For the Woman who Taught me to Love Coffee: My Mother

There’s a ton of lessons we learn as children that mean nothing to us until we grow up and have children ourselves. Then we see the impact of our labors, perseverance, courage and choices.

We go through crap in life and hardships get throttled at us from all sides, and we wonder where in the world is God at, and why can’t mom save me?! But we carry on, and whatever perseverance we saw growing up keeps us going every day now that we are grown into our careers, child raising and marriages ourselves.

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Life is full of lessons, but a lot of mine revolved around coffee with you

I am writing this for you, mom. Because every single thing we went through always revolved around long talks, prayer, laughter then coffee. There were lessons in it all.

I am glad you raised us kids in Florida. (I’m gladder now that I am back ha ha). But it must have been hard on you raising us kids. I got picked on every day at school. I wanted to quit. But every day, you and dad would pull me aside and tell me that bullies have a problem with themselves, and to pray for them.

You taught me to not give up. You taught me to look deeper at people, and empathy. Every thing I learned as a child in torment equipped me for what I do for a living today to help others. Thanks mom.

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Hard times, good times, tough decision, then coffee

Hey mom, remember that time after you and dad moved us kids to the middle of nowhere in Eastern Kentucky? We got almost two feet of snow that first winter. Your Floridian kids were totally culture shocked. We learned to chop firewood, hike in snow and drive in bad weather. It taught us endurance. 

We graduated Cosmetology school at the top of our class didn’t we mom? People said we wouldn’t make it. We often studied together, laughed over the material, and had coffee. Years later, and we can still cut hair. It taught us to be resourceful. 

I went through a painful divorce, and you and dad were there for me. You stepped in to help my children, it was hard at times. Dad got sick, and almost died. But he made it. The kids saw a lot, but learned the power of prayer, laughter, cuddles and bedtime stories. I found a job and worked my tail off trying to support the family, and you watched my kids and cared for an ill husband. It taught me compassion, and the value of hard work.

When it snowed or rained we gathered around the table. You taught us the value of fellowship. All alone, isolated in the middle of nowhere, and yet…we were full. Looking back now, those years taught me patience. I learned to know myself for the first time in my life. learned the power of prayer. 

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I learned the power of prayer during my hardest trials 

You watched all three of your children go through hard times and transitions. Life altering hardships that made us all make the hard choices. That must have been hard on you. But every time, you prayed for us, and we had coffee.

We went through a lot in Kentucky, didn’t we? But every time there was a hardship, there was also fellowship. There were jokes and laughter. Then there was coffee.

It’s hard being a mom, isn’t it? I know you wouldn’t trade it for anything. I know you would have made some different choices, but all mothers think that at times in their lives. That doesn’t make us bad mothers or less important, it just means a mother is human.

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There were jokes and laughter. Then there was fellowship and coffee. 

And now I am a mother. And I have had to do like you have. To let go. To pray. To persevere and learn from my choices. To make the hard decisions. But everything I have done or experienced in life brings me back to lessons I learned from you, and coffee.

Thank you mom.

 

 

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This is How Natural Leaders Encourage Others in the Work Place

“A person doing his or her best becomes a natural leader, just by example.” -Joe Dimaggio

We’ve all been there. At some point and time on the job we feel less than adequate, ill-equipped and uninformed. Our heads explode shards of distress into the very being of our soul until our emotions are left into rips of worn flesh.

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There is a leader in most work places, the person who encourages you and listens.

You tell yourself: “I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep going like this.”

Until it happens. And trust me, it always happens. If you work for a business that have people with souls, it will happen.

Ready to throw your arms in the air you start mentally looking elsewhere for employment, and then that co-worker says something or does something encouraging to you.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flow charts. It is about one life influencing another.” -John Maxwell

Every single thing about a true leader shows they listen, and they care. This person could be a mail man, a trash truck driver, a store clerk. Their title has nothing to do with leader, but the fabric of their being and empathetic listening skills screams to you: This person is a leader.

Maybe you have encountered a bad manager. Maybe the company you work for is going

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Bad managers are like this facial expression. This is the look your employees are really giving you when you don’t listen

through massive changes. Every where you look, something is going on that makes you question and wonder about life and your career path and future with your employer.

Eons ago, fresh out of high school, I went to Cosmetology school. I graduated the top of my class, scoring a high ninety-eight. Imagine that. I ended up with my Masters in Cosmetology and worked for a few short years running my own business. Before I attained my masters, I had an instructor who took ownership of my career.

Not only was she a great listener, but because she was so knowledgeable and patient with me, I found myself gravitating to her wisdom and sense of humor. She saw me for who I really was. More importantly, she saw what I could become. She believed in me, seeing something I just could not see at that time.

