January 23, 2015

10 Lessons Learned From 1 Year Of Blogging

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
  - Maya Angelou

On January 23, 2014, with great trepidation, I gingerly tapped the "publish" button and sent sailing my first blog post. It was like showing off a newborn baby - hoping no one thinks it's ugly. It was simple, and it was profound and I almost fell off my chair when 46 people read it. It was titled: Maybe Success Is Just Not Giving Up and here is what I posted:

 I LOVE this! ( <=== My only original contribution to the post. Don't judge me.)

Genius is only the power of making continuous efforts. The line between failure and success is so fine that we scarcely know when we pass it: so fine that we are often on the line and do not know it. How many people have thrown up their hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience, would have achieved success. As the tide goes clear out, so it comes clear in. In business, sometimes, prospects may seem darkest when really they are on the turn. A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success. There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.
- Elbert Hubbard, 1856 – 1915

Looking back one year later, having shared over 70 blog posts on a host of topics that have been read by 15,835 people, that original post seems very fitting to re-share in my anniversary post. So - do I consider myself to be a "successful" blogger? What does that even mean? I'm not trying to "sell" anything so there is no income to measure. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind about anything so I have no "converts" to report. 

 “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
  - Ernest Hemingway

What blogging is to me is writing - and I love writing - and I am writing, so I guess that makes me a "successful" writer/blogger. 

Writing is bringing forth the intangible contents of my heart into a tangible form and sending them out into the wide expanse. It's a place where I can think out loud and then turn those thoughts loose to seek other thoughts that are broadcasting on the same frequency, and when they meet, it causes a spark of realization that none of us are alone - even with our thoughts.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” -Ana├»s Nin

So today, on my blogging anniversary, I thought I'd share with you what I've learned from one year of blogging. Here goes:

1. I love writing. I love writing more than eating...and that is a big deal. (OK sometimes I love writing while eating, but only chocolate!) There are very few activities that I'm passionate about or can lose myself in - but writing is one where I can and often do.

 “I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” - James A. Michener

2. I've learned to recognize my own unique voice. Not only have I become familiar with my voice but finding and honoring that voice has brought with it a long awaited sense of freedom. 

“Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for when they scrawl their names in the snow.”  - Margaret Atwood

3. I've come to know and appreciate other voices that I wouldn't have heard any other way. Bloggers tend to create a sense of community among themselves and as the year has gone on, I've found several of those communities where I enjoy reading and responding. Reading is to writing what cooking is to eating.

 “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” - Stephen King

4. Writing focuses noticing. The passing of time is a blur. If we blink we may miss something very important. Writing causes me to blink in slow motion. It gives me a cause to pay attention - to notice things that I otherwise might have lost.

“Write what should not be forgotten.”
 - Isabel Allende

5. Writing is cathartic There is something about writing that's a lot like talking to a friend. Often a friend doesn't have to say a word for the answers you need to become crystal clear. The blank screen is a friend waiting, with rapt anticipation - offering no interruptions and never changing the topic before I've exhausted all of my thoughts or feelings on it. Best of all, those feelings can be revisited again to be re-evaluated, weighed, measured or changed as more information or greater experience allows or requires.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
  - Anne Frank

“Tears are words that need to be written.”
  - Paulo Coelho

6. I've learned a lot! I've learned so much about myself. I've learned a lot from other bloggers and blog posts and books that I've enjoyed reading. I've learned I'm not nuts - or at least not nuts alone. There is a whole other breed living among the normals. People who like me also feel compelled to fill up blank spaces with words and stories. What a relief!

“Indeed, learning to write may be part of learning to read. For all I know, writing comes out of a superior devotion to reading.”  - Eudora Welty

7. Creating is an essential aspect of my life. Since I wrote my first poem in 4th grade, writing has been an important part of me. While raising my 6 children - that being a creative process all it's own, I did very little writing. My stories were being poured into those little minds to be forgotten and sometimes trampled on when those little minds became teens and beyond. (The same way I trampled on my parents stories.) But an empty nest brings back that longing to create and it boils as an undercurrent of discontent until it finds a place to flow freely again.

...Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
- Kurt Vonnegut

8. I am diverse and complex in my interests. That's why my topics have a wide range and may seem random and disconnected. It's a bit of how I experience the world - in a scattered, haphazardness that makes sense mostly to me.

 “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”
  - E.L. Doctorow

9. It's not so much about the readers as it is the writer. I learn as I write. I understand as I write. My sense of wonder becomes expansive and I want to learn, understand, write and then wonder even more.

 “I write to give myself strength. I write to be the characters that I am not. I write to explore all the things I'm afraid of. ”
 - Joss Whedon

10. I will blog and write as for as long as I can still type and think and wonder, and appreciate and love and....

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”
 - Rainer Maria Rilke
A special thank you to all of you who have taken time out of your lives to let me share my thoughts with you. Thank you to those of you who have shared your thoughts back. When two minds join they create a third mind that is bigger than either one of the two. I've enjoyed sharing those experiences with you!

“There are three rules for writing... Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
  - W. Somerset Maugham

January 18, 2015

Why Are You SO Sensitive?

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. - Mark Twain

neu·ro·sis n.   A psychological state characterized by excessive anxiety compensated for by various defense mechanisms and lacking evidence of neurological or other organic disease. Also see Anita.

Those of you who know me know that I'm exaggerating. Or am I? (Picture one eyebrow going up in a quizzical kind of John Belushi way.) 

I was recently watching a news program that suggested that worry is a sign of high intelligence. (Picture me patting myself on my highly developed brain.) Maybe it goes along with that saying: "If you're not scared to death, you're not paying attention."

In any case - I was recently challenged with a few non life threatening but routine disturbing physical issues. After going the conventional medical route and finding no answers I went back to my good buddy Clyde who is an intuitive healer and who also practices kinesiology. (More about Clyde here)

Clyde told me bluntly "What you have is STRESS."  I argued that "I don't feel stressed. I don't have anything to be stressed about!"  At that point he told me that I am so stressed that I don't even notice it anymore. It's become a habitual way of being.

"What do you mean I'm stressed? Don't most people keep their shoulders shoved up into their ears braced for whatever may come next? Doesn't everyone breathe super shallowly in order to listen to and anticipate changes in their surroundings? Isn't ibuprofen a food group? Am I missing something?  NO. I miss nothing, and apparently that's the problem. 

I'm constantly surveying my environment and taking in every minute detail. I catch the tiniest nuance of emotion on the faces of even people passing by and I'm affected by those expressions. I can seriously feel discomfort from seeing a plant that needs watering - even if it's not MY plant, and I cried my eyes out when I had to have a very old tree cut down because it felt as though all of nature was mourning. My husband calls me a druid. 
Being so keenly aware can sometimes be overwhelming but here's what makes it stressful: the vast majority of what I observe and am affected by is completely outside of my control (and none of my business.) 

I've never understood what causes my hypersensitivity or why others didn't seem to be as affected by things so I went in search of answers. What I found was very enlightening.

Apparently as many as 1/5 of the population can be classified as Highly Sensitive People or H.S.P. for short. I had no idea that I had company! I've lived my life believing that these feelings were unique to me and that something must be "wrong" with me.

Not only am I not alone but there is tons of information on the subject and even help available for those of us who fall into this category. (I ordered a book just before writing this post.) There's even an online self test to find out if you lean toward being highly sensitive. 

I took that test. A score of 14 is considered highly sensitive. I scored a 22 and would have scored higher if I hadn't started feeling silly about check-marking all the boxes!  Does that make me a H.H.S.P.? (hyper-highly sensitive person?) I'm surely tipping the scale toward the "over-the-top" range.

Apparently hypersensitivity is even more common in people with A.D.D. The inability to filter stimuli from our environments often causes sensory overload. For example: Going to a restaurant for a nice relaxing dinner is impossible for me - if other people are also there. Being unable to filter what's going on around me, I unwillingly hear all the conversations in a 4 table radius because I can't not pay attention to what's being said. (It just occurred to me I'd make a great spy!)

