Can Do Meets Ground Hog Day

Groundhog dayA number of people who have read The Can Do Chronicles have commented to me about my courage during the “tough times.” Here is a wake up call for a Monday Morning – tough times come back again and again like the alarm clock in the Bill Murray movie. Ned’s job was eliminated – again – effective this Friday. We are getting over the shock of it. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from friends. We know to do what we CAN DO: he is networking and I am working.

I offer this proposition for a Monday morning: I believe that a Can Do framework is sorely needed in the nonprofit sector, where there has been heavy and unending competition for shrinking dollars. Twice in Ned’s work in the last three and a half years, organizations have eliminated the Director of Development position because they cannot afford it. Understandable on some tactical levels – absurd on strategic levels. A fact of life in a sector, actually in a world, that has seen much short-sighted decision making that has kept this economy in the sad shape that it is in.

shutterstock_12173479At the core of CAN DO are three simple, yet powerful questions: 1) What CAN I DO? 2) If not that, what else CAN I DO? 3) Just because I CAN, DO I? They guide me every day, no matter how “tough” the time is. I believe that these three questions keep courage at my fingertips and can help change the world.

I hope you will use them today.

The Best Part of Being an Author – So Far!

Juvenile-Alice-in-Wonderland-White-rabbit1This whole experience of “being an author” has been a bit surreal.  When I was in 6th grade, I was Alice in the play put on at the local library in Cleveland Heights. The last two weeks have been a bit of a reprise of the Alice role.

It is so easy for me to “market and promote” the blazes out of kids’ programs and worthy causes related to children and families in need. It is a “whole ‘nuther” experience to market and promote this book where my personal story and my candid perceptions of the world form the core of its message. It does not come easy… and I am just learning the ins and the outs, making it feel even more awkward. As someone who is an introvert, not surprisingly I have had several “walking around naked” dreams in the last two weeks.

I asked friends and colleagues from across the years, in person and through Facebook, to post a review after they read the book. In the amazon.com world, those reviews prime the pump and help drive traffic to the book’s page.  Once someone is there, the reviews give shoppers some enticement (or not, depending on the review!) to purchase the book.

coverThe reviews so far have been Triple A: Amazing – Affirming – Awesome. There are 14 reviews on The Can Do Chronicles amazon.com page as I write this blog, and they are the best part, so far, about being an author. These readers’ words motivate me to push past my anxieties and find new ways to share the message of CAN DO with the wider world.

What I love about this book is that it is not only a testament to Cathi’s courage through some of life’s toughest battles (i.e. job loss, leukemia,…), it is a amazing narrative on how God is faithful and works out things in a perfect, intricate, undetectable design. Cathi (and all of us) “can do” because God does the major prep for us. I also enjoy how she is unafraid to peer deeply into her own experiences and apply the wisdom gained to the next step in her journey. 

Everyone can benefit from reading the Chronicles. It’s both inspiring and motivating.

Represents a provocation in its simplicity to pause before reacting. The author could have gone for a series of cliches, but avoids this and, therefore, her product is eminently more readable.

I would give this a five star rating for its clarity. Cathy has touched on so many questions that I have wrestled with for most of my adult life. She offers a direct path to significant growth that is uphill and most inviting. I look forward to to reading her blog, but most of all to keep this little treasure nearby as companion and guide.

“Can Do Chronicles” follows the author’s personal journey through very difficult times and how by utilizing a rather simple series of actionable questions, she uncovers a unique and effective way to bring balance and peace back into your life, no matter how great the obstacles.

Tonight is the night that, at least temporarily, the government was re-opened for business. Going forward, we all need as much CAN DO as we can get to move our little corner of the world forward with Hope + Gratitude, believing that it will make a difference.

I commit to doing my part by keeping the CAN DO messaging and marketing moving forward, in spite of the anxiety dreams and competing priorities.

REMEMBER:

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Malala: The Ultimate CAN DO Kind of Girl

malalaWOW.  Malala Yousafzai is courage in action.  A 16 year old young woman who is willing to tell the President of the United States “that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”  She said it with respect.  She said it with poise few 50 year-olds possess.  And she said it with conviction.

Last Friday, Malala told an audience at the World Bank that her career goal is to be a politician. I think she needs to teach a thing or two to the current cohort of politicos in Washington. When asked why she wanted to become a politician, she responded, “because a doctor can only help someone who has been shot.” she said. “If I become a politician, I can help make a tomorrow where there are no more cases of people being shot.”

I have not yet read her book, but it is next on my list. In the meantime, when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with having put my own story out there, I will think about her courage to put her whole self out there, after being shot and with death threats ever present.

When I wonder if it is worth the energy of this one woman to keep writing and talking about CAN DO and the critical importance of Head Start and Girls Inc., even when not many are listening (yet), I will remember this:

“If a terrorist can change someone’s mind and convince them to become a suicide bomber, we can also change their minds and tell them education is the only way to bring humanity and peace.”

 

Can Do Reflections on a Rainy Morning:

rainy leavesAs I sit here this October morning listening to the steady rain, I am reflecting on the comments that people have made to me in the last week after they have read The Can Do Chronicles

I had lunch with a colleague yesterday who called the book a “page turner” because of all the problems we had before we moved. Others have remarked about how taken they are with the number of serious challenges we faced during these last three years. They speak as if – and sometimes I think as if – those months were a time apart from my current life, and that that time is over.

My CAN DO reflection for today is: The Journey Never Ends. And things do not go back to “normal.”  As I used to tell my counseling clients, Normal is a small town in North Central Illinois.  I need my CAN DO outlook and approach to life as much today as I did when I started chemo; as much as I did when Ned’s job evaporated.

It is not over.  

It is never over. The scenery changes… the seasons change… and companions on the journey can come and go. My CAN DO outlook helps keep me ready for the ups and downs and ins and outs that are inevitable because I have no idea what is going to happen today or next week on my life’s journey. My remission did not come with a guarantee. My Dad’s declining health is of increasing concern to the whole family. My car and our roof are both OLD. Then, there are the larger, systemic threats to my world over which I have absolutely no control, such as the government shut down and the debt ceiling.

smiling-heartOn this rainy day, I renew my commitment to keep the smile in my heart. To find, and share, a bite or two of inspirational nourishment through the day. To stay in good spiritual shape and continue to get in good physical shape. To say thank you to God for the blessings that I have.

So, I went looking for a bite of inspiration on the Pope’s Facebook page… it does not get much better than this: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”  Matthew 7:7-8

shutterstock_126333485It’s what I CAN DO to make the journey as life giving as possible on a very rainy fall day.

What CAN you DO?

How can I help?

Nonprofits’ Need for CAN DO at All-Time High

shutterstock_62827624The great recession has dealt a double blow to the nonprofit sector. Funding has become much more competitive at the same time that the demand for services has surged. Non-profit leaders, both Board members and executive staff, are challenged to cut costs without cutting corners, often feeling trapped by what feels like fewer and fewer good options.

The staff feel trapped, too. Money gets tighter and stress goes up. For many staff who work because of their dedication to the mission and the clients, this has meant minimal, if any, pay increases and/or having hours cut. Staff and clients are forced to use and reuse supplies and outdated equipment and technology; and important services, such as transportation and meals are too often eliminated. Outcome measures drive success, but many staff lack the training needed to track the data in effective ways. Morale suffers and staff turnover is high.

Keeping a positive, CAN DO culