My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Learning From Failure On The Road To Success

This semester in my lectures for the College Success course I teach, I presented a new story to inspire the students in their college struggle. It came from the book, From Failure To Promise: An Uncommon Path To Professoriate. It is the life story of Dr. C. Moorer a business professor in the Chicago area. He also is President of Dr. C. Moorer & Associates. It is an organizational foundation that is guided by the thoughts behind this quote -- "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' " Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They offer students and educators scholarships and work on issues related to global poverty.

I shared Dr. Moorer’s story with my college students as it is a story of a young man with dreams of success interrupted by failure. Sad to say over the years I have seen failure derail college students from reaching their dreams. Some of them just give up and that mentality is the basis for much of the statistics concerning people who do not finish their college education. There are not too many people who move from high school to college and then on to business success without any periods of failure in their lives. All of us experience failure at some level. The key is what do we do when we fail? Do we just give up and spiral down into more difficulties or do we rise up and move forward?

Dr. Moorer shares how after high school he left for Engineering School with a dream to be an engineer. His background was that of a good Christian home with supportive parents. Educationally he went to a Magnet School in Detroit and he admits it was in a poor crime ridden area. In the story though the reader understands he had a strong Christian faith that bolstered him and that gratefully came from sincere Christian parents.

He had the passion for engineering and was even given an opportunity to intern at an auto company. Yet he states that he flunked out of GMI Engineering Institute after being placed on suspension. I have been on Suspension committees in the past so I know what he went through. He honestly shares what I have observed in a number of students over the time I have worked at colleges and a university. His public school education had not adequately prepared him for the rigors of an engineering education. There were concerns of his parent’s health as well that weighed on his mind during the semesters that added stress. There is also a statement in the text as he was going into his finals pictures well his fear of failure which is often a self-fulfilling prophecy no matter how hard the student studies in the end.

What was refreshing about his story is he is honest instead of trying to pass blame on a professor or the system. He could have blamed God as he mentions he was praying not to go on suspension. But he did not. That is a testimony of his parents’ faith and the depth of his personal Christian faith. He could have given up and simply went for a menial job or worse with bitterness gone into a spiraling down life of trouble. Of course from the book title we know he did not do that. With faith that God had more for him in life he moved forward. He started at a local community college to retake the courses he failed. This time he had much better success with his grades. He also captured a new passion of Business Management so had a shift in his career direction.

Educationally he finished a Bachelor degree and then moved into success in the Business world. He then finished a MBA degree in Organizational Management. Finally he finished a PhD in Business. By this time his career path had shifted to desiring to be a tenured professor in a Business school. He shares how this came to be as well in the book. When he reaches that point in his life he also begins to have this dream of acting on the quote listed at the beginning by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That dreams is where he presently is focused on helping build up young people who care about the people suffering around the world.

Who would have thought a College flunk –out could have a continual spiraling upwards story such as this? Dr. Moorer is a testimony that when faced with failure one does not need to stay in that state of mind and station in life. For him he kept dreaming and moving forward. The story shows the persistent hard work he put in to keep moving forward. At the same time another key to his success is his steady faith in his God that was a foundation to keep him moving in a positive direction. This is a story if you are an educator that should be shared with as many young people as possible. They need to be aware that failure will come but they need to be aware they can move from failure to success. It is also a powerful story to help anyone dealing with failure to encourage them to keep moving forward with renewed dedication and new dreams.

Reflection – Think over a failure in your past or maybe you are enduring a time of failure presently. What did you learn from the failure experience? How did it change your future? Also take note that Dr. Moorer’s story keeps growing with new dreams and advancements. Is there a new dream that you have that you would like to pursue?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Appreciating Passion for Creativity in Artisans

Whether it is browsing through Chicago street fairs, small towns across America or little family run shops along the Texas/Mexico border I have always enjoyed viewing the creative skill that goes into the crafts of pottery, tapestries, figurines and the like. Possibly because I have zero artistic talent I am often awestruck with the artistry and painstakingly detail found in many art crafts. At art fairs there is opportunity to speak with the artist and hear his or her story of their passion concerning the creative process. When in a store and the crafts are on the shelf one can only wonder about the artisan who did the creating of the craft piece.

What would we hear if we could hear the stories of the artisans being the pieces of arts and crafts in store shelves or street fairs? Travis Whitehead, a newspaper reporter in the Brownsville and Harlingen, Texas area, who I have had the pleasure to know over the past number of years, has used his creativity and storytelling skills to bring to life the stories of artisans. These stories can be found in his first book, Artisans of Michoacan – By Their Hands. (Click on the title to learn how to purchase a copy).