Small things to most people are huge things for H.S.P. types. For me, a raised voice is screaming. If someone gets excited or fervent about making a point, it comes across as hostility and anger and I feel defensive and attacked. I am also obscenely easily startled. Small unexpected noises or the sudden appearance of someone in a room who I didn't hear approaching can cause me to both jump out of my skin and become combative. (You know that flight or fight thing we're all suppose to have? My flight button seems to be stuck on off leaving me with only the fight option.)

Strong smells, bright lights (especially flashing lights), too much noise, crowds etc. cause stimulus overload for me. There was a time while at a symposium on a university campus where this kicked into high gear. As part of the price package, boxed lunches were provided at tables in a large courtyard to be picked up by attendees. There were 2000 people attending the symposium so the cattle drive to the tables was in itself overwhelming. When I finally made my way to the table, retrieved my lunch, and turned around, all I could see was a sea of faces drowning in a wave of endless motion. I was so overtaken that I turned away and bee-lined back to the dorm room where I was housed and stayed there secluded for the rest of the day.

I've also become sure that if I live a horrible life, when I die, I'll go to Vegas!  One trip there scared me straight! The flashing lights, ringing bells, smoke and whistles - combined with crowds of people who apparently enjoy those types of things? Shoot me. Shoot me NOW!

Stress  is a key contributing factor in so many disease processes. The number of studies that point to the dangers of not mitigating the stress factors in our lives are countless and the jury is in with a verdict of "STOP IT or SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES." Given this information and Clyde's recent assessment of me, I've recently started concentrating on being aware of my own state. I'm paying attention to my breathing, to my posture and purposely willing my shoulders to relax. I'm exercising more regularly and trying to get to sleep at a decent hour.

So, not surprisingly it seems that living in a noisy world shared by millions of people with all the accompanying smells, sights, and sounds could make anyone with hyper-sensitivity neurotic. (I just noticed my shoulders creeping toward my ears again and took a few deep breaths and willed them to relax. Must have been the memory of Vegas!)

I can't believe how stress relieving it's been learning that my super sensitivity doesn't mean there's something wrong with me. It just means I'm wired differently than the majority of people and that I need to take steps to learn coping skills to help me adjust to the things that just seem "normal" to the majority of people.

Believe it or not, there are some great aspects of hypersensitivity. I can tell when someone needs help, a kind word, or a smile. I have a lot of empathy (sometimes WAY too much) for others so I tend to see all sides of situations. Being a highly sensitive person makes me a natural peacemaker since I have a low threshold for contention of any kind. I'm very aware of my surroundings (when I'm not daydreaming) and that has helped me to develop good social skills. 

In the end, even though being highly sensitive can be uncomfortable I'd much rather feel too much than not to feel enough. "Knowing" they say "is half the of the battle." Maybe living on a deserted isle is the other half?

I hope by sharing these personal tidbits that if you're one of "us" or know someone who you suspect might also share these traits, this information will be of help. The truth is out there!  Let's spread the word!

Are you or do you know someone who is highly sensitive? Please share what coping skills have been successful. I'd love to hear your journey!

January 14, 2015

My Dog Owns Me

Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. -Mark Twain 

The pic above is of my Maltese Tempe. I had no idea that if I'd only added and S and T at the end of her name, it would have been much more fitting. Yes, Tempest suits her perfectly! This fluffy little creature couldn't be more adorable if she tried. (And she doesn't.) Don't be fooled however by her silky fur and cute and cuddly appearance. Cesar Millan would freak if he saw her in action.

First I must add here that she only owns me. I should also add that my last dog Maggie also owned me. I'm beginning to see a pattern here. Since I'm the only common denominator in these two ownings, I'm having to face the fact that it MAY be the tiniest bit my fault.

Tempe plays me like Beethoven tickling the ivories. I may as well be a marionette with all the corresponding strings that make me dance. She's not an outright teeth showing, snarling, attack beast - but what she does is just as effective! Here are a few of her most winning tactics.

1. She makes this high pitched (apparently silent to my husband) whine whenever she wants something. It's not just mildly annoying. It's water dripping on the forehead annoying. It's sleep deprivation and starvation annoying and she is relentless with it until she gets whatever it is that she's set her heart on.

