)! The next match was even better – they won the match in two games! The third match of the afternoon had them splitting again (this time losing the tie) but the point spread was so close that they actually qualified to move on in the tournament! The pizza and swimming party that night was a sight to behold … laughing, giggling and experiencing the pure joy of just being there.

Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. And we had a different team on our hands! The energy had changed completely! Their first match was the best playing they had done all season long. Teamwork, energy, determination, focus … it was all there. Play after play. Point after point. They won handily. Match 2 was more of the same although they split the games. But with those wins, the unbelievable happened … they qualified for the quarter-finals at the bronze level! Our thought of taking our tired crew home at noon flew out the window as we waited for our next game. You could see the parents, who had pretty much given up, start getting nervous as they realized that the girls were actually moving up.

The quarter-finals were a lesson in nail-biting agony and yet the grown-ups all seemed to take an unconscious lesson from the girls’ book … they started acting silly and having fun. More and more, you’d hear the “WhooOOoooo” of the parents as they did the wave each time a point was made. Lost points had parents screaming encouragement and silently praying that the next play would be a success. The eruption of joy when they won; the high fives, the dancing on the court, the hugs from parents and the pride of spectators, players and coaches alike was a site to behold. But immediately following that win came … the semi-finals.

By the time they walked onto the court, the seven 12-year-old girls (and one 9-year-old) had been at the auditorium either playing, reffing/scorekeeping or waiting for their next game for 16 hours over the course of the two days. They were hot, exhausted, excited … and, once again, determined. They lined up opposite a team out of their pool that they had won and lost against a few times over the course of the weekend. And they played their hearts out. Serve after serve, set-up and spike after set-up and spike, point after point – for and against – they didn’t quit. They didn’t stop. They didn’t give up. Those eight girls who had risen from second-to-last place to play in the semi-finals of their very first State Tournament showed the hearts of lions and the grace of champions.

Can all of us say we would do the same? Can we take that heart, that confidence of our abilities and never give up until we meet with our own success? Can we take those rejection letters, missed opportunities and unanswered email-queries and turn them into lessons to apply to the next proposal? Through perseverance, hard work, exhaustion and sheer determination, we are ALL capable of success. Maybe it won’t be this month or even this year … but there are countless opportunities that will come in the months and years to come. And, by taking notice of our own Attack 123-Black teams, we can find the same fortitude they did … and ALL come out winners in the end!
 
Amy Thompson Editing provides editing, proofreading and copywriting services to businesses and authors to help make their work shine. For more information about how I can help make your work shine, visit www.amythompsonediting.com.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

There's Scrooge, Scrooge ... And Then There's Scrooge



Why Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite, can't-miss stories of the Christmas Season



Not counting stage productions, how many film and television versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol have there been? The Big Guy and I tried to count them up one night and we got as far as six for film versions and 13 that were made for television — including the cartoon varieties like The Flintstones, Sesame Street and Bugs Bunny. In all actuality, there were 22 film adaptations and at least 37 for radio and television (IMDb). Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Add in the stage versions and every television series in history that has probably adapted it in one way or another  and I’d wager that Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol ranks as one of the most covered classics of all time.
I’m sure psychologists have had a field day with the appeal of this story. A quick Google search of Psychological Theses Dickens’ A Christmas Carol brought in a modest 9,040,000 results. Really? Then again, Ebenezer Scrooge would be a playground for analyzing the human psyche. As one entry relates, “With A Christmas Carol, Dickens hopes to illustrate how self-serving, insensitive people can be converted into charitable, caring, and socially conscious members of society through the intercession of moralizing quasi-religious lessons.” (http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/christmascarol/section6.rhtml) Or another article goes so far as to use Scrooge to illustrate actual disorders like Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED) and Chronic Depressive Disorder. (Dr. Stephen A. Diamond, Psychology Today, December 20, 2011)
Sounds impressive and, as 9,040,000 entries illustrate, the story and Scrooge have been analyzed ad naseum. Me? I just know I love the story.
Perhaps it’s the underlying theme I find of redemption or the idea that, regardless of your past, the future is wide open and available for all who choose to grab on to the positive. Or, maybe, it’s just the pure joy that Scrooge experiences on Christmas morning when he realizes that he didn’t miss the day after all and happiness is truly within his grasp. There is rarely a time that I watch Alastair Sim jump on the bed in elation or George C. Scott throw open the window to call down to the boy to run to the butcher’s that I don’t end up with tears in my eyes.
But despite all the movies, despite all the television shows and despite all the animated versions, I’d like to tell you about my favorite “Scrooge” of all. He wasn’t famous (at least outside our little neck of the woods), he wasn’t rich and he was undoubtedly one of the most influential teachers I ever had.
        His name is Dick Boyd. He was a Language Arts instructor by trade … and by vocation … and I had the privilege of being in his class in seventh and eighth grades. I remember how he scared the bejeebers out of me the first year I had him -- with his graying hair and thick, bushy eyebrows -- and eyes that knew as soon as you slouched in your seat whether you had done your homework or not. But there was something else, a love that I think I recognized even then but certainly appreciate today, a love of language and of the written word. Whether through the stories we read or the papers we wrote, he taught us that words mean things … and how we put those words together was important. Even today when I edit a project, I can hear his voice saying, “and you think that semi-colon goes there, why?” He was an essential part of my education. Whatever seed he planted has become my vocation and, for that, I will be forever grateful to him.
 
      But there was another side to Mr. Boyd. You see, he brought Ebenezer Scrooge to life for school children and families in the Omaha area for 29 years at the Omaha Community Playhouse. I can’t tell you the first time I saw the play except that it was in junior high after I had had him for at least one year. But I do know that I saw him a half-dozen times in the time since. And my memories of his performance from the first time to the last are all of a man who loved that role, who relished Scrooge’s journey into happiness and celebrated with Scrooge at the end of each performance the exultation of new-found joy.
Dick Boyd retired from the role on December 22, 2005 at the age of 83. At that time, he found some fame with stories about him in USA Today, ABC World News Tonight, and in every local station and regional newspaper (although the local and regional were probably old hat by that time). During his career as “Our Scrooge”, he appeared in over 800 performances … and never missed a performance. I tried to find, to no avail, the news story I once read where his understudy said it was the best role he never got to play.
I ran into Mr. Boyd not too long ago at a local store. He was a little stooped and moved a little slower, but there was no missing his sparkling eyes or his voice that had once made me cringe in my seat when he would call on me in class. As one of thousands of students who had passed through his classroom, he didn’t remember me of course, but I’m glad I got to speak with him for a few moments and express to him my thanks … for the way he taught and for the happy memories he provided with his performance. And I got to share with him the fact that my husband and I were passing on the love of A Christmas Carol and Ebenezer Scrooge to our children.
Regardless of which version of the story you prefer … be it “The Muppets Christmas Carol” or the newer versions with Patrick Stewart or Jim Carrey … A Christmas Carol embodies the spirit of the season:

Joy          Hope          Love           Nostalgia          Exultation

With humble thanks, I wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!