Hard Days are Part of the Dream

When I initially started my business, my husband and I agreed that if we could change just one life it was going to be worth it. If we could tell one person that they mattered; it would be a success. We knew creating something from nothing was going to be a challenge on many different levels.  We had no idea how we were going to make the financial side work or how to make equipment and resources appear out of nothing, but we figured we would take it a day at a time and start building.  What we never expected was that we would have to plant our feet and protect the people and business we were creating from others that would try and tear it apart.

Sharing my story with several other business owners has been eye opening for me this week. If I think my story of struggle is bad, you should hear what others go through on a daily basis.  Big companies aren’t as concerned over a couple negative reviews, but small businesses are quite different.  They are the people that struggle daily over hard decisions.  They are the people that love their communities and the people that walk through the doors enough to sacrifice in order to make the business work.  They are the people that have a dream and grind every day to make that dream work.  They are the people that through a cup of coffee, a friendly greeting, and a warm shoulder to lean on change the lives in a community.  They do it day in and day out.  Personally, I am so grateful for many of those people that have touched my life.  One such person was why I was able to find a sport I loved so much.  He would work a full-time job and then sacrifice his spare time and resources to teach people to box.  That gym picked me up in the middle of one of the hardest times of my life.  I am FOREVER changed because of his selfless sacrifice, and that passion has continued to change people through my own business.

Mentioning the critics to these types of dream chasers, I have witnessed the tear in the eye of the business owner who has been torn apart on social media. I’ve heard the wise laughs of those who have read the hurtful lies spread on social media.  I’ve seen the heartbreak on the faces of people who are walking through law suits.  In the most hateful and vicious spirits, these people have been torn apart at least once.  They have had to fight to keep their dreams alive.  Don’t get me wrong, there are people out there that prey on people through their businesses and that is wrong, but what I have seen this week is heartbreaking on the other end of the spectrum.

Stand strong, friends. Don’t let the weak individuals sitting behind their computer deter you.  Chase the dream, change lives, and stand your ground.  Find other people to lean on in those dark times because if you ask around enough you will find them.  They are marked with the brave smile on their faces for the meaningful lives they are living, and also the deep understanding for what you are going through.

Because of those people, I’m standing stronger than ever today. I am more focused on my dream than ever and my hope is that I can reciprocate that strength to another person that could use it today.

And, if you’re one of those critics out there….get a life. Find meaning of your own and dedicate all that passion to accomplish something meaningful instead of just trying to tear others apart.  If you don’t like someone’s dreams and vision, take your business elsewhere.

You’re a loyal person. You value the people in your life and you care about others deeply.  That’s great.  What’s not so great is that not everyone in this world is like you, and unfortunately that means some black eyes for you.  At times friendships will seem brutal and heartbreaking and it will be tempting to throw in the towel.

There’s a vicious cycle in our society that looks like this:

It makes sense.  How much heartbreak can a person take before they can’t say that it’s worth it to put their heart out there anymore?  There’s a point where risk vs reward just doesn’t make sense any more.  So what happens when you reach that point?

I have found that the most irrational thoughts come at times when you’re the lowest.  Those thoughts do not truly define you and your intentions.  They have more to do with the process of working through the emotions associated with the situation.  Let yourself walk through them, as ugly as they may be.  I believe the people that don’t deal with those emotions are the ones who linger in the mess the longest.  When I identify one of these lingering people, I run because it normally ends with me being the one who pays for their lack of courage.  The saying I believe to be true is

This process can be exhausting and depressing so follow it up with a little extra care. Find the simple things that matter the most to you and surround yourself with the small inner circle that you have no doubt cares about you.  It’s okay to shut out the faces that you’re not 100% sure of for a while. Protect yourself.  You’re worth it and the advice I try to follow is out of Proverbs that says,

“Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

The most important thing you can do is to keep yourself open to new people. Friends are such a gift.  Having people in your life that can encourage, push and pull you back equals

The most powerful decision you can make is to opt out of the cycle. Be a person that becomes better from the bumps in the road, instead of just another bitter person.  Smile in the face of those who have hurt you because you realize how much wisdom you learned from that person.  Never, ever let those types of people define you.  Coming from someone who values friendship, I hope you will hang on to the original authenticity of your character you were created to have and to gift the world.

