Posts filed under ‘Inspiration’

Take the Leap: Your Inspiration Is Waiting (But it Won’t Wait Forever!)

take the leap

This past spring, I had the unbelievable good fortune to be asked to interview 10 pioneering training industry leaders—dubbed the “legends” in the industry at the ISA-The Association of Learning Providers Annual Business Retreat—about their careers, motivations and staying power.

The interviews formed the basis for an article in this summer’s issue of Training Magazine. From Don Schrello, literally a rocket scientist, telling me how he “fell into” a new career in training after working on the Apollo program to Ken Blanchard’s tales of his winding road of ups and downs on the way to becoming one of the preeminent minds in leadership, the stories were, yes, the stuff of legend, but also in a way, completely relatable, even humble.

Pat McLagan may have been Board Chair of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, but she wanted to tell me about a teenage job she had peeling potatoes. Gradually over the course of our conversation, the picture of how she got from potato-peeler to one of the most distinguished and honored women in her field became clear.



August 8, 2012 at 10:53 pm 2 comments

Only in Downtown Nashville

nashville music city

February 8, 2012 at 11:39 am Leave a comment

For the rest of us…

AppleWhen I was a senior in high school, I was required to take a computer programming class. I’m probably dating myself by telling you we were learning the Fortran language.

Well, “we” might be overstating it. Some people in my class were definitely learning it. I wasn’t one of them.

Computer programming (and by extension, all things computer related) was just one of those things that didn’t connect up in my brain. And this wasn’t like Chemistry class the year before, when during the last two weeks of class, it suddenly hit me in a flash of comperehension. As Mrs. Hamilton droned on in the front of the room, I was staring blankly ahead, wondering why on earth she had decided on that hair cut, when just like that: It all made sense. The Periodic Table, the formulas, all of it. The proverbial lightbulb illuminating above my head.

There would be no blinding flash of the not-so-obvious for me in computer class. I only passed by the skin of my teeth and through the kindness (or exasperation—there was a lot of begging and pleading) of our teacher.

After graduation I headed to college with my Smith-Corona typewriter and never looked back. I did have a roommate who owned a fancy Brother typewriter that made me think computers might not be such a bad thing. It wasn’t officially a computer in any form that I’d ever seen (no strange lines of code required), but it stored what you typed and then waited as you fed paper into the roller, shooting out your beautifully typed pages one at a time. That was cool.

But it did nothing to really persuade me that computers would be in any way a part of my life. So when my California-born Econ professor, who was something of a mentor to me, kept trying to convince me to apply for a job at Apple Computers when I graduated (“It’s such a cool place to work! It’s on the cutting edge of everything! And Cupertino’s so beautiful!”), well, once again, I just didn’t get it. I knew what Apple was. Sort of. To me it was an enigmatic company with plenty of bravado, daring commercials and creations that were revolutionizing…uh, something. But in 1989, I wasn’t sure exactly what.

My professor wrote letters of recommendations for me to use when I applied for that job at Apple. If I look long and hard enough, I’ll probably find them in an old box somewhere in a closet.

About a year into my first job out of college, doing grunt-work in the Campaign Department at United Way, I befriended my counterpart in the Marketing Department. She showed me something magical. She was creating these documents with graphics and columns and all different kinds of fonts—these publications—and she was doing it on a computer that looked like no other computer I’d ever seen. The Macintosh.

I was a goner.

I learned to use the mouse. And then I learned to draw pictures. I learned to put words in beautiful type and make it look like the newspaper, or a book, or a brochure. It printed out just like it looked on the screen!

I never needed to type in one single line of code. I highlighted and double-clicked. I learned to organize my files by dragging them onto pictures of folders. Or get rid of them by dragging them over to the trash can!

I learned it all in about three days.

And I never looked back. My career moved in directions I’d never anticipated and never could have planned. And it was because of a computer, of all things. A computer for the rest of us.