2. She looms and stares. Not only does this adorable ball of fluff hang around doing the whining noise and driving needles into my brain, she combines it with a hole boring stare. It doesn't matter what else is going on around her. It's useless to call her name or try to distract her. She's like Eddie fixed on Fraser - laser focused with icy precision. There is absolutely no ignoring it. I've tried to pretend - not to notice and to keep from making eye contact but that just ups the volume of the piercing whine to almost mind numbing.

3. She believes all free time is Tempe time. If I sit down she's on my lap or bringing a toy to play with. Just being on my lap is adorable. That's not what I mean however. When she's on my lap it means I need to scratch her back. If I stop or slow down she grunts or growls until I start back up. IT'S SO ANNOYING. She doesn't do this to my husband who can sit and read for hours without being disturbed. She'll sit on the sofa and sleep next to him. THAT is even MORE annoying!

4. She does guilt better than my grandmother! If I do manage to withstand the icy stare and out last the piercing whine, she sits looking adorably dejected and abused - as though I threw our her favorite toy or didn't feed her (the home cooked meals I prepare for her.)  It's so far beyond pitiful that if there were such s thing as Doggie Oscars, she'd win Best Actress paws down!

5. She disses me at the door. This may be the cruelest thing of all. When my husband (who does NOT cook for, play with non-stop, feed, groom, do endless back scratches for, and is not at all moved by her goings on) comes home, she sings the daddy song. The daddy song is no mere happy bark of acknowledgement. No. Instead its a full blown opera complete with glass breaking notes that any mesa-soprano would envy. When I come home, it's a supreme effort for her to lift her head from her comfy pillow and look in my general direction!

Am I bitter? You bet! Who wouldn't be? If I wanted to go through this I would have adopted a toddler instead of getting a dog! That being said - and I hate to admit this, I wouldn't trade her for the world. Yes, I could have taken her to "obedience" training early on and trained the sass right out of her. I could have opted to have a dog who would do my bidding, jump at my every command, and heel on demand. I could have had a slipper getting, paw giving, rolling over type of dog if I'd wanted it that way, but I'd hate to live that life myself so who am I to impose it on another creature? So I guess there's nothing more to do than to linger on in indentured servitude - loving every minute of it.

January 12, 2015

Mars and Venus Revisited

"What do you mean it doesn't go together?"
 What a strange thing man is; and what a stranger thing woman.  
-Lord Byron

OK. So we get that men are from Mars and women are from Venus - two completely alien species trying to come together into some sort of mutually satisfactory existence. (What could possible go wrong?) 

Let me start by saying that this is NOT a male bashing post. If anything I sympathize with men. They have to try to figure out and live among women. I've been a woman all my life and I'm no closer to understanding them than I was at the onset.To say that women are complex is simplifying complexity to sub-silly.

The frustration we seem to inflict on men was summed up on a plaque that sat in my grandmothers kitchen - put there no doubt by my grandfather. It read:

"God created the earth and rested. God created man and rested. Then God created women. Since then neither God nor man has rested."

That being said - men themselves really ARE different creatures. In many ways I admire those differences - except for the ones that horrify me and scar me for life. Here are some examples. 

1.They can relax without feeling guilty. My husband can read for hours without anxiety. If I even think about sitting down with a book all I can think about is all of the other things that could, should, and would get done if I don't. If I resist the guilt and grab said book. I get antsy. I can hear the laundry reproducing and calling my name and the dust crashing loudly onto the surfaces around me.

I believe that female guilt is a left over from Eve being the first to eat the forbidden fruit. Since that time it's been passed down from mother to daughter through generations of time with no foreseeable end in sight.

2. The word or concept of "should" is powerless on them. It rolls off their backs like water off of ducks' backs. I'm SO jealous!

3. They have little to no "mess shame." If someone comes to the door and the house is a mess, they will not only answer the door, but they'll invite whoever it is in - even if your hair is sticking up and you're in your pajamas without makeup. 

