Set yourself free in 2014!

Set yourself free in 2014!

Yesterday, I was installed as the president of my toastmasters club. As I stood there, on the dias- I looked at the members of the committee and the club. I saw the twinkling eyes of those who never gave up on me and brought me to this place.

It was a surreal moment for me – standing there giving my acceptance speech, as it was something I had never forseen for myself.

It shows the kind of journey that I have had in Toastmasters, and how a set of people have changed my life.

Going back in time – My transformation started with the concept of freedom.

Freedom: The power or right to act, speak, think or do as one wants. I am a true believer of complete and absolute freedom, and come on, who isn’t? Who doesn’t want the world to be at their feet and every goal, dream and ambition to be just a choice away?

My whole life – every choice I would make would be centered on “What do I want?” And I got away with it just fine. Every choice was made at the drop of a hat, last minute frenzies being my best friends.

Well, luckily for me – Toastmasters was about to change that.

5 years ago, when I first joined Toastmasters, I was thrown out of my comfort zone. If you wanted to give speeches, you had to inform your Vice President of Education [VP-E] IN ADVANCE. If you wanted to take up a role – you had to plan it – IN ADVANCE. Commitments here, commitments there, commitments everywhere.

Commitment. It was clipping my wings, grounding my beloved freedom, hanging over my head like a sword.

Then, one day, it blew up in my face. My phone was ringing, and Priyadarshi [the past president, my inspiration, motivation and mentor] was on the other line. He wanted my commitment to be VP-E when he was president.

6 months of rolling out the agenda – week after week, coordinating things, PLANNING IN ADVANCE – not just for me, but for the whole club?!

My logical mind put its foot down and said no way – but reason and logic are friends of many others too. I looked to my sunshine family for a way out – for someone to agree with the critic in my head. As I made call after call, not a single person sided with my ciritc.

I was in awe. Here were people, who saw potential in me – beyond what I saw in myself. Here were people that had a 100% faith that I was capable of doing things I never thought I could. These were people who believed in me – even when I didn’t believe in myself.

Filled with self doubt, but trusting my Sunshine family – I managed to give my shaky word.

Now, stepping into the shoes of the president – I look back at the past 6 months, having played my part as VP-E and I realize, it was the best time of my life.

I did so much more in the last 6 months than I had in years put together. I felt freer, like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, like I could do whatever I really wanted.

It is now that I realize for the first time – the connection between freedom and commitment.

Freedom: The power to act, think or do as one wants.

The connection between freedom and commitment lies in asking the right question about what you want.

“What do I want right now?” and “What do I really want?”

What we all want in this journey to Improve our communication skills, leadership skills, make new friends, add value to the lives of others and maybe even to help the less fortunate.

Sometimes, what you want right now and what you really want are not the same thing. It took me 5 long years in toastmasters to learn that:

The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating. In work, in play, in love, and in life. The act of making a commitment frees you from the tryanny of your internal ciritc. It frees you from the fear that parades around like rational hesitation.

To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life, because once you have decided something – nothing and no one can get in your way.

To make the most of 2014, I suggest that you to commit to what you really really want.

Forget about the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s and how’s – the universe will rearrange itself to help you get what you want.

And it all starts with a simple commitment. Nothing is out of our reach. Weight loss, making friends you never imagined you would have, career goals, writing that book, adventures that will turn into stories- all lay ahead of us.

We have the freedom to achieve our goals – no matter how big or small they are. We have the freedom to ask for help when we need it. We have the freedom to scale to greater heights. We have the freedom to move ahead in our journeys – together.

This year, commit to setting yourself free.

Happy 2014!


The Greatest Poverty

The Greatest Poverty

The greatest poverty lies in being unloved and uncared for. So many people today walk through life feeling uncared for and unloved.

One of the simplest things to do – to eradicate this kind of poverty is to be nice.

Smile, ask someone if they need help, stop and ask someone why they look so tired. It will make a world of a difference.

