Lady Liberty – Tarnished by Prejudice and Fear

Statue-Of-Liberty-At-Night-Photos-imagesShe holds a torch to welcome the tired, the sick, the hungry.  At least she did.  Now this shining beacon of hope is dulled by prejudice, fear, and greed.  She is tired of all the squabbling.  Yes, we need to do background checks, make sure those applying for admission to the finest country on earth have no terrorist designs on anyone in our multi-race culture.  Those crossing our southern border without permission are often, bright, daring, ambitious and terrified.

They want to belong to a country where they can prosper, where their children will be born as American citizens.  A chance at the American dream is often a death-defying act, a terror-filled ride in a van with no windows to the American border. Coyotes (smugglers) often drop them in the desert with little more than what they are wearing.  If they make it across the border they must assimilate, learn English, pay taxes and become citizens.  None of which is easy.  Let me tell you a story…

The American Dream – One Frightening Mile at a Time 

He is the pied piper of kids.  They gravitate to him.  Little kids, big kids, they all want to be next to Jose.  This quiet man guides, loves, stands up for his beliefs and constantly smiles.  Not a grin; a gentle, kind, and wise smile.  Perhaps most important, is the way he listens.  Really listens, does not judge, just listens, offering advice only if asked for it.

This relatively young man, whose “old” spirit shines in his eyes, is living proof that the American Dream is alive.  That extraordinary people exist and can become a beautiful stitch in the fabric of America.

Jose’s “Coming to America” story began when he and his two brothers were small enough to lie like possums on the floorboards of a car, his mother, and uncle hidden under blankets in the trunk.  Every peso they had, every dream, and breath they drew, was in the hands of a Coyote, a smuggler of desperate human beings.

For three days there were no rest stops, no roadside diners, only an anonymous, dingy, room for a few hours in the middle of the night.  The family stepped noiselessly; listening for a sound, a word that they had been discovered.  They would be sent back to a life they could no longer endure.

Finally, inside the United States, the ordeal was not yet over.  The family lived on the edge of society, not quite fitting in, never feeling quite safe.  Jose’s determined mother, Maria, made tough decisions. Education outweighed the fear of deportation. The kids went to school, easily picking up English, while she worked a minimum wage job.

Maria is a good person, people liked her, gave her a kind nod when they knew that ICS would show up at work. That meant she would stay at home, missing a day of wages that the family sorely needed.  She so wanted to fit in, wanted her kids to fit in; that struggling became her normal state of mind.

Jose recalls his kind, fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Larson, bringing Christmas presents for the whole family.  That was the first time Jose really felt included in the fabric of this country. He did well in school, graduated college, and in 1987 found a hero, a champion. President Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to those immigrants who had followed the rules and proved they were good citizens.

Peter Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter, told NPR, “It was in Ronald Reagan’s bones — it was part of his understanding of America — that the country was fundamentally open to those who wanted to join us here.”

Jose clearly remembers raising his right hand, feeling his heart skip a beat, and taking a sacred oath to become a legal American citizen.  He says it was one of the most amazing days of his life.  His wife, Bonnie, and their two-year-old son, sat beside him. Adorable little Joey hugged everyone who took the oath.  The memory still makes Jose laugh. Joey, now “Joey” is at the top of his class at university.

Raising his hand, to finally say, “I am American” was as precious as breath for Jose.  Before that day he had to stand aside and watch as others voted, always feeling separated from the country he longed to be part of.  He has never failed to vote since he became a citizen.

Jose helped raise goats when he was small, loved them, and hated finding them on the table.  Today he has two goats – their destiny – to keep the weeds down in the pasture.  They would be invited to dinner before they became dinner at this house!Jose & Bonnie

Reflecting on his life, where he came from, and what he has accomplished, he told me, “I can’t believe that this is really real, that my life, is my life.  I am so fortunate.”