4. They will eat things women wouldn't even THINK about. Case in point: My husband found  (and I use the word "found" in it's most literal sense since these things had been lost for decades,)  a can of Vienna Sausages. He popped the top and chomped them down like that was even close to OK. It wasn't until he'd finished quite a few of them that he noticed something unsavory on the bottom of the can and he still didn't freak! He just said "That's probably enough of those." He said it calmly - as though he might not actually die or something??!

5. Men don't seem to be as affected by foul smells as women. (Especially their own.) Maybe this is because they've been subjected to overexposure of toxic locker rooms for so long that all of their olfactory senses have long since been burned away. 

Most women would not go fanning their armpits and dripping sweat (I mean perspiration) in a crowded room. We prefer to retreat until we're "fresher." My sons nearly killed me with the armpit fanning in a closed mini-van after football practice and took pride in their ripeness like it was a badge of honor!

This list could go on for millennia and I'm sure has.  I shudder to think of what a man's list of women's oddities would look like. The idea that we still somehow manage to successfully inhabit the same planet and even the same living space is an amazing feat. 

There is no doubt that men and women are different, but I can't imagine a world without both. Without men, women would never understand the concept of socially acceptable since we would never have been exposed to it's opposite. Men would also suffer. Doing gross things would be meaningless without someone there to be grossed out by them.

Since somehow our spaceships both crashed onto the same orb, I suppose it behooves us to look for things to appreciate about one another. Even as I was writing my list above, I wasn't feeling unkindly toward the male population. Rather I was feeling envious. I dream of what it would be like to be so free - so totally unencumbered by the frivolous worries that often vex the female gender. How would it be to stop worrying about constant judgement from others and even self recrimination?

I believe there was a divine plan in our landing here together. It seems we have a lot to teach and learn from one another. Now if we can just keep from driving each other crazy...

January 9, 2015

The Corner of Blah and Funk

I prefer highs and lows to an even keel. Moderation is never something I've been good at. - Jenny Eclair

I'm in a funk. I'm in a funk's funk and I'm sure that the -13 degree windchill and blowing snow with only the briefest appearances of the sun over the past few days have nothing at all to do with it. (And other fantasies I entertain.)

It can't still be a holiday hangover at this point! It's already the 9th of the new year. I'm SO over Christmas. Once I admitted to myself that moving the decorations from one room to another didn't really constitute putting them away I got right to it and they're so much closer to away now than they've ever been.

Add to that the fact that I made the mistake of reading an article on how to become an MVP Legacy Builder by John Burton while in said funk and there's a recipe for disaster that's being cooked up for dinner tonight! (At least it's low fat.)

The article talked a lot about how important it is to find your passion since passion is the driving force in all success. Was it helpful? Not today. Well written? Yes. Full of great information? You bet! The non helpful part was that I have about as much passion about anything at the moment as I have for boning a particularly stinky fish. (I did bookmark it for later though.)

At least I can now see this passionlessness  is not only a bummer but may also be heralding in the demise of my legacy! (And yes passionlessness is a word. It might be a brand new, hot off the press word, but lets count it.)

Now this is usually the part in the blog post where I'd switch over to something cheerful or helpful like  tips on how just a change of perspective might help, or maybe share some ideas for overcoming some trial but this time - I'm here to confess - I've got nothing!

So...this post is a chance for you to tell me: What's your best solutions for digging out of a funk? If you're feeling passion and it is the driving force that's propelling you forward toward a meaningful goal - how did you happen upon it. Was it by quest or by accident? I've heard of both through my SPARKS interviews but I hate to admit my current quest is coming up dry. Does this mean I need to wish an accident upon myself? I shudder.

Load me up with your best stuff. I hear the sun'll come up tomorrow and I want to be armed and ready to go!

PHOTO: Picture of mask painted by Sarah Kopp

January 8, 2015

Holiday Hangover

I shouldn't say I'm looking forward to leading a normal life, because I don't know what normal is. - Martina Navratilova

So...we've jingled the bells, dashed through the snow, and spent very few silent nights. We've harked the angels, heard sleigh bells ringing, and let it snow. The nearly naked pines have made their way to the curb - less the needles we'll still be finding till early May. The "not quite right" gifts have been bagged and returned, exchanged or re-gifted and the last vestiges of the sweets have been distributed evenly between our bellies, hips and thighs.