Have courage friend, stay in the fight.

 

Ten Years. May 9th, 2007.  The day that changed everything in my life was ten years ago.  It was only ten years ago, but there are days that it’s been a long ten years.  Throughout the struggle and heartbreak there are several truths that have stood the test of time.

On May 9th, I was driving to take my college finals in San Antonio when a man walked out in front of me.  He was instantly killed.  I had no idea how to move on with my life when he couldn’t. It just seemed so unfair.   The pivotal moment happened when I realized that I could live for him.  My life transformed from one of selfish gain to one of making a difference in this world to honor him.  In his name, I wade through my own fears in order to leave a lasting impact in this world.

We all face the same fears.  Fear of failure and rejection are almost enough to stop me in my tracks some days.  When I remember my reason for fighting, the impact of these fears gets smaller and smaller.

It would be so tempting to tell myself that I don’t deserve happiness because he doesn’t get any. This isn’t the path of strength, but one of selfishness.  In order to use my pain, it requires me to lay my life down for others.  There’s no time for wallowing in my own self-pity.  I have people to love, dreams to conquer and a life to live.

All because he can’t.

I’m thoroughly convinced more than ever that have a purpose and reason beyond yourself will change you in ways that leave people scratching their head.  Whether through divorce, death, or the plethora of hardships we walk through we can use this to find purpose and focus.  No one outside of that can influence the drive that keeps us pushing through.  They can’t control it or change it.  It’s too big.  It’s too important.  Honestly, that is when the transformation happens.  We have all been through tough relationships, but when they no longer control and dictate the person we are…there is true victory!

Every single day, we have a choice. Live as a victim or live as a warrior.  Live in denial or live in strength.  Whatever pathway you choose, it will be your pathway alone to reckon at the end of your life.  No one else will have to answer the question of “Did I live enough?”  So live. Find purpose and your life won’t be exhausting, but a journey of finding yourself along the way.

Live in hardship.

Live in heartbreak.

Live in tragedy.

AND

Live in victory.

Live in love.

Live in purpose.

Live in joy.

As always, I write this because he can’t. I seek joy and happiness in order to influence others, because he can’t.  I love because he can’t.  I smile today because he can’t.  I’m going to hug my family extra tight today because he has a mom with empty arms.  I’m going to cherish my friends and family today because his friends and family remember him too today.  I’m going to walk bravely through my day because he can’t.  I’m going to face my fears today because his life brings me courage.

Mothers Day, May 2007

Read the whole story! Buy the book on amazon.  “Dearly Loved Exile”

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Falling Your Way to Victory

 

F-A-I-L-U-R-E.

Failure. It hurts. It truly does.  There’s nothing pretty about falling on your face.  It doesn’t seem heroic in any way.  It just hurts.

I’m in the midst of dusting myself off after a pretty nasty fall.  Needless to say, it’s not my first fall and I hesitate to say that it’s definitely not the last either.

It takes a leap of faith to put yourself out there and to present yourself to the world on a platter.  One of the scariest phrases I’ve ever spoken is, “I think ______ is a good idea”.  I somehow mustered up the strength to put an idea out to the world and jump head in to the water.  The water had a different idea though and spit me back out.  Not only did it spit me back out, but the whip of pride and ego made sure to slap me a couple times on my way out.  All that is left is the nasty whispers of laughter that remind my soul of my failures.

It’s a horrible feeling and runs rampant in so many lives in so many different ways.  For some of us it taints our business record, while for others it’s a divorce paper and many other less than desirable circumstances.  There’s nowhere to call for rescue.  It’s just you and your failure.