Jose is humble.  Being fortunate has little to do with his success.  It is clear that he did it. He is the master of his own life.  He owns his own business, and is a great provider for his family, both financially and emotionally.  He is a proud, accomplished, legal American.  He is part of the fabric that makes this country great.  Connie Timpson/Author/Speaker/Group Facilitator

A Reagan Legacy: Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants: NPR News

 

 

Patriotism – My Mission to Find A Hero’s Resting Place

Ralph cocky head shot

Ralph E. Johnson
Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces
Shot down over France, February 24th, 1944
Burial place unknown for over 60 years

Three angels looked down from the side of a tall chapel that seemed to reach into the clouds and hold up the sky.  A spot of shimmering sun broke through the gray and briefly kissed their wings, dropping silver dust onto their granite gowns. Their trumpets called the fallen to rest, and me to St. Avold, France where I would, after a two-year search, finally bring answers to my family.  Where had my Uncle Ralph been laid to rest after being shot from the sky by German planes on a gray February morning in 1944?  His brothers and sisters, mother and father, only knew that he gave his life in battle.  I had to see the space and touch his name.

I looked up, and it was as if the largest cathedral on earth had turned inside out.  Row upon row of white crosses lined the hundreds of acres that gently rose and fell to a soft valley of sacred silence.

Small cement benches dotted the outdoor cathedral, and I was glad.  My knees were weak.  I wanted to think about my Uncle Ralph, the one I knew from pictures and stories told to me from my mother’s knee.  I felt like I had missed something very special.

I wanted to see what I saw in my mother’s eyes when she described the two of them selling carrots from the garden to earn a dime to get into the matinee to see Tom Quick or Hopalong Cassidy.

I sat for a moment and looked across the valley of marble markers.  Cross upon cross, marble on grass, they glistened with the oncoming winter and sparkled when a bit of sun broke through the gray.  A Star of David altered the rhythm of the crosses every once in a while, like a well-placed crescendo in a sonata.

11,000 soldiers lie in eternal slumber in the acres of marble and grass the stretched before me.  I shuddered as I stood and I knew it wasn’t from the cold. I thought I would be able to walk right up to Uncle Ralph’s grave.  I knew it was in area K, the row number was 18 and the grave number 26.  But there was such symmetry here, such regal sameness.  I couldn’t find the row.  I couldn’t find his name.  Appropriately, no signs pointed the way.

I wandered, looking, counting, walking, freezing, frantically searching for my family name.  I could no longer control the shaking in my hands.  One white cross after the other met my eyes.  Up one row and down another, I searched among the men who fought and died for their country.  Men of all nationalities lie here.  Different from one another, yet united in this sacred outdoor cathedral.

After hours of searching, with shoes filled with sleet, my eyes fell on the name I had wanted to touch all my life, Ralph E. Johnson.  My heart was in my throat, my breath ragged and wet with tears. Could there be another Ralph E. Johnson?  No. The numbers from his I.D. were the same.  It was him.

I kneeled in the freezing grass, the cold wet working its way into my skin, and touched his name, felt the freezing letters on my fingertips.  I kept touching the cross, yet wondered if I should.  Had anyone touched it before now?

I just kept reading the same words, Staff Sergeant Ralph E. Johnson, died on February 24th 1944.  I could see him, sense him.  I had his face memorized from the boxes and albums filled with pictures that I sort through nearly every time I visit Mom.

I knew his spirit, and sense of humor by the stories I had coaxed out of Mom.  But now I really felt him.  He felt tall and kind.  I wanted to talk to him, to learn about his life, his short life before it was taken from him before he became an angel.

He lay with thousands of America’s most giving children.  I touched his name again and prayed that he felt comfort here, among his comrades.  I prayed in thanks that I had found him, that I could tell him how much his family cares that he lived.  I could tell my family where he now lay.

CrossI pulled out my camera, to record this sacred place, and as I clicked the shutter, recording Uncle Ralph’s name, a single leaf flew to the cross I came to see and touch.  It flitted for a moment on one side of the cross and then fell, to become part of the earth, to continue the life cycle.

Stiff with cold, I rose, kissed my fingers, traced his name and promised to be back.  Walking to the front gate, I looked up to Gabriel on the front of the chapel, standing guard over these innocent souls.  The tears again caught in my throat and spilled down my face.  I turned to look back over this monument to courage.

I half expected the angel Gabriel to tell me it would all be okay.  I wondered how many families had prayed for exactly the same thing.  I felt like a missing piece of history could now take its place in our family.

He was truly extraordinary.

 

 

 

Dump the Data – Tell Me a Story!

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01: Musician Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform at the Bridgestone halftime show during Super Bowl XLIII between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Bruce Springsteen puts life on the stage. Every song – is a story, a slice of life through which he draws pictures, and unites us. His tough times, togetherness, sad songs, and raucous ones create a picture of the economic and emotional landscape of America. His songs are his life, events he lived or observed. His stories bring understanding, evoke emotion, and pull you right out of your seat.