The secret to unlimited wealth

When I was a kid, my mom would tell me stories about the gods and goddesses who used to walk the earth once upon a time – long long ago. The stories were magical, and seemed so untrue. As I grew up, I started to doubt the stories and then at some point discredited them entirely.

Over the course of time – I have found – that the stories were not meant to be taken literally, but they were trying to teach us something.

I’ll share more of them with you when I can – but this one really made me think. I recently discovered it in a book I didn’t even knew I owned – called ‘Creating Affluence” by Deepak Chopra.

This is the introduction to the book- and it took me back in time. Here it is:

Once upon a time, in a far away land, a young man went to the forest and said to his spiritual master, “I want to have unlimited wealth, and with that unlimited wealth, I want to help and heal the world. Will you please tell me the secret to creating affluence?”

The spiritual master replied, “There are two Goddesses that reside in the heart of every human being. Everybody is deeply in love with these supreme beings. But there is a certain secret that you need to know, and I will tell you what that is.

Although you love both Goddesses, you much pay more attention to one of them. She is the Goddess of Knowledge and her name is Sarasvati. Pursue her, love her and give her your attention. The other Goddess, whose name is Lakshmi, is the goddess of wealth. When you pay more attention to Sarasvati, Lakshmi will become extremely jealous and pay more attention to you. The more you seek the Goddess of Knowledge, the more the Goddess of Wealth will seek you. She will follow you wherever you go and never leave you. And the wealth you desire will be yours forever”

There is power in knowledge, desire, and spirit.

The most beautiful flower

This is one of my favorite poems – it’s really changed the way I look at life. Here it is for you!

The park bench was deserted as I sat down to read.
Beneath the long, straggly branches of an old willow tree.
Disillusioned by life with good reason to frown,
For the world was intent on dragging me down.

And if that weren’t enough to ruin my day,
A young boy out of breath approached me, all tired from play.
He stood right before me with his head tilted down
And said with great excitement, “Look what I found!”

In his hand was a flower, and what a pitiful sight,
With its petals all worn – not enough rain, or too little light.
Wanting him to take his dead flower and go off to play,
I faked a small smile and then shifted away.

But instead of retreating he sat next to my side
And placed the flower to his nose
And declared with overacted surprise,
“It sure smells pretty and it’s beautiful, too.
That’s why I picked it; here, it’s for you.”

The weed before me was dying or dead.
Not vibrant of colors: orange, yellow or red.
But I knew I must take it, or he might never leave.
So I reached for the flower, and replied, “Just what I need.”

But instead of him placing the flower in my hand,
He held it mid-air without reason or plan.
It was then that I noticed for the very first time
That weed-toting boy could not see: he was blind.

I heard my voice quiver; tears shone in the sun
As I thanked him for picking the very best one.
You’re welcome,” he smiled, and then ran off to play,
Unaware of the impact he’d had on my day.

I sat there and wondered how he managed to see
A self-pitying woman beneath an old willow tree.
How did he know of my self-indulged plight?
Perhaps from his heart, he’d been blessed with true sight.

Through the eyes of a blind child, at last I could see
The problem was not with the world; the problem was me.
And for all of those times I myself had been blind,
I vowed to see the beauty in life,
And appreciate every second that’s mine.

And then I held that wilted flower up to my nose
And breathed in the fragrance of a beautiful rose
And smiled as I watched that young boy,
Another weed in his hand,
About to change the life of an unsuspecting old man.

– by Cheryl Costello-Forshey

The cure for laziness

I get bitten by the lazy bug every once in a while …… actually, its more often than I would like. So, I have been on the search for the cure of laziness. And this is what I’ve found:

1. Have a vision.

This vision must be so compelling that you must really really really want to achieve it. It could be a work goal, fitness goal, health goal – anything. For me – it started out with a big one: To be a dream coach.