It leads you to a crossroad. One path leads to a safer place that can protect and guard your heart from such torture and humiliation.  This pathway demands that you abandon dreams, ignore standards and hide in the safety and security of ignoring dreams. The cost is always your heart though.  A pathway of safety doesn’t build character in your heart; it just seems to keep it safe.

The other pathway looks like owning your failure.  Looking the people in the face that know you’ve just fallen and with a brave face, you own it.  You own the fact that you’re not perfect and that you’re vulnerable to rejection and betrayal as much as the next brave soul putting themselves out there.  You stare your failure in the face and dig deep.  Somewhere deep down in your humiliation you find a small sliver of hope that says to keep going and to focus on just one step at a time.  You’re reminded that anyone that has accomplished anything great, has learned how to overcome failure.  Anyone of great character can show you the scars from the many falls through their journey.  Success, I believe is truly a path of humbleness.

At some point though, as you dust your knees off (and for me it’s tightening up my pony tail), you realize how much greater of a person you have become.  You realize that you are no longer the same person that you once were.  The reassurance of not making the same mistake twice, quadruples the amount of courage you had before and you become grateful for the failure and even for the people that trip you up.  The same people that want to hurt you become (in a way) some of the most influential people in your life. Forgiveness becomes the only thought of them.

My faith takes hold of me in my time of failure.  It’s in these times that I know I have a solid Rock that I stand on.  Through my humiliation, my heart is open more than any other time for the love and comfort that surpasses no other.  I acknowledge that living a life of following such a loving example is going to be hard, but through Him I can stand.

Which pathway do you choose?  Which pathway do I choose?  It’s up to us.  We are never promised that it will be easy, but with a little bit of humbleness, honesty and reflection you take the next step.  You find a couple of people that keep you on your path and remind you of your “why”.  They dust you off from your fall, point you back in the right direction and you find the courage to keep going.

Your fall becomes a huge piece of your story and without it you wouldn’t be half the person you are. Now, that is a V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!

Follow Good Leaders

goodleaders

I truly believe that most of us are hardworking, goal chasers that are trying to just do the best of our short time on this earth. We aren’t trying to put anyone else down or be better than anyone else, but are trying to be the best parent, child, sibling, coworker, supervisor, worker, etc. that we can be.  However, occasionally we find ourselves getting tripped up by people outside of our control.  We find ourselves in situations that we never had planned in any of our goals.

This is my story of being tripped and getting back up a better, wiser person who actually is thankful for the lessons I learned in my fall.

Straight out of High School right into the hands of the United States Air Force quickly required me to grow up and understand how to follow. I had some good supervisors and some great supervisors.  Along the way I grew accustomed to supervisors and leaders who had tons of training and standards that I was required to meet.  They were invested in the people they supervised as the subordinate’s performance was a direct reflection on them as well.  Seven years later, fresh out of the military I entered an organization that I assumed would have high stakes in making sure the leadership and management was working.  However, what I discovered was a painful lesson that almost wrecked my life.

Here’s the truth-Not every leader or every management team is guaranteed to be someone you will want to work for.  There are people running organizations that have no business in the position.  The question is how do we identify these organizations and how do we overcome the devastation of working in one of these places?

How to identify an organization ran by a horrible leader:

  1.  Pay attention to the outside opinions of the organization. There will never be a 100% positive outlook on any organization. You will always have people that will try and pick a place apart.  Particularly, people will be jealous of successful businesses and these comments need to be taken with caution.  Such comments generally are subjective comments, such as “they don’t treat their customers good”, or “they did not give me the care I needed”. However, we have to pay attention to WHAT people are saying.  If they are saying specific things about the leader of the organization, you may want to pay attention.  Comments that I heard before being hired was; “the leader of that organization doesn’t care about people” and “I was never accepted by those people because I’m not “cool” enough”.  These were legitimate complaints that eventually were found to be sources of greater issues within the organization. In hindsight, I wish I would have identified these concerns as a potentially tough place to work.  Even if a rumor is not totally right, there is probably a hint of truth behind it.