I’ve had the privilege of working for some the best managers on the market. I’ve worked with bad ones too, but I can tell you the good outweighs the bad. Every instance I look for leadership skills in people, I reflect back to what I learned while under the helm of a powerfully prolific leader who I knew genuinely cared for me, my career development and my future with the company.

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Good leaders DO care about your career 

It took me years of struggling as a Cosmetologist, but eventually I quit. I ended up in finance at a national furniture chain. I started a Customer Service Representative and Collector. I had a bad manager. With no guidance, I felt I was floundering on the job. Morale was gone. The employees were at each others necks. The store was really struggling to stay open. One of the older employees there always made me laugh and encouraged me. He helped me see something greater in my job than the hardship surrounding us.

But then it happened. The bad manager was fired, and for a few months we were without a manager, fending for ourselves. By the time the new manager came we were all ready to quit. And then this new manager showed us something powerful:

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” -Jim Rohn

He took an active approach to every single thing we were doing. He was physically present. He listened. He encouraged and educated us. He was a true leader.

Months later, he promoted me to Collections Credit Manager, his right hand man. It then became my job to encourage and educate. To be empathetic and listen. To be physically present. I had to write employees up. I had to fire people. I had to do the schedule. The ordering. Inventory. Deal with employee back-biting and rumors. The list was exhaustive and tedious.

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When a good leader steps in, the team feels valued and empowered to be and do better for the company

But we did it. Our store went from on the verge of closing to one of the top in the districts. Due to our empathetic approach in our Collection efforts, delinquency dropped dramatically. We saw we were making a difference in people lives, and helping others.

But most of all, as a team, we were helping each other. Although the company filed Bankruptcy and closed, I would not trade an ounce of what I learned for anything. I know a leader when I see one, because I have experienced a true leader.

And when you lead by example, your team thrives. I can’t count the times I have been encouraged in my many career paths by people with no titles. By people who just keep putting one foot forward. They don’t give up. They do the best they can, because they are true leaders. do-not-give-up-2015253_640

A boss has the title. A leader has people.

Navigating the work place can be a challenging excitement or empty hardships. The choice is ours. But I can tell you, the difference between a successful workplace environment and one that flounders is: true Leadership.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Success is Nothing if you Hold no Value

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” -Albert Einstein.

In those peaceful, bubbling brooks in Vermont, you find smooth round stones. The kind that feel like silk kissing your hands when you pick them up. They have been caressed by the flow of water so long, there is no denying the power of forceful persuasion.

If you pile smooth stones atop one another, you can make art in waterfall-3212121_640the form of towers. The beauty and serenity of these stones brings an aura of quietness to the soul.

But if you pour water over the stones, it will cascade down through the cracks making waterfalls of leisure through the tower. Eventually, due to the weight from the pressure, the stone tower collapses. The success of the tower beauty held no true value, and whatever it did hold was superficial for a short time.

In people, you learn through hardship and experience with time getting to know them if they hold true value, or just superficial towers waiting to collapse.

You learn this with customers, companies and even family members.

Every single thing we accomplish to do in life is either built on rock-bottom success or our own ideologies of what we think success looks like. “The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” -Michael Altshuler  

We are trained to believe success looks like money. I see success as: What have accomplished to help make the world a better place? Success has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with what you do with your time while you still have breath in you. “What good is your purse if you’re poor in you’re heart?” -J P Morgan

If the world hinges on our pocketbooks til the day we die to add value to others then we are failing miserably. hands-2888625_640

Every day consumers shop for merchandise. Every second merchandise is returned. Some things we buy hold great value because it is of great quality and means something to us. Some things we buy is crap and breaks before we get it home.

Some of the greatest authors in the world never got credit in their lifetime for their works of literature. But we enjoy their gift they gave the world years after because what they did made an impact which added value to our lives. It means something. What we do, what we leave behind means something.  flower-2577944_640

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” -Anais Nin.

We should live each day desiring to do something of great value, instead of shallow towers that collapse. That my friend, is what helps make the world a better place. “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” -Steve Maraboli 

 

 

 

 

 

Consumerism: Serving Others even when the Job Gets Hard

Consumerism: The social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.

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Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you study or have studied Economics, you will know that consumerism refers to economic policies which emphasize consumption. Consumers have free choice to choose what they want, when they want it, and how they want their products.

I am a consumer. So are you. My great-great grandchildren will be consumers and none of this will ever change. So every job you see serves a purpose to sell or give to entice consumers to continue wanting or needing those services.

But sometimes it gets hard. Consumers can hurt companies, reviews, job growth and continue demanding more, more, more until the ones selling to consumers walk out, resign, retire, or find other jobs.

I am a consumer. So are you.

This past weekend my family and I went for a long walk on the beach and stopped in at a quaint beach side coffee shop afterwards. The coffee shop is expensive, the service perfect. We paid for our drinks and slice of cake and walked outside, sitting under a palm tree, enjoying the ocean breezes. The server brought us out the most beautiful cups of latte I have ever seen. It was meticulous and delicious. We made that coffee shop our go to place after long walks on the beach.

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Image courtesy of kapongza at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why? Because as a consumer, I expected to get what I paid for and we definitely got it. Good service. Top quality product, and beautiful atmosphere. It was enough to make us coming back for more.

As a consumer, I understand good things like that beautiful latte are worth paying for and waiting for. But looking back on my past jobs, I see a truth about humans too.

I was a cook at a nursing and rehabilitation facility for years. My job was hard. Most days we nibbled a bite here and there and did not sit down for even a break. The elderly needed us to provide services for them. The team I was privileged to work with in that kitchen often worked with me double shifts, and we worked all holidays, even Christmas Day.

That was hard. It was little money, barely over minimum wage, and some days I just wanted to walk out. But something happened. I started paying attention to everything going on around me and noticed the one thing the elderly appreciated was the kitchen. It was me making fresh coffee for them when they asked. It was the diabetic desserts I had to invent for them based on their doctors orders.

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Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They admired and taught me so much about the little things in life. They came there to die, but found joy in me offering them a service.

I saw that my service and hard work I was doing in that kitchen was bringing great joy and fulfillment to the elderly. And most often, when I got to know them is when they would pass away. It was the hardest job I have ever had, but yet the most fulfilling.

But I didn’t learn much about consumerism until I started working for a bank again, and saw that we are all consumers. We all have and leave an impact on businesses, the employees, and economy. We are all serving others within a capacity to either give good service and quality products, or leave a bad taste in the mouth.

No job is easy. We live in an economy bred for selling and making products for consumers. Sometimes those jobs are hard because the consumers make it hard. Sometimes the job is hard because the company doesn’t care about it’s employees, but rather cares more about its bottom line and shareholders.

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And sometimes, we can look at the bigger picture of what service we are truly giving the world, and find joy in small moments, even at times we want to quit. Just like I learned while working for a nursing home as a cook.

 

 

Are you Listening? The ONE truth about Working under a Bad Boss

A company is people. Employees want to know-am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.” -Sir Richard Branson

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Bad bosses are unapproachable. They don’t listen. Image courtesy of alexisdc at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Burnout: The exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. (Mirriam-Webster Definition)

I never knew what burnout was. I had worked for years under various management, corporate ideologies and temperaments until I thought my knuckles would bleed from violently navigating various systems in desperate attempts to try to do a good job.

But it wasn’t me. I was burned out. Big time. I talked to my boss about it. I expressed my concerns. What happened? Nothing. Nothing happened. No one listened.

“If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”- Zig Ziglar

If you don’t listen to your employees they will think you don’t like them. You see when an employee gets tired it shows. They may feel undervalued, overworked and just plain frustrated with the in’s and out’s of their daily jobs, but one truth remains.

Burnout is just a fraction of the problem employees face.

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There is always a fuel to the fire of this cause for employee retention issues. And it always starts with management.

Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes businesses take an unlucky guess hiring an employee who turns out to be a lazy slob in the job and unreliable. I’m not talking about those losers. I’m talking about the employee you have who is always on time, does their best and often wins awards and always dependable.

The employee you never listen to. “Before you act, listen…” -Ernest Hemingway

The ONE problem management has that tells a good employee they have a bad boss is: The manager doesn’t listen to them.

They just don’t listen.

Maybe the “good” employee has been trying to get your attention. Maybe that employee has been trying really hard to make positive changes in the corporation but keeps falling on deaf ears. Maybe that employee has been trying to talk to you, but you interrupt and intersect your own feelings and ideas based on your role in management.

The problem with bad bosses is they just don’t listen. 

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They don’t care about the employee’s needs. They don’t want to listen to petty issues about problems and road blocks making the employee’s job harder. They don’t listen when the employee expresses concern about the scheduling, or other things that come up due to life.

Bad bosses don’t listen.

So then because the good employee has a bad boss who doesn’t listen, that employee puts the wall up. They become disengaged. They hold it all in. They take notes. They become complacent. They often start looking elsewhere for employment or do what they can to make lateral moves or get promoted to get out of there. They start working just to have a day off. Which is another problem: “If you live for the weekends and vacations, your shit is broken.” -Gary Vaynerchuck

That employee starts exhibiting signs of burnout. Their work performance may start to have negative impacts on the team. They are just there to punch a time clock then have a day off. Employee burnout starts somewhere. Pretty soon the whole team suffers.