The Artisans he focused in on are from the state of Michoacan in Mexico. He spent years of travel to that area of Mexico getting to know the local artisans interviewing them to hear their stories of their lives and why they followed the career path of being an artisan. He delves into the variety of crafts that can be found throughout that region of Mexico. Some of the craft covered are pottery, weavings of cloth and baskets, lacquer ware, metal crafts and musical instruments. My favorite story came at the end of the book. Since one of my passions is guitars it came to no surprise to me that a story of a guitar maker in the town of Paracho was the most important in my view. Travis showcases the story of Carlos Pina who had been hand making guitars in this small town for the past 43 years. Pina’s pride in making a quality handmade guitar rings throughout the interview. His story shows how his one son is following in the footsteps of his father, as the father Carlos teaches his son the artistic trade of guitar making.

Reading the many stories I saw commonalities come through each of the stories that we all can learn and grow in our own career paths. Each person whether their craft was pottery or weaving had a personal passion for what they were doing. There is no sign that they were weaving simply to just get by. Obviously for them it was their bread and butter economically but they show a deep personal interest in their artistic craft. Because of this personal passion they had a positive sense of pride in their workmanship. Also in most of the stories I saw a desire not to stay stagnant but to continually improve and learn how to do their craft better. This mindset relates well to lifelong learning. It is easy to get into a rut in any kind of work if there is no desire to improve or continue to grow. I saw the growing and improving mindset in each of the stories of the artisans Travis interviewed.

Travis by using his artistic talent of capturing the hearts and passion of the artisans’ stories helps each of us appreciate the work that goes into the arts and crafts we see in stores that sell handmade crafts. By hearing their stories we also can reflect on the artistry of our own callings as teachers, nurses, engineers, or customer services representatives. Do we carry an attitude of passion and continual growth into our daily work? How can we keep improving in the work we have been called on to do?

Reflection: Next time you are at a craft store or street market take some time to explore some of the handmade crafts. Imagine the stories behind the craft piece you are looking at. Think over your occupation and write down three ways you can improve and learn more to improve your work.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Magic of Renewed Career Passion

There are various reasons why a passion for a career can be crushed. Sometimes it is negativity in the workplace from co-workers or dysfunctional management teams. Sometimes it is life events such as health concerns or losing significant people in our lives. Sometimes it is just plain burn-out. What can we do to renew the passion for our career? There is no one perfect way for everyone but one thing I learned recently through a movie is be open to that which is seen and unseen in finding the way to renewing a career passion.

The movie I speak of is The Magic of Belle Isle. The main character is Monte Wilder played by Morgan Freeman, ( which is what drew me to the movie). He is a novelist who has written popular Western novels. He is spending a summer in a tourist town Bell Isle. His nephew helps set him up in a summer home of a friend and encourages him to write. The viewer quickly discovers that Monte has lost all his desire to write. First it comes across that it is because of alcohol that he doesn’t write, but soon the truth comes out is that the alcohol is a result of the pain of his wife dying of cancer years earlier. Monte is disabled due to an accident that ruined a promising sports career when he was younger and was first married. He was surprised his wife stayed with him after the accident and through many years of marriage. He had been wheel chair bound since that accident.

Thinking over all that has affected Monte’s life it is easy to see how he could be so bitter clinging to his bottle of liquor each day. It brought a question to my mind. Does remaining bitter make for a better life? Obviously no by seeing the result of his life in the movie. The good news is that people can change from bitter to brighter in their outlook on life. Sometimes in our career life that change of outlook is needed. Sometimes we can change it through our own will many times it is helped by our connections with others around us. In Monte’s case help came in the form of a single mother with three daughters that befriend him. The middle daughter is a pre-teen who once she hears Monte is an author wants him to mentor her in writing. By the end of the movie Monte regains his passion for writing and gives up his passion for drinking.

A couple of important ideas that came across to me in the movie was Monte’s emphasis on imagination. He states, “imagination is the most powerful force ever made available to human kind.” That is so true that creativity and the imagination add so much to our life existence. Also in my mind it is a pointer towards the fact that we are created and should be seeking the Creator of all things. Then in speaking of creativity Monte encourages the young girl to learn to describe what is there. Then he goes a step further to always look for what is not there. That thought of what is not there helps our imagination build new possibilities in our lives. What was there in Monte’s life was bitterness and despondency. What was not there in his life, were new friendships and possible ways to rekindle his writing. Thankfully in the end he is open to seeking after what was not there in his life.

Then as a person who enjoys reading there was an important quote about reading from the mother as they were having their first dinner with Monte “A book is a friend that does what no friend can do, be quiet when you are trying to think.” In our noisy world we need to have times to quietly read and reflect over our reading.

I always enjoy the rare movies like The Magic of Belle Isle that are funny, thoughtful and touching. This is a movie that afterwards one can reflect over and learn truths about our life experiences.

Reflection: What is not there in your life that you would like to work towards having in your life? How is your career and work aspect of your life at this point in time? Is there a new perspective you can go after to reignite new passion in your work?