All the economic data in the world cannot express, nor move us like a well-told story. We all have a story to tell that builds our ability to relate to others. Making your point through your own story outweighs any PowerPoint ever created.

And what happens if just one little gremlin sticks his toes into your presentation?

I stood before a boardroom filled with disgruntled television executives and top level employees who wanted this disparate team to come together. So I began my pre-presentation with a strong introduction and plenty of promises. I hit a key on my computer and turned to the large monitor to begin. Nothing! Blank screen. I hit the key again. No picture. No brilliant PowerPoint. Groans! Coffee. Eye rolls.

The chief engineer spent fifteen minutes on the problem. No picture! And no more confidence in my ability to pull this team together!

Following my survivalist instincts I went to the flip chart. Colored markers in hand I started drawing, telling and engaging. Soon the disparate team in Flint, Michigan saw an old Dodge truck. The general manager appeared at the wheel and sitting in the back were all of the key people sitting in the room. (They were, of course, stick figures.)

Cartoon balloons floated over their heads holding funny remarks from the disillusioned group in the room. Finally they were laughing, coming to a common conclusion – they were all in the truck together, they each had their own challenges, but a common goal. Make better television. To do that they had to come together.

And guess what? No one missed the PowerPoint presentation. We created a story with pictures and made data fun. They walked out laughing. Together. United.

In the months following, a number of people who had been in that room told me that allowing them to be part of the fix, and seeing themselves all together in a truck that represented the tired auto industry, had made them see themselves as a team. They worked together to solve problems rather than point fingers.

The dreaded missing PowerPoint had forced me to be creative, to rely on training, experience, and my storytelling ability. It worked. The client still talks about the day the data died! And I would add – the day the presentation came to life!

A picture and a good story is worth many spectacular PowerPoints. After all, our brains think and remember in pictures, colors, and emotion. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, humans, “process visual information automatically and independently of what we know, think or expect.”

Light trails coming from African American's head

Well-told stories paint pictures and dress the facts in emotion. Go back to your childhood. Did you ever request a PowerPoint when you were ready for bed? How about an extra helping of data for dinner? I didn’t think so. Just because we grew up does not mean we are not hungry to hear stories that help us understand, entertain us, and help us relate to each other.

Connie Timpson is a speaker, author, and trainer specializing in the power of story, the psychology of teams, and bringing teams together. http://www.extraordinary-leaders.com

Empower Teamwork And Creativity – By Blowing The Whistle On “Rules” And Encouraging The Daydreamer

Do you empower your team to be creative?  Do you believe that some people on your team swam swimmer(1) copyperfect laps in the creative-gene pool and others swam in the “free-style” lane?  Or, could you be closing the “break through” creativity lane, without realizing it?

We all know that successful businesses are run on structure, process and rules.   We also know that the “big idea” can take business from steady to stupendous.  It takes courage, trust, and a forward-thinking leader to open the free-style lane to his team.

modern art swimming

The creative “day dreaming, freestyle” swimmers are often drowned out by the follow-every-rule teammates.  As the team leader, you are the only one who can throw a life preserver to the drowning idea, and keep the freestyle lanes open

Many times, the idea is sidelined by the phrase, “We’ll revisit that one, it is a good idea.”  But most often it treads water until it loses hope and drowns.  If the “dominating” idea maker is allowed to always be the hero, the free-style idea person may lose motivation to prepare for the next meet.

We all have the ability to create, but some time in our past other past experience someone roped off the freestyle lane in which you could daydream and create wonder.  Some of the greatest ideas of our time have been the result of a “feeling” a “wanting” a “daydream” that broke the rules.  Open your minds to your own creativity and encourage others to take a risk on their dreams.   I believe:

“The only bad idea is the one that you keep to yourself.”

According to howthingswork.com, Thomas Edison’s teacher described him as addled.  His mother was his champion, believing in his quiet dreams and took him out of school and taught him at home.  Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard.  Walt Disney dropped out of school at 16, forged his birth certificate, and went into the Red Cross.  Richard Branson was a daydreamer and did so poorly at school that he quit at 16.

The point is – these people all have one thing in common, they saw the world differently.  They daydreamed of better, different, or more exciting things.  They took their ideas into the business world, and turned the perfect-lap swimmers into the people who work for them.  The freestyler, the daydreamer, the one who swims across lanes, is often written off as a lost cause rather than the one who could change everything.  You have a choice.   Swim perfectly in the “idea free” lane, or let yourself daydream your way into a great new idea.