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“If you live for the weekends and vacations, your shit is broken.” -Gary Vaynerchuck. Image courtesy of Chaiwat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When no one listens, businesses lose revenue. Employees leave bad managers. Bad managers who refuse to change and wise up will keep driving good employees away and the job will start catapulting people through revolving doors. The turnover rate will be high. The online reviews will show burned out former employees leaving their negative remarks for the world to see.

But did anyone listen to them? Did anyone listen when a boss expected unethical behavior or else threaten their employment if they didn’t do something? Did HR listen to the employees filing complaints or concerns, hoping someone somewhere up top would do something about this bad manager?

Bad bosses don’t listen. And bad bosses start at the top and trickle down, sadly. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” -Stephen Covey 

So good employees leave bad bosses and companies, and nothing is done for retention because no one listened. The ONE truth about working under a bad boss is, you know you have a bad manager when they do not listen.

And until top level management or Corporate owner’s actually invest in hiring the right bosses who exhibit empathetic listening skills and accountability, nothing will change.

“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”-Bill Carney

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If you can’t listen to your employees, then how can you help them? Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

 

 

It’s Okay to take A Moment

I’m always reminded this time of year of how priceless moments are. The stillness and beauty of snow, watching the steam rise from a freshly poured cup of coffee, or just a moment of silence.

That type of silence you have after a long day at work where you pull your legs under your butt, throw a fluffy blanket over your lap and sit there and stare.

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This time of year especially, I plug those Christmas tree lights in and plaster myself on the sofa with a cup of coffee in my hand and sit there…and just stare at the lights.

It’s a moment.

A peaceful silence.

Like when the first snow falls. You can smell it in the air, the brisk sharpness of Winter’s frigid embrace. The whiteness paints the landscapes with a serene purity.

Like the beach after a storm. The salt sprays your face with hope, the waves batter the sand and retreat as if some mystical force has conquered the shorelines.

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Image courtesy of radnatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And here it is again Christmas time and the internet blows up with articles and facts about burnout and stress and financial obligations. I sit on my sofa with my coffee, take a deep breath and just thankful my family can breathe for the moment.

In this chaotic mess of life we live in, it is too easy to be repulsed, offended and pulled in too many directions that benefit NOTHING. If we let everything we see on the news or read online get to us we would all die of heart attacks. But we would have died yesterday because of impatience.

It’s okay to take a moment. That’s what we remember. The moments.

There will always be the news. Another internet article. Another problem or situation at work that haunts you. Some things will never change, and we can’t force them too if we petitioned it, complained to HR or lobbied legislatures.

But there is only one moment in this second and the next second comes way too fast. Every moment is different from the other and always will be.

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Christmas is here soon. Thanksgiving flew by. And then after the Holidays, we start all over again with a new goal, job or hope for the future. It’s okay to take a moment and watch that first snowfall. Or curl up on the sofa under a fluffy blanket with a drink in your hand and just stare at the Christmas lights.

We remember the moments, the silence, the peace. So enjoy the moment, even if it means taking a breath and being thankful for little things, even when the Christmas season may seem overwhelming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Mastering Dreams through Disappointments

“Be yourself. No one can ever tell you you’re doing it wrong.”-James Leo Herlihy

I’m pretty sure when books were invented, that the world may have stopped spinning. My whole childhood revolved around being an antisocial, deliberately planting myself in my room making up crazy stories on college ruled paper with a number two pencil.

I had big dreams for myself.

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I set unrealistic goals.

I disappointed myself a lot.

But I never stopped writing. I never stopped dreaming. Sometimes life got in the way of me writing. Most times it was my choices that stalled that dream.

But I kept writing, nonetheless. I set more unrealistic goals. I gave myself more dreams, I wrote everything down on paper.

My disappointments got fewer and far between.

I think as my life went on, I grasped this infinite knowledge known as: “experience” and I throttled those through my soul until my heart split into shards of merciless wounds.

But most people would call it: “hardships”

 

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Because life is hard. But I never stopped writing. I kept setting goals. And I think maybe as time went on, with my experience (hardships) I saw that setting goals is good, but I was able to be more realistic within my limits of what I had to work with.

Artists know that a number two pencil can create great things, but paint fills it in better. Paint gives reality to depth. Paint gives a visual when people cannot see past the black and white.

So I started with a number two pencil on lined paper. I had to learn somewhere. I kept writing. I kept setting goals. I still have disappointments, but I don’t give up.

I will probably keep setting unrealistic expectations for myself the rest of my life. But that won’t stop me from writing. Disappointments teach people that even those can be mastered into a work of art. It just takes perseverance and time.