For example, I have heard that an individual is telling people that “Janell is a drill sergeant”. Let me reassure you that as a past drill sergeant, I run my boxing club nothing like I was in basic training, but there is some truth to it.  My business is one that empowers women, and that requires discipline and respect.  I don’t put up with cattiness. I expect to see the same respect that I give to my clients.  I am teaching a skill that transcends boxing to benefit every facet of life.  I take this seriously as I envision these qualities changing lives, promoting happiness and affecting families.  So, if I come off serious, it’s because I am.  I am fully passionate about my mission and vision.

2.  Listen to your gut when you first meet the Management. On my first occasion with the leader of this organization, he asked a bizarre, very inappropriate question. At the time, I wrote it off convincing myself that maybe he was just a little “quirky”.  Realize that the flaws in the leader that you meet initially will likely be magnified by ten when you are officially working for that person.  If you see warning signs, you may want to really debate the outcome of working for such a leader.

3.  Identify a leader with a lack of emotional intelligence and take caution! You cannot expect great leadership potential from a person with low emotional intelligence. They will not only fail you but everyone else in the organization including their customers. There are not many organizations that can survive this type of leader.  Take even more caution though, if you are in an organization that relies on personal skills and communication to be a success.  The combination of low emotional intelligence and the need for interaction is a disaster.  If you work with this leader 1-on-1, be ready to be insulted, put down and unappreciated.

4.  Identify a leader who has no passion. A leader who is burned out or has no passion for the work they are in will always be a hard one to work for. They are merely going to be aiming for the minimal amount of work to simply get by.  You will be limited in your success under such a person.  If you are willing to be a minimal effort type of person, this arrangement may work for you.  However, if you are a person that shoots for the stars, beware that working under a bad leader will be a goal and vision killer.  A leader of this type will not encourage you to go above and beyond, and will tend to despise your success even when it ultimately brings them success.

The Aftermath

Once employed within an organization you are normally committing and dedicating yourself to that leader whether you see it that way or not. You have chosen that this is the organization that you can envision meeting your personal goals and objectives.   If you do not look at the opportunity in that way, you could be setting yourself up for failure by missing potential problems that could arise in the future.

Let’s say you overlook the terrible management and decide to take the job for other reasons. Before we criticize this move, I have to admit that this is what I did.  I committed myself to the organization because I believed whole heartedly in the purpose this organization was created to serve.  What I did not realize at the time was that I was committing myself not only to the organization, but also to the leader of the organization.  The management of this organization was so horrible that the naïve me could never have imagined how bad, “bad management”, could actually be.

All of those issues that I was able to overlook in the beginning soon became huge problems over time. Not only did they compound, but they eventually became my problem to deal with. His crude behavior was hurtful to not only my coworkers but to the people that we served.  I was the one to receive the complaints.  All of his behavior went against my better judgment, but he was my boss.  What was I supposed to do?  Over a year’s time, my confidence and excitement for this organization began to get beat down.  I was not only trying to serve the people of the organization, but also spent time smoothing over the issues in the wake of my poor skilled boss and then defending every action I took (even the successful ones) to him.

I came to a decision or whether I was going to allow this boss to beat every ounce of character out of me. Was I willing to become a duplicate of what he was…egotistical, mean-spirited, defensive, overbearing and explosive?

This impossible decision would have been avoided if I had identified and avoided this type of organization from the start. However, now I had to decide between two drastic pathways. On the one side, I love the job.  I was deeply devoted to the cause and the people.  On the other hand, I would continue to be beat down by the leadership above me.  In the end, I was confident that there was no job, no organization that was worth sacrificing my character over.   I wanted to make a difference, to change lives, and that would never be a possibility under a boss such as this.

