Reading the Classics

I recently attended the Festival of Faith &Writing at Calvin College – a gathering that brings together authors, publishers, readers, and academics – for conversation and celebration of religious writing.  To familiarize myself with some of the authors who would be attending, I read some of the books on their recommended reading list – and found myself enthralled and moved by the stories that I read.   And that is one way that you can start your journey of stories – read stories on issues that you have an interest in.   And don’t forget the value of reading classical literature.   

Elda Rotor, Editorial Director of Penguin Classis, spoke at the festival on the topic of “Why Read Classics” shared how reading classics “invites us to see a world in a new way.”  She said that, “Literature makes us smarter and makes us “us.”    Many of us who have read classic literature would relate to her comment that classic books have changed us, and as M. Roter says, “they become a literary soundtrack to our lives.” 

Don’t know were to start?  Get the Free APP – Penguin Classics: A Complete Annotated Listing!


What is a story?

Let’s talk about what a story is.  In an essay entitled, “Praise of Stories,” Daniel Taylor writes, “A story is the telling of the significant actions of characters over time. Each element is important, both in the stories of literature and in those that shape our own lives.  Remove or fail in any of these elements and you no longer have a story.”    As Mr. Taylor says, “The central things that happen in important stories don’t happen to a character, but within a character. This is why significance is part of our definition of stories – the telling of significant action.  Most writers on stories would agree that the best stories are about morality, values, and choices that we can relate with.

So stories are the telling of significant journeys with meaningful characters whose principled choices help us see ourselves.     

Think about the stories you cherish.  Did they not stir something within you?  I would venture to say that stories can ignite us to think about things in new ways, ignite our spirits and emotions to actions, and enable us to see ourselves.  

If you are feeling stagnant in your career or life…if you are desiring a boost to your service to your customers…if you feel the need to get out of your rut…if you are looking for new perspectives… I would encourage you to read a story. 

Get reading!

What Stories Teach Us

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me a truth, and I’ll believe.  But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”  -Indian Proverb from Marlo Thomas & Friends, The Right Words at the Right Time

 From the time we were small; stories capture our imagination and hearts and can ignite us to action.  As a professional speaker, I know first hand the incredible power of story telling and have been enthralled by speakers through the years who were able to – through their choice of words and delivery style, catapult me on a roller coaster ride of emotions, imaginations, and engagement. 

But I have come to believe that story telling is not just reserved for those of us in the communication industry (speakers, writers, entertainers, or authors).   The ability to tell a story can help anyone gain more persuasive power, be a more influential person, and gain credibility for your idea.  The next 5 BLOG postings will help unveil the mystery of stories, how reading and telling stories can expand your mind to new ways of thinking and seeing the world, and how stories can make you a better influencer no matter what your job or life role.

Getting Ready…Set…GO!

So you’ve got someone to hold you accountable and you have set yourself for the best possible success….what else do you need to tackle that big project in your work or home life?  My last tip:

 Do something.  If it is writing – write one word.  If it is filing – pick up one piece of paper and file it.  If it is a financial analysis report, save your excel report with the name of the project. If it is a team project, create your team’s distribution list in your Outlook.


And it is interesting – whether it is a filing project or a writing project –once I get in the flow of the activity – it is easier for me to keep going. 


As Eugene F. Ware said, “All glory comes from daring to begin.”  So what are you waiting for?

Get Set…

In my last blog, I spoke how accountability can help us deal with this perpetual “getting ready” mentality.  And yet – sometimes accountability isn’t enough for us to move forward. And even when we are making strides towards our goal, we may not be able to sustain our momentum.  Here’s another idea:

Set yourself up for success.   Yes, we can use all sorts of excuses to not start a project. But there is something to be said for knowing what we need. For example, I like to write in our study – that overlooks our beautiful garden.  Being able to see outdoors seems to “open my mind up” to new ideas, creativity, and expansive thoughts.  You may find that doing work at a coffee shop can be a productive space for you.  Or you may find that having your favorite beverage is what you need to get the juices flowing.  (Pardon the pun!).

 For your next project, what can you do to set yourself up for success?

Honor our Troops – Armed Forces Day

Did you know that May 19th was Armed Forces Day?  President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.  

Though May 19th has come and gone, here are some practical ways we can support our men and women in the military any day:

  1.  – A great place to start to support a military person.
  2. – Lists items that troops need.
  3. – Become a Battle Buddy by directly supporting a deployed unit or healing warrior here at home. 