THE ball of conspicuous consumption has ceremoniously dropped in Times Square. Resolutions have been made, oaths have been sworn and both have since been discarded with the Christmas cards we received in the mail. Holiday season ala 2014 is in the books. Over. Done with. All that's left are the credit card bills and memories - either bitter or sweet, and I don't know about you but I have a holiday hangover (and I don't even drink!) 

Maybe it would be better termed a holiday "hang on." I can't seem to muster the energy to face that life must return to "normal." (I believe that Santa Claus has more basis in reality than "normal" but that's another post entirely.)

I've spent an entire week in a post holiday haze. That's not to say it hasn't been glorious in its own right. I actually sat down and read a physical book! I listen to countless books each year, but to actually sit down and do nothing more than just read? That just doesn't happen much anymore. I suppose that's  because this Princess And The Pea can't find a comfy enough place to sit still for any length of time without rigor mortis creeping in. 

However, after much fussing, and propping and pillowing I managed to create a plush palace worth my being. It's been a nice change of pace. Now if I could only put aside the overwhelming feeling that I need to justify my existence by "doing something" every minute of the day instead of relaxing and reading, I might actually enjoy it! 

It's not that I thrive on activity. I'm an introvert. I think that what I miss about the holidays - what keeps me lingering on in a perpetual state of "snap out of it already," is the loss of "something to look forward to."  I'm not in my first youth. (Forget you read that.) I've seen quite a few holiday seasons come and go but I still manage somehow to find myself in this quandary year after year. Call it lack of planning ahead or tunnel vision during the "lead up to" phase, but whatever it is, I must somehow remember to plan something - anything - to look forward to immediately following the holidays!

Something to look forward to is so important! Whether it's something huge (a long awaited vacation) or something small (lunch with a friend) it has the power to move us from point A to point B. In the absence of such an enticement, regardless of size and particularly after a major event like the holiday season, life can feel hugely underwhelming.

I need a quest - not necessarily a Bilbo Baggins variety quest, but a quest of some kind. I'm longing for an adventure to drag me out of the warm posh palace and back into my regularly scheduled life already in progress. This post was a good place to start.

If you're feeling hung over or as though you're holding on to the yuletide too long yourself, I found a few great articles on the importance of something to look forward to. I'm going to climb back into my cozy place and digest every word of them immediately after posting this. You're welcome to read along with me - unless you're one of those people who've already made plans!

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2015

SPARKS: Moments Of Creation Vol. 9

 “It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
― Mark Twain

Of all the new things I did in 2014, the very thing I swore I'd never do has reaped unimaginable benefits for me. 

At the end of 2013 I posted on Facebook:  "I hope my life never becomes so dull that I want to follow other people's lives in 140 characters. I hope my life never becomes so exciting that someone else would want to follow mine in 140 characters." To that I added "Isn't being "followed" the reason pepper spray was invented?"

The minute the word "never" escapes my lips the very thing it was spoken of begins to be drawn toward me like ants to a picnic - and so it was with opening a Twitter account. Thankfully I've eaten enough crow in my life that I've acquired a taste for it!

I've met some spectacular people via Twitter whom I'd never have happened across any other way and on one lazy afternoon I came across a compelling Twitter-feed posted by a woman I "follow." (Still sounds creepy.)  It read something like If you want to learn what integrity is all about follow @fsonnenberg. I value integrity so I decided to investigate.

What I found was someone who not only possesses genuine integrity but also has the rare trait of moral courage and a passion to set the world on fire with it. It's because I share his passion that I want to introduce you to this month's featured guest:


I became an instant fan of Frank and his writing. It was so honest and fresh. It was clear and concise and laid out steps - that if followed would surely lead anyone with an honest desire to a much better way of life.

With all of this wisdom so freely distilled, the question that kept creeping into my mind was this: What's in it for Frank? It was this question that led me to seek him out and ask him for this interview. I think you'll be as surprised and delighted as I was with his answers to the questions I posed.

With all you've achieved in your professional life, what is it that drives you to spend so much free time helping others without compensation?