October 10, 2011 at 10:29 am Leave a comment

5 From the Bookshelf: On Language, Writing and Lifelong Learning


That's me, in Iceland. I swear this has a connection to the story.

Back in the dark ages when I was an undergrad student at Tulane, the English major was divided into two separate tracks: “Literature” and “Language, Writing and Rhetoric,” or LWR.

Those of us in the LWR track were fighting a losing battle against its gradual and eventual phasing out, which meant during registration each semester you could always spot a few LWR majors frantically pacing from table to table, looking for something – anything – to sign up for that would count towards our requirements.

There was some upside. I may have missed the opportunity to take Medieval English as a foreign language my senior year, but I ended up instead in a Medieval Literature seminar focused on early Icelandic sagas. A surprisingly entertaining class taught by a professor with a passion for all things Icelandic, it’s something I never would have considered taking if it hadn’t been essentially the last English class left with an open slot. And had I not taken it, I probably wouldn’t have been so motivated to take a trip to Iceland a few years ago.

But all those “history of the language” classes? I never did get them. That’s probably why I find myself picking up all kinds of language and writing books now – some easy-to-read and fun, others a little technical and dense (and I’m not even going to mention the various squads of The Atlantic’s Word Police Academy I’ve been inducted into).

More than just a hobby, though, these kinds of books can come in handy when you’re faced with a blank page or trying to decide if it should be “toward” or “towards,” so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you. Whether you’re a recovering LWR major, want some context to make it easier to understand the quirky rules of English grammar and usage, or just have an unhealthy obsession with the language like I do, here’s my summer reading list for the classes I never took.


June 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm Leave a comment

Adjusting Your Sails: What Elizabeth Edwards Taught Me

“I do know that when [my children are] older and telling their own children about their grandmother, they will be able to say that she stood in the storm…and when the wind did not blow her way – and it surely has not – she adjusted her sails.”

– Elizabeth Edwards

Simple. Bold.

Two words, two prompts from Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop this week, and I can’t settle on just one because I think they both apply to this quote from Elizabeth Edwards.

Like so many others, I felt great sadness at the news of her death this week, even though I didn’t know her personally. Although we all knew she had incurable breast cancer, there was something about her – her strength, her resolve and, yes, her resilience in the face of unthinkable circumstances – that made her seem almost invincible. If anyone could outrun invasive cancer, surely she could.

When I saw that quote, I realized it was a great representation of how she lived her life, and also a reason why she has been such an inspiration and role model for me and countless others.

It may seem an odd choice of a quote for me in some ways. I’ll most likely never be a mother. Those were the cards I was dealt. It really wasn’t even something that was a big concern to me until the choice was taken away.

It’s certainly not on the level of losing your 16-year-old son or being diagnosed with incurable cancer or being betrayed by your husband and then dragged through the ensuing media circus his actions created.

But those of us in my situation know that it, too, represents a break, an ending, a separation from what you thought would be and suddenly isn’t. It forces you to change direction whether you want to or not. Your life is no longer going to head in the way you’d always assumed it would, and that’s that.

There’s no turning back. There’s no changing it.

You can drown in it – and some days I do – or you can adjust your sails. It’s a simple idea but bold at the same time.

Simple, but not obvious. It’s one of those “easier said than done” concepts, and that’s why it’s bold, too. It takes guts to refuse to let it consume you. And that’s what Elizabeth Edwards embodied.

She could have wallowed in her tragedies. Certainly if anyone had a right to feel sorry for themselves, she did.

But that wasn’t her. She decided that, even though she wasn’t dealt the hand she expected or wanted, she would adjust her strategy and play to the fullest.

It’s a lesson I try to take in. Remember.

We all face storms. Some are literally life changing, some are momentary blips. But a simple, bold decision to adjust the sails and even ride the waves to a new destination can mean a life well lived, whether it unfolds the way you planned or not.

I’m working on it.

December 8, 2010 at 4:52 pm 2 comments

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