I am reminded that we learn not only from our mentors, but from those terrible experiences as well. An experience such as I have gone through has perhaps taught me more about being a leader than any school, class, or outstanding mentor could have.  All of the heartache this leader caused me has shown me what is important.  As I move on in the future, I will be considering the overall picture of how I truly fit in with an organization so that I may be successful…the vision, the goals, the objectives…and ultimately…the  boss!  I hope you will too.

Perhaps the bigger challenge is more for those who are in leadership roles. Look behind you and see if people are following.  That is the true sign of a leader.  Remember your people are counting on you to lead the organization, to be passionate and to have emotional intelligence.  Leadership can be a slippery slope into burn out, bitterness and complacency.  Don’t slide.  You impact your people more than you think.

 

She’s a Fighter

This last weekend the ladies of PGB ran a 5k to raise Breast Cancer Awareness.  We talked about prevention, listened as stories of cancer has devastated families and remembered all our own heroes that have had cancer.

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One of the most meaningful moments for me though was looking over a table of candles with names written on the label.  Each one representing a beautiful life lost.  Each one representing the families left behind and the years of struggle to get used to a new normal without their loved one in it.

If there’s anything I truly believe in though, it is the power of using the things that have hurt us in this world for power and courage to compel us to accomplish great things.

I grew up with a beautiful woman named Debbie.  She just seemed to be a constant in my life in a little trailer park in Page Arizona. Throughout my High school years she was at church every Sunday sharing words of wisdom with me.  When I think of my child hood, I think of Debbie.  It’s just so hard to imagine that small town without her in it.  How could anyone possibly move on without her there?  It’s just so hard going back and realizing that she’s not there anymore.  In fact she hasn’t been there for many years now.

There’s just nothing right about it.  There should be more than just a candle burning for her.

This is what cancer does.  In the wake of so much heartache and loss we are required to move on.  Is that a complete joke? One of my dear sweet friends is preparing for her world to crumble in this same manner.  Is there any hope or happiness that could come from a whole that will never be filled?

It would be so easy for us after our loved ones take their last breath to give up and to lose our heart.  However, this inward cave of devastation that seems so alluring can wreck a soul for a lifetime.

If we can listen to our own hearts in the midst, we will likely hear a small voice within us all that says “Remember who she was”.  “Remember her character and the words of wisdom she so courageously gave you”.  “Remember how she cared about you”. “Remember how she changed your world”.

When you remember, it gives you a strength that changes the world.  When you live for her and dedicate your challenges to her you become unbreakable.  It’s the greatest gift to her legacy we can give her.  The gift of our life.  It doesn’t bring her back or wipe away the tears, but it does change the world in her honor.

Love deeper, fight harder, go farther.

She proved she was a fighter with undeniable strength.  Let’s pick up those gloves and fight harder for her.  This one’s for you Debbie.

She's a Fighter
She’s a Fighter

Define You. I’ll Define Me.

define

It’s time I come out of my own dark closet. I’m tired of hiding who I really am and trying to pretend to be someone I’m not.  On the door to my closet it has post it notes saying “fit in a box”, “don’t disappoint”, “make everyone else happy” and “This is acceptable behavior”.

It’s time I announce that I have no “box”, I’m not disappointed in who I am, I will never make everyone happy and the only definition of acceptable behavior for me is mine alone to define.  So, here you go, I’m coming out of my closet.

I joined the military at age 18, and it was a perfect fit.  I see things black and white or shall I say right and wrong.  In the military there are rules and they keep it pretty simple.  Follow the rules and you will do great.  I’m a trusting person and so I typically trust that rules were made for a reason.  I have been known to break some rules, but it never feels comfortable and always brings high anxiety.  I’m sure I will live a shorter life than what was originally intended for me due to the anxiety of breaking rules and I’ll be honest I have been caught breaking rules  on only a very few, limited occasions.  I guess that makes me crafty as well.  However, that never stops me from feeling the burden of the guilty conscience.