As a dream coach – I’d help people to get to their dreams. By helping them, plan, organize, get them in touch with the right people, stand by as a pillar of support through execution, be a source of motivation and inspiration, be a shoulder to cry on [sometimes that’s needed too in a dreamer’s journey] and be a smiling face.

It gets me up every morning – and gets me working every day. Just to be one step closer to making that dream come true.

2. Discipline

I cannot stress this more. There are many, many days when I have a whole lot of things to do [mostly boring jobs that need to get done] – and I just don’t feel like getting to work.

So when vision, motivation, inspiration and all these other things don’t work – discipline works like a charm. It may sound boring – but honestly – even the most boring work doesn’t seem so bad once you start.

To be a disciplined person, you just need to grow your will power.

Note: Hitting the gym is a great way to do that. 20 counts means 20. Not 10 [when the pain sets in], not 15 [when you can really feel the burn] but at 20. When you said you would finish.

These two things – are fabulous cures to laziness. Did it work for you?

The folded Napkin – A Trucker’s Story

The Folded Napkin … A Truckers Story

I try not to be biased, but I had my doubts about hiring Stevie. His placement counselor assured me that he would be a good, reliable busboy. But I had never had a mentally handicapped employee and wasn’t sure I wanted one. I wasn’t sure how my customers would react to Stevie. He was short, a little dumpy with the smooth facial features and thick-tongued speech of Downs Syndrome.

I wasn’t worried about most of my trucker customers because truckers don’t generally care who buses tables as long as the meatloaf platter is good and the pies are homemade. The four-wheeler drivers were the ones who concerned me; the mouthy college kids traveling to school; the yuppie snobs who secretly polish their silverware with their napkins for fear of catching some dreaded “truck stop germ” the pairs of white-shirted business men on expense accounts who think every truck stop waitress wants to be flirted with. I knew those people would be uncomfortable around Stevie so I closely watched him for the first few weeks.

I shouldn’t have worried. After the first week, Stevie had my staff wrapped around his stubby little finger, and within a month my truck regulars had adopted him as their official truck stop mascot. After that, I really didn’t care what the rest of the customers thought of him. He was like a 21-year-old in blue jeans and Nikes, eager to laugh and eager to please, but fierce in his attention to his duties. Every salt and pepper shaker was exactly in its place, not a bread crumb or coffee spill was visible when Stevie got done with the table.

Our only problem was persuading him to wait to clean a table until after the customers were finished. He would hover in the background, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, scanning the dining room until a table was empty. Then he would scurry to the empty table and carefully bus dishes and glasses onto cart and meticulously wipe the table up with a practiced flourish of his rag. If he thought a customer was watching, his brow would pucker with added concentration. He took pride in doing his job exactly right, and you had to love how hard he tried to please each and every person he met.

Over time, we learned that he lived with his mother, a widow who was disabled after repeated surgeries for cancer. They lived on their Social Security benefits in public housing two miles from the truck stop. Their social worker, who stopped to check on him every so often, admitted they had fallen between the cracks. Money was tight, and what I paid him was probably the difference between them being able to live together and Stevie being sent to a group home. That’s why the restaurant was a gloomy place that morning last August, the first morning in three years that Stevie missed work.

He was at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester getting a new valve or something put in his heart. His social worker said that people with Downs Syndrome often have heart problems at an early age so this wasn’t unexpected, and there was a good chance he would come through the surgery in good shape and be back at work in a few months.

A ripple of excitement ran through the staff later that morning when word came that he was out of surgery, in recovery, and doing fine. Frannie, the head waitress, let out a war hoop and did a little dance in the aisle when she heard the good news. Bell Ringer, one of our regular trucker customers, stared at the sight of this 50-year-old grandmother of four doing a victory shimmy beside his table. Frannie blushed, smoothed her apron and shot Belle Ringer a withering look.

He grinned. “OK, Frannie, what was that all about?” he asked.

“We just got word that Stevie is out of surgery and going to be okay.”

“I was wondering where he was. I had a new joke to tell him. What was the surgery about?”