  • Take risks
  • Let the freestyle swimmer cut across some lanes and dream of new ideas
  • Throw a life preserver to ideas that are being drown out by the rule followers

If you want to be a leader who forges ahead, promotes the next big idea, and makes money, you need to open the freestyle lane and let the daydreamers swim.

http://people.howstuffworks.com/15-notable-people-who-dropped-out-of-school1.htm#page=0

 

 

 

 

Mandella – Leader of the Century

Words fail to capture the Extraordinary spirit and leadership of Nelson Mandela.  He was a mscreenshot_15an unequaled in  every way.  His loss is the headline of every media outlet I touch this morning, and rightfully so.

I mourn the world’s loss and celebrate this life.  If only the world and its disparate peoples could follow his example and “talk” not “kill.”  I am forever in awe of his ability to unite the “un-uniteable”, to lead with kindness, bravery, understanding, and most of all – forgiveness.

I saw him speak in the early years following Apartheid’s fall.  It was a sea of hopeful faces, a crowd lightened by his spirit, swaying to his gentle, caring words.

I am hopeful that today we will sway to the music of Mandela’s goodness, become united citizens of this world, and celebrate this man of the century.  Nelson Mandela – truly an EXTRAordinary Leader.

Create Like A Wild Child

Beach Sand CastleGive a child a shovel on the beach and he will create a dream castle.  Give an adult a shovel and he will most likely store it in the garage.  Millions of ideas have been stuffed into garages, attics, drawers, or abandoned in corners.  All because we are afraid to take risks, to give our ideas real hearts and voices.

What risk is there in sharing ideas?  Many, you say, theft, betrayal, ridicule, doubt?  Oh yes, and let’s not forget jealousy and ego. As Albert Einstein said,

Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds.

 Careful!  Idea Hatching!  Protect your idea.   Nurture it, grow it and strengthen its shell, layer upon layer.  But make sure it gets sunshine, has many friends, and takes risks.

There is only one idea like yours.

The only bad idea is the one that is never given a voice!

Take a walk on the “Wild Right Side

MADisonLet the wild child run, create and have ideas.  Pull on your magic hat.  Get out your sorcerer’s wand and start making magic.  Think like you’ve never thought before.

Access both sides of the brain – unlock your fears of being a little “wild.”

  • Put a lid on the left side that is always telling you,  “Be careful, do not take professional risks, don’t share your ideas or someone will take them.”
  • Live your creative life on the right side of the brain.  Prompt the creative energy with color, words, and an open attitude.  Recapture the childhood creator.

Invite only creative teachers and other wild child friends into your memory banks.  Dare to become an organized visionary who thinks “With no creative boundaries!”

Speak Up.  No Criticism Allowed!  Creative Genius at Work – yes – YOU!

 

  • Believe in your ideaAt the age of fourteen Filo T. Farnsworth saw the idea for electronic television in the parallel lines of his father’s potato field in Idaho.  He battled with David Sarnoff of RCA until the bitter end.  Sarnoff became rich and Farnsworth won only the title of “The father of television.”  But while watching Neil Armstrong step on the moon, he said, “it was all worthwhile.”
  • Play with your idea – a better football, NERF balls, play dough, slime, all came from playing with an idea.  The more they kicked it around and played with it the bigger the idea grew.
  • Give your idea a heartJ.K. Rowling envisioned Harry Potter for a long time before she sat at a table and took up a pen.
  • Bring your idea to lifeteach your idea to sing and dance – Jim Henson created Kermit while home with the flu.  He was inspired by his mother’s old green coat.  He got the scissors, added a tennis ball, and Kermit was born!
  • Love the process – Stephen Spielberg said,” I dream for a living.”
  • Surround yourself with inspiration – Quotes, color, words.  Every idea has color, texture, and strategy.  Colors like Red, Blue, Yellow, Orange and Green energize the creative soul.
  • Every new idea is a great one.  The only bad idea is the one that stays in your heart and head.  Bill Gates – We are not even close to finishing the basic dream of what the PC can be.  

Taking a risk on your idea, giving it a voice, may be scary, but it will never be realized if you keep it silent.  Let that Wild Child run free!