Eric Egland (Reserve) authored a book entitled “The Troops Need You, America.”  In this book, he shares a speech made by President Roosevelt who shared on December 9, 1941 these statements, “We are now in this war – we are all in it all the way – Every single man, woman, and child is a partner to the most tremendous undertaking of our American history. We must share together the bad news and the good news, the defeats and the victories…”

Though all of us are not wearing the military uniforms – we are all leaders in our shere of influence and part of leadership is supporting those who sacrifice for others.  We can all share in supporting the many thousands of people who are protecting our freedom and putting themselves in harm’s way so that we can enjoy our freedom. Thank you Military men and women on May 19th and every day!

Show you Care

You’ve heard of the adage, “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”   On this Valentine’s Day, it is a great reminder to ask yourself, “When was the last time I showed my customers, staff members, team members, that I care?”

During a recent three-day supervisory class that I facilitated for Washington state governmental employees, I was impressed with how many leaders talked about the human side of leadership. In the midst of technology, changing priorities, and budget cuts, they recognized how important it was for them to show their team that they cared – about each team member individually and about how each person’s role positively impacted the success of their team.  

On this holiday and throughout the year, here are three practical ways to show you care:

  1. Say thank you –  One of the best ways to show we care is to express our gratitude.  In our instant message society, receiving a handwritten note means a lot.  A sincere thank you – whether written or spoken, tells an employee, “I notice and what you do – matters.”
  2. Acknowledge extra efforts – Think about a team member who always goes above and beyond.   Ideally, all your team members have this kind of attitude and extra commitment but practically speaking, there are some people who just do more than others.  Show you care about that person’s contribution by acknowledging that person’s efforts.  Or how about a former low performing employee who has successfully achieved his or her goals?  Show you care about this person by acknowledging this person’s efforts. 
  3. Recognize all employees – Many times, we can’t do a lot with extra salary or benefits but what we can do is recognize every person’s impact.  Take the time to show you care by making sure team members know their impact to your team’s goals.  

Negative Self- Talk – Rewind the Tapes

What do you say to yourselves?   Sometimes the biggest barrier to our goals is ourselves!  So here is something to ponder:  Think about what you are thinking about!   Zig Ziglar says that some of us have “stinky thinking.”  Perhaps you need to get a new mindset, a new way of thinking.  It is basically “rewinding your negative self-talk.”

One way you can “rewind your tapes” is to ask yourself, “Would you say the same thing to someone you love?” Often times, we can be our worst critics.  We would never say to others what we say to ourselvs.  Take a look at how much you are feeding your mind and thoughts with negative news.  Strive to focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

The Power of Asking the Right Questions

James Thurber said “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.”  (James Thurber was an American author and cartoonist and was best known for his cartoons and short stories published in The New Yorkermagazine). What a reminder to all of us that it is not necessarily the solutions but the questions that lead to inner discovery, awareness, and change.  Indeed, this same philosophy undergirds my coaching philosophy – every client is seen as a fully capable and whole person with unique insights, dreams, and goals.  My job as a coach is to help that person discover his or her potential by asking powerful questions that can lead to true transformation – and growth.   Here is a sample of some of the kinds of questions that I use in my coaching practice:

  •  What does it mean for you to live in authenticity?
  • What barriers do you anticipate?
  • What is your biggest concern about….
  • What does team mean to you?
  • Of all the things on your list, which one do you want to tackle today?

Beratungsgespräch. Beratung und Gespräch durch Berater.Consider using a question the next time a staff member asks you for help on a problem or issue in the workplace.  Asking a question provides the opportunity for individuals to come up with the answer and they will more likely be bought into implementing the action since they are the ones who came up with the answer!  Coaching your staff in this way also develops them and relieves you of the pressure of finding all the solutions!

How are you developing yourself?

Pretty business woman with colleagues discussing in the backWhen I worked as an internal training consultant, we used to cancel classes due to low enrollment.  Unless the training was mandatory or there was top management support, many staff members simply did not take the time to attend.  I often wondered what would happen if staff members had to pay for their training.  When companies started paying the HR division for their staff member’s training out of their own departmental budgets – class attendance grew and more people took advantage of their professional development, especially if each employee was required to take a certain number of development hours for their evaluation process.

 How about you? Are you taking advantage of your company’s professional development?  Compare the cost of your training classes with a local public seminar.  If you are a local business owner, I encourage you to take advantage of the low-cost and yet high-quality training that is offered in your local area.  Check out for a listing of local workshops that I offer with a business partner.  Also check out your local chambers of commerce. Many of them hold free lunch and learn sessions for their members.   I will be conducting a lunch and learn session at the Puyallup library for the Puyallup Sumner Chamber of Commerce on November 16th on Strategic Partnerships.  Check it out!