Frannie quickly told Bell Ringer and the other two drivers sitting at his booth about Stevie’s surgery, then sighed: “Yeah, I’m glad he is going to be OK,” she said. “But I don’t know how he and his Mom are going to handle all the bills. From what I hear, they’re barely getting by as it is.” Belle Ringer nodded thoughtfully, and Frannie hurried off to wait on the rest of her tables.

Since I hadn’t had time to round up a busboy to replace Stevie and really didn’t want to replace him, the girls were busing their own tables that day until we decided what to do. After the morning rush, Frannie walked into my office. She had a couple of paper napkins in her hand and a funny look on her face.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“I didn’t get that table where Bell Ringer and his friends were sitting cleared off after they left, and Pony Pete and Tony Tipper were sitting there when I got back to clean it off,” she said. “This was folded and tucked under a coffee cup.”

She handed the napkin to me, and three $20 bills fell onto my desk when I opened it. On the outside, in big, bold letters, was printed “Something For Stevie.

Pony Pete asked me what that was all about,” she said, “so I told him about Stevie and his Mom and everything, and Pete looked at Tony and Tony looked at Pete, and they ended up giving me this.” She handed me another paper napkin that had “Something For Stevie” scrawled on its outside. Two $50 bills were tucked within its folds.

Frannie looked at me with wet, shiny eyes, shook her head and said simply: “truckers.”

That was three months ago. Today is Thanksgiving, the first day Stevie is supposed to be back to work. His placement worker said he’s been counting the days until the doctor said he could work, and it didn’t matter at all that it was a holiday. He called 10 times in the past week, making sure we knew he was coming, fearful that we had forgotten him or that his job was in jeopardy.

I arranged to have his mother bring him to work. I then met them in the parking lot and invited them both to celebrate his day back. Stevie was thinner and paler, but couldn’t stop grinning as he pushed through the doors and headed for the back room where his apron and busing cart were waiting.

“Hold up there, Stevie, not so fast,” I said. I took him and his mother by their arms. “Work can wait for a minute. To celebrate you coming back, breakfast for you and your mother is on me!”

I led them toward a large corner booth at the rear of the room. I could feel and hear the rest of the staff following behind as we marched through the dining room. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw booth after booth of grinning truckers empty and join the procession. We stopped in front of the big table. Its surface was covered with coffee cups, saucers and dinner plates, all sitting slightly crooked on dozens of folded paper napkins.

“First thing you have to do, Stevie, is clean up this mess,” I said. I tried to sound stern. Stevie looked at me, and then at his mother, then pulled out one of the napkins. It had “Something for Stevie” printed on the outside. As he picked it up, two $10 bills fell onto the table.

Stevie stared at the money, then at all the napkins peeking from beneath the tableware, each with his name printed or scrawled on it. I turned to his mother.

“There’s more than $10,000 in cash and checks on table, all from truckers and trucking companies that heard about your problems. “Happy Thanksgiving,”

Well, it got real noisy about that time, with everybody hollering and shouting, and there were a few tears, as well. But you know what’s funny? While everybody else was busy shaking hands and hugging each other, Stevie, with a big, big smile on his face, was busy clearing all the cups and dishes from the table. Best worker I ever hired.

Plant a seed and watch it grow. At this point, you can bury this inspirational message or forward it fulfilling the need! If you shed a tear, hug yourself, because you are a compassionate person.

Well.. Don’t just sit there! Share this story!

Keep it going, this is a good one!

Suspended Coffees This is a piece by Dan Anderson published in 1998 thanks to Karen for sending it in…

#suspendedcoffees “it’s about more than the coffee”

PS: This is reposted!

I dare you

I dare you

Every day, we come across challenges that seem impossible to us.

Waking up at 5AM every day for the month, giving up TV, eating right, getting to the gym, and in some cases dreams that seem out of reach.

Take every single thing that you really want to do as a challenge. Like life is daring you to try. Give it your best – magic will surely happen.