Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sing Professionally - Susan Boyle

There is not much to say about this one. Susan Boyle, 47, and 100 days ago living in a small village in England, in obscurity. Now she is living the dream she always had - to sing professionally.

This just makes me wonder how many of us have dreamed a dream. Dreamed of something and as Susan said, "just never had a chance." I don't believe that dreams are not fulfilled unless we are seen, known, or famous. But when someone like Susan enters on the stage we should all take note of the lesson.

We all have dreams and what if we saw each other in that way. What if we saw each the way we see Susan Boyle now. To many times we cave, give in, and give up on the dreams we have held onto for years or even a life time. Susan sings a song, I Dreamed a Dream, from Les Miserables. In the story, Fantine is left alone, unemployed and destitute when she sings this song. Susan Boyle, was unemployed and still looking for a job when she performed. In reality, if she had let it, Susan like many could have resigned herself to believe the last line of Fantine's song, "Now life has killed the dream I dreamed".

We should not give in. 100 Day Susan Boyle had a dream. She did not give up her dream, even when it seemed impossible to accomplish. What will you do in the next 100 days? Watch Susan's Video

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"I am...I said"

100 Days ago (January 22, 2008) we had only briefly heard of Brooke White. She premiered on American Idol just one week before on the Season 7 premier episode.

Although she was among 29 other contestants that made it through to Hollywood that first night, Brooke White shows the characteristics of any true dreamer - unknown, but passionate, apprehensive, but determined, unsure, but no reason to be.

In fact, during the video tribute to Brooke after it was announced that she would be leaving American Idol last night, Brooke said something that made me want to write another entry on "The Next 100 Days". She said that it was no surprise to anyone that she suffered from a lack of confidence.

Confidence? Although there were times you could see it in her face, millions wondered, "Why?". Here is a girl who came out of absolute obscurity and made it to the forefront of America's musical stage, on America's most watched TV show. I have never spoken to Brooke and probably never will, but I can only image what must have been going through her mind just 100 days ago. Could she see herself shaking hands and making music with some of the most talented music icons of our time (Andrew Lloyd Weber, Niel Diamond, etc)? After her 45 seconds of fame in that first American Idol episode, did she believed that in just 100 days millions would know her name, buy her music, and cheer for her to entertain them.

Brooke's goal of winning American Idol came to an end last night, but it never ceases to amaze me what can be accomplished in just 100 days. Last night Brooke sang a Neil Diamond song with lyrics that I imagine in some form or another runs through the mind of every aspiring singer, writer, artist, athlete - or anyone who has a dream and yet just can't seem to see what truly can be. The song was "I am...I said". As I reflect upon the lyrics a few words seem to be an anthem to me and to the idea of what can happen in"the Next 100 Days":

"Did you ever read about a girl who dreamed of bein' a queen
And then became one.
Well except for the names and a few other changes
If you talk about me, the story's the same one"

Whether we suffer from a lack of confidence, a lack of belief, or just plain fear, we all want to be a king or a queen in some way or another, even if we feel like we are not much more than a frog. However, as I look around the world I become convinced more and more that anyone can do anything. 100 Days ago Brooke White may have not believe it if someone had said "You soon be a world famous recording artist", but now 100 days later she can say, with confidence, "I am..." and believe it is true.

What will you do in the next 100 days?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It's all about the "Environment", right?

You can't go too far on the Internet news sites or even surf too many channels without hearing news about the environment. It appears that ever since Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" documentary the media world has been full of convenient environmental hyperbole.

The issue of the planet's environment is more than important, it is essential to our survival, but there are another types of environments that ranks right up there with Global Warming and Green House gases, which include the environments of your home, your workplace, a classroom, a soccer pitch, a dance floor, and where ever you spend your time.

Depending on the environment a plant will either die, produce poorly, or thrive. The basic principles learned by our agrarian progenitors have taught us that you must take meticulous care how you prepare the soil before you plant, and how you mind the fields after the planting has taken place. Proper care and feeding can create an environment where relationships, children, and ideas can grow and thrive.

I found some wise advise on the subject of "Environment" in an article entitled, "Inspire Your Students - Super Teacher", published by The Jamaica Observer this morning. The article highlights Everton Nelson, a teacher at the Technology Innovation Centre at the University of Technology, and his efforts to create an "environment" where his students could thrive.

Below I have adapted the suggestions from Super Teacher, Everton Nelson, that can make the difference in any environment.

Relationships are the soil
- If you want an environment that can allow all other things to thrive you first have to remember that it is the relationship that matters most. Trust comes from positive consistent behavior, and trust and care make an environment where mistakes are taken in stride. If you don't fall once in a while you are not trying hard enough. So make sure you have or create relationships where falling can happen safely - this will happen if you remember relationships matter most.

Words Feed, Fertilize, or Fetter
- What you say always matters, whether its in "public", in "private", or "internal". You don't have to be a rosy optimist to the point you make yourself and other nauseous, but a healthy dose of positive spin can make the difference between sunshine and gloom. Others will feel it, and remember things don't grow on gloom.