That’s a great question, Anita. The truth is, I’ve never been motivated by money. From the moment I started my first job, my only goal was to be the best I could be and then find ways to become even better. I believe if you do the right things, the rewards follow. It’s like football. If you focus on blocking and tackling, you don’t have to worry about the score. I owe much of my success to my philosophy of “doing what’s right.” In my mind, character matters. It’s that simple. I’m trying to share that philosophy with others. I don’t want to make money from my writing –– it’s donated to charity. This is about making a difference.
You've written several books. In fact, Managing With a Conscience was named “One of the Top 10 Business Books of the Year.” Was writing something you'd always dreamed of doing or how did that come about?

I’ve written five books, but I don’t consider myself a writer. I know people who can write elegant prose without even trying. That’s not me. I labor over it. The truth is, I have so much that I want to share –– so I muddle through the process. There are many people who believe that trust, honor, and integrity are niceties or pie-in-the-sky thinking. I’m here to tell you they’re wrong. If you care about your relationships, your career, or even your reputation, moral character matters. Moreover, if you’re a role model, you have a responsibility to those who look up to you. Period. You also have a responsibility to yourself. You have to face yourself in the mirror every day. Listen to your conscience. That’s why you have one.

Your latest book Follow Your Conscience has recently been released. What changes would you like most to see happen as a result of this book?

As the saying goes, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” My goal is for leaders to share these ideas with their followers, parents to share these beliefs with their kids, teachers to share these lessons with their students, and trainers to share the book with their colleagues –– you get the point. I’m trying to present a formula for success as well as raise awareness of its importance. My hope is for people to embrace these ideas and turn them into action.

So much of what you share focuses on integrity. Was there something specific that made that topic important for you to share?

There are too many folks in this world who take the low road to success –– they have a “me first” mentality. They’d rather take than give, build walls rather than bridges, and pull rank rather than earn the respect of their colleagues. Then, when they fall on their face, they cast blame instead of accepting personal responsibility and learning from past behavior. I’m convinced that poor character leads to a dead end. I’d like everyone to listen to their conscience and take the high road –– a path that will make them feel proud of who they are and what they represent. 

 What are the implications of your philosophy for our children?

In order to achieve success, we must invest in our kids by providing them with a strong family structure and a world-class education. Additionally, we must instill in them solid values and a strong work ethic.

 How does it feel to be doing something you're passionate about?

It’s exhilarating. I don’t view work as work. I’m excited to begin my day and never look at the clock because I’m bored. I get up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas because my subconscious is working overtime. And I’m like a kid in a candy store when a new post goes live. I hope that someone will connect with the message, and it’ll make a difference in his or her life. I guess you can tell that I’m pretty passionate about this. As Mae West said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” So I tell folks to “find your passion and live your life with gusto.”

What advice would you offer to someone who has a dream or feels led in a certain direction, who may still be waiting for the perfect time?

Some people feel that the perfect time is always tomorrow. The truth is, they fear failure so much that they don’t try. I’d tell them to stop wishing and start doing; stop following and take the lead. Get up from the couch and jump in with both feet. Sure . . . the road will be lined with caution signs, and there may even be some speed bumps along the way, but if you’re positive and remain determined, you’ll be happy that you tried. I look at it this way … When you attempt something, there are two outcomes –– success or failure. If you don’t try, you give up any opportunity for success. As Wayne Gretzky, the legendary hockey player, said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Thank you so much, Frank, for taking time at this busy time of year to share with us your ideas and perspectives. I wish you the very best on your quest to elevate our awareness of the importance of being the best people we can be by living our best values.

Follow Your Conscience is my "first read" of
2015! Anyone else who want's to check it out can follow the link.


  Frank is an award-winning author. He has written five books and over 300 articles. Frank was recently named one of  “America's Top 100 Thought Leaders” and nominated as one of “America’s Most Influential Small Business Experts.” Frank has served on several boards and has consulted to some of the largest and most respected companies in the world. Additionally, FrankSonnenbergOnline was named among the “Best 21st Century Leadership Blogs.” Frank’s new book, Follow Your Conscience, is now available. ©2014 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.