Connie Timpson/Extraordinary-Leaders Copyright June 3, 2013

Powerful and Persuasive Presentations

Throat dry, hands shaky, can’t remember what you wanted to say, or why you accepted this assignment?  You are not alone.  (99.9% of us geMED0000175t stage fright!)

As a group, or in a one-on-one session you will learn how to control your nerves by using a simple structure that will make speaking fun and exciting.

 

You Will Learn How To:

  • Manage Fear –Turn negative adrenaline into positive energy that empowers you.
  • Gain self-confidence – know your audience, practice, participate, and persuade.  Know their industry language and nuances.
    Weave story telling, gestures and movement into your presentation – the magic elixir to motivate, clarify, make a point, entertain, and convince an audience to respond to you, and get buy-in.
  • Easily craft a powerful presentation – that will bring out your best inner speaker, targets your audience’s needs and desires, convinces them, and sends them away saying, “Wow!  I want to hear more from that person.”
  • Fear no more – turn impromptu into opportunity.

How do you persuade people to buy, or believe in your product or service?  Tell the story behind the facts.  Stories paint the pictures and dress the facts in emotion that persuades and convinces your target audience.

PowerPoint – yes…but…there are good and bad ways to use the mechanics.  Go back to your childhood.  Did you ever request a Power Point when you were ready for bed?  How about an extra helping of data for dinner?  That is where it all begins…the need for, and power of the story.

The golden truth is – good storytelling should continue through your entire life – especially during presentations.

Only through the eyes of someone living the story – the issue – can we get a believable and memorable picture of how the facts affect our lives.

 

Kindness Is Never Random – But It Is Extraordinary

Cop With ManThis picture on NBC News rattled our collective conscience.   How could there be a man living on the streets of New York without food, or a pair of shoes?  New York Police Officer Lawrence Di Primo could have run him off, or had him picked up for vagrancy.He made a very different choice. 

This EXTRAordinary man went to a shoe store, found winter boots to fit the homeless man and then forked over his own money.  He was heralded as a hero.  Many called what he did “a random act of kindness”. 

I believe kindness is never random.  It is at the center of who we are, who we choose to be.  Di Primo made a quick choice, clean up the streets of New York, or be a kind caring person who helps others.  He instinctively was kind.  If we check into the deeds of Di Primo I am sure we would find that this is not the first time he has reached out to help someone.  He made a choice to be EXTRAordinary long ago.  (Yes, I know, the man has hidden the shoes because he thought they were worth too much money to wear.  That does not diminish how one policeman did an extraordinary thing.)
We celebrate Di Primo’s example, his willingness to give and take care, when it is accepted that we just walk on by, or shudder at the sight.  Di Primo is extraordinary.   It is a life choice, not a random happening.
Connie Timpson is the author of “You Are EXTRAordinary – 3 E’s to an Extraordinary Life now available on Amazon.

EXTRAordinary Men Who Followed an EXTRAordinary Example

 

Simply EXTRAordinaryIf you pull into the BP on Cleveland Street, in Greenville, South Carolina, you might feel like you have stepped back into a more, gentle America.  Don’t even try to open the door to pump your own gas.  The three Seymoure brothers will not let that happen on their watch.  “Fill her up, and how are the kids?”
Hoyt Seymoure

Their father inspired that kind of yesterday service. Seymoure’s BP is not a gas station – it is a service station.
Hoyt Seymoure Sr. opened the service station right after serving his nation in WWII.  Proud to have done his part to make the world a better place, he came home to help America get back on its feet, opened a business, and practiced high ideals. 
He believed in “full-service”, and that is what you get today, because his three sons followed in his footsteps and believe in the same principles.

If you wake up to a dead battery, or some other malfunction that strands you, one of the Seymour boys will pick you up,deliver you to your destination, and fix the car.  All at a reasonable price. More importantly – they’ll do it with a smile.  It is not one of those “brand-trained” smiles.  It comes straight from the heart.  After all, they have their Dad’s reputation to maintain, and they just feel “right” about operating the way their father did.
Sure, they could have put in self-serve pumps, but then it would not be Seymour’s BP.  It would be a gas station, a little mart, like all the rest.  Hoyt, Roger and Rick, felt that service was more important than money.  Maybe they wouldn’t get rich.  So what.  They do what Dad would have wanted them to do.  Besides, it is just who the Seymoure boys are – Extraordinary.  I am sure Dad is proud.