Pay Attention - It does not matter what environment you are in, if you want to make it better, pay attention equally. In a home you need to give one-on-one time to a spouse, a toddler, and a teenager in equal amounts. Don't put off giving attention to the difficult people, situations, or tasks. If you have goals you need to give attention to each of them, and not just those that come easily.

Give Credit
- People thrive on hearing their name, receiving applause, and receiving credit. Attributing the ownership of ideas to the people who initiated them creates an environment where ideas can flow and people feel confident in the fact that recognition will come.

What can you do to change your environment in the next 100 days?

Monday, January 14, 2008

How High is 29,035 Feet?

For those of us who have ever wanted for adventure, the name "Sir Edmund Hillary" rings a familiar tone. Notably, we know him as a man that climbed to the top of the world and then back down successfully. Since that first ascent in 1953 over 4,000 climbers, adventures, want-to-bes, and wealthy travelers have made it to the top of this great peak, if only or a moment. But, there is something about being the first that gives you the right to name recognition.

To literally touch the roof of the world is, well, beyond most's abilities, but Sir Edmund Hillary broke the impossibility of Everest for us and in so doing he gave the world something that would spark wonder in the minds of climbers and arm-chair explores for generations. Forever, we will hear his name, and for many there will always be the driving need to duplicate his climb or model his effort.

This morning, however, I read an article by, Maurice Isserman, published in the Christian Science Monitor, entitled "The Higher Summit in Sir Edmund Hillary's Life". The article was a poignant salute to a great climber and a great human being. In the toast, Isserman, points out that despite the fact that "Sir Ed", as the people of Khumjung called him, gained from his climb to the top of Everest, the village and those that supported his first ascent benefited from the man as well as the mission. In the 1960s, Sir Edmund returned to Khumjung a world famous climber, but his head was never in the clouds or only focused on lofty heights. Over the years "Sir Ed" provided the locals a school, a medical clinic, and a safe drinkable water system, something almost unheard of in one of the poorest countries in the world. The benefits of these acts of charity have effected the lives of each in the village, and will for years to come. The greatness that Sir Edmund achieved during his life was in part because of the great heights he scaled, but also because of the great heights he reached in regards to humanity and charity. We know Sir Edmund because of his feats of mountaineering, but we all should applaud and follow his quiet, less famous lead in helping "the locals", whom ever they end up being.

How high is 29,035 feet? I may never literally know, but this much I do know - greatness does not only come from summiting the world's tallest peak, but from a kind gesture, a sincerest smile, or even a soft voice when the milk spills and the cup bounces across the kitchen floor. Greatness is sometimes the result of extraordinary moments of seemingly superhuman ability, but what the world needs more of is "Sir Ed"-like greatness at heights well below 29,035 feet.

What will you do in the next 100 Days?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The challenge...

This entry has been a long time coming. On February 23, 2007 my son and his kindergarten class celebrated their 100th day of school. Among the many activities they did to commemorate this event was writing in their journals. These journals have been kept from near the beginning of school and were used to both recorded what they have learned and also to help teach them the basics of writing.

When I arrived home from work my son was beaming. The day had been fantastic. School, friends, the 100th day celebration...everything. As he told me about the day and what made it so great he said, "Do you want to know what I wrote in my journal?" I quickly replied, "yes" and this is what he told me, "100 days ago I did not know how to read, write, or subtract or add numbers. Now I can read, write and subtract numbers. I love school." Immediately I was proud, amazed, and so happy that he had had such a good day, but like the sun hitting your body on a cool morning...although you immediately feel the burst of warmth, it takes a minute to sink in. What he said would take some time to sink in.

The meaning and implications of his simple journal entry stayed with me for several mind always going back it. I became amazed at the notion that 100 days ago he could not read, write, or do math and now he can. The transformation in just 100 days was life changing for my son. Millions of people throughout the world are illiterate. If they could only read and write they could learn from the past and write their future. They could reason more informatively. If they could count, add, and subtract they could judge, measure, and weigh differences of all types, and in so doing they could change their circumstances, they could change their standing in the world - for the better. For nearly the entire night and through the next day I was consumed by the thought of 100.

The entire next day I was consumed by the idea of what could be accomplished in 100 days. What could I do if I set a goal and focused effort on it. Could it change ME? Could I have a life changing transformation in 100 days? That day I started what would later be called "the next 100 days". Since that day I have lived life pretty much as normal, going to work, watching the kids, taking out the trash, but one thing is different. I have been working toward changing, learning, being something I have never been before - with a specific goal in mind. Not someday, sometime, somehow, but rather "in the next 100 days". I figure that if I live until I am 80 years old, I will have 164 "100 days". If I did just one thing I have always wanted to do in each of those 100 days - how rich would my life be? If 100 days is long enough to take a five year old from not being able to read, write, and do math to doing all three, then it is certainly long enough for me to change some aspect of my life, to reach a goal, to achieve some milestone. In fact, it is long enough for us all do do something great. So I say to you "What will you do in the next 100 days?"