In the military you are taught to have each other’s “six”.  Basic training teaches you to watch out for others.  If you were amazing at folding underwear, you folded everyone’s underwear.  You were never too proud to reach out and take care of someone else.  This was never a hard concept for me to grasp.  Under this skin of mine, I think I have battle armor on that was designed to take some bullets for other people.  I have no idea why I value other people so much.  I think the homeless man is just as valuable as the millionaire.  The intrinsic value of each and every person is equal in my mind.  I don’t worship the big movie stars and I think People magazines are a complete waste of time.  I would rather spend my time in a retirement home hearing stories about life during World War II.  I don’t care about your RV, the size of your house, or how much money you have in your retirement.  I tend to care about the love that fills these things.  What memories have you made in your RV and home?  What dreams are you visualizing with your retirement account?  Is your home filled with memories of the life you lived or is it sterile as a hospital?  I will be more impressed by the home that may be tiny, but is filled with love that can be felt by any stranger.  A mansion sterile of any love or character will feel like walking through Walmart on black Friday to me.

If I know you and love you, I will have your back.  It will break my heart when yours is broken.  I will be upset for days when I hear a friend is going through hell.  Normally, not one to stand up for myself, I find myself unable to stand it when someone else is mistreated.  I will likely say something to the person who is rolling her eyes at someone else and Heaven forbid you mess with my loved ones.  I will hold a grudge forever if you mess with my people.  I will try to forgive you, but trust me when I say that I will lose total respect for you if you think you are better than anyone else.  I believe that only Jesus was perfect and know there isn’t anyone that can fill those shoes.  The rest of us are just a bunch of messed up people trying to wade through this insane world.  Consequently, I don’t hesitate to stand by a friend that has made a horrible mistake and support them as they walk through the nightmare they created.

Here’s the deal, if you don’t want someone who will defend you and walk through hell with you…I’m not your girl.  If you don’t like me because I care too much and it makes you uncomfortable…I’m not your girl.  If you want to keep walls up and I make you uncomfortable because I make you feel vulnerable…I’m not your girl.

Don’t expect me to ever worship anyone for their money, fame or fortune.  That’s not me.  Never invite me to a fancy dinner or party and expect me to look fashionable.  I won’t.  I’ll let you know that I appreciate that other people treasure what the celebs wear, but I don’t.  Your fashion is not mine.  I happen to go for comfort.  Unless on very special occasions, expect me to be in jeans.  That’s me and I promise I won’t be offended if you don’t invite me.  Don’t expect me to put on a fake face for anyone of “high importance”.  I will respect them as much as anyone else.  Don’t expect me to laugh at shallow jokes or to laugh to make everyone else feel important.  I won’t.  If you see emotion coming out of me, you will know that it’s real.  I cry and I laugh as much as possible.  If my emotions make you uncomfortable, find a new friend.

Most importantly, if you are my friend I expect you to be loyal back.  I don’t want to wonder what is being said behind my back.  If you have a problem I expect you to tell me, not everyone else.  If you have broken my trust, I will have walls up against you.  What I confide in you will be minimal.  If you know nothing about me, it’s probably because I don’t trust you.  I’ll also give you this about me, I am not perfect.  I make bad decisions.  I try my hardest every day to do my best, but I fall short all the time.  I say some things I wish I could take back every day.  I pray daily that my words fell on your ears in the way I intended and not in the way it came out.  I can be intense, focused and perfectionists in a way that may make you feel I am disappointed in you.  Let me reassure you that it is hardly ever about you.  It is most likely a feeling of inadequacy with myself.  I am most likely talking myself off the ledge and trying to replace my negative thoughts with positive ones (I’m working on that).

I’m exhausted from trying to be someone else.  Take it or leave it.  Even if you leave it, you should definitely come out of your closet too.  There’s no sense in us trying to be someone we aren’t.  Define you and I’ll define me.  It just so happens that opposites do attract.