The Road to the Summit

There are 93 mountain peaks in the United States that sit over 14,000 feet above sea level. Mount Whitney, in the California High Sierras stands 14, 497 feet above sea level and ranks 17th tallest in the United States, tallest in the contiguous states. Although not the highest overall, nor the most technical mountain, it was on the trails leading to Mount Whitney that I learned about "The Road to the Summit".

In 2004 myself and thirteen others took a six day trip to backpack through the back country of Mount Whitney, reach the top, and then return. During this trip we carrying all our gear and food on our backs. On the third day of the hike we reached Lower Crab Tree, a beautiful spot on the trail. As I sat on the banks of a small stream eating my lunch the trees parted, the mountain passes pulled back, and the Whitney summit was finally revealed. From my record of the trip I wrote,

"All in all, we saw Mount Whitney only twice during the hike, once at Lone Pine, outside the Ranger Station and once at Lower Crabtree. For days we hiked miles and miles on a trail wide enough for only one, toward a goal that we could not see. Each day we kept going and each mile moved us closer, but aside from our lunch break in Lower Crabtree - we could not see the reason for our quest. We just had to believe it there and believe we were moving in the right direction."

As I stood on the top of Mount Whitney just one day later, I realized a goal I had long wanted to accomplish. But for days, weeks, and even months prior to reaching my goal I could not see physically see the summit, nor could I even completely comprehend the path that would take me there.

When you finally find your answer to the question, "What will you do in the next 100 days?" often the path to the goal may not be clear even though you can articulate the end result (i.e. write my book, learn Italian, finish my album). No matter what you will do in the next 100 days, you must not be discouraged simply because you do not know the path, or even can not see the summit. It is there and you can make it. Like Lower Crabtree, there will be times when the barriers will part to reveal a glimpse of your goal, but if you stay where you can see, you may never get any closer to your summit. On the road to the summit, the summit itself, will often fade in and out of view. Don't let this discourage you, slow your pace, or make you question your ability or the viability of standing, triumphant, and victorious.

Learn Italian - Amy S.

At first blush learning a language in just 100 days might seem, well, a bit optimistic. But isn't that the point - to be optimistic - and to reach for the stars; to try new things you never before believed were possible, plausible, or practical - and then to do them - in 100 days - because you are focused, determined, and vigilant. I believe so.

However, just in case you are the type of person that needs hard core facts and figures to go along with a healthy dose of "what if" optimism and focus, Amorey Gethin and Erik V. Gunnemark can provide just such facts. In their book "The Art and Science of Learning Languages" these scientists state that it is realistic to learn a language well enough to "speak tolerably well and understand at least slow speech" in 2 - 3 months [between 60 and 90 days]. According to Gethin, if an individual is willing to spend roughly 12 hours a week in the study of a language then it is feasible to learn that language in a relatively short period of time.

With that said, there is the old saying by Heber J. Grant which encouragingly states: "that which you persist in doing becomes easy to do - not that the nature of the thing has changed, but your power and ability to do has increased." Furthermore, there is a law, defined by Eugene Czernaiwski, a linguistics professor in Moscow - called appropriately "Czernaiwski's Law - that states: "When learning a new language one can in principle learn it in half the time that was needed [to learn] the language... that one last learnt." So learn Italian, then French, the German, and then whatever. Once you start who knows where you end.

So to all you Italian speaking participants in the "next 100 days" challenge, I say "Che cosa farete nei 100 giorni prossimi?" Translation: What will you do in the next 100 days?

Write My Book - Amy M.

Blaise Cendrars, a Swiss born, writer whose writings have been called a "literary epic of the modern adventurer", once said, "Writing is to descend like a miner to the depths of the mine with a lamp on your forehead, a light whose dubious brightness falsifies everything, whose wick is in permanent danger of explosion, whose blinking illumination in the coal dust exhausts and corrodes your eyes." Perhaps it is these depths that makes writing an art and an obsession. But like the claustrophobic standing at the ledge of a deep mine, the prospect of not writing is sometimes easier to bear than actually pitching oneself off the edge and into the act. However, sometimes the pitch forward is just what is needed to reveal wings, and an incredible ability to see, describe, and tell the stories that lye waiting to be unearthed.

Such is the case with Amy, a writer! When Amy first heard of the 100 day challenge, it was as though that "dubious light" became just bright enough to make the journey possible. Writing an entire novel can seem daunting to anyone, but to a novice writer, the prospect is crushing - what of the plot, the flow, the character build up, the style. No matter how formulated the idea just getting started can be the greatest challenge. For Amy committing to write each day for 100 days, even just for a few minutes, seemed doable.

"I have always wanted to write," said Amy M. "to capture with words the details of the day, the emotions of a moment, and the stories of a life, but the question was how to start." For 100 days Amy wrote, and wrote, and wrote. "It was kind of like exercise, the first couple of days were rough, and hard to get started, but once I saw the words building on the page, the ideas keep coming and I saw a goal materializing in front of my eyes." One June 12, 2007 Amy completed her first 100 days - and what does she have to show for it - nearly 100 pages of her first book. "It feels amazing. An absolute exhilaration - to do something I have wanted to do for so long." If a five year old can learn to read, write, and do math in 100 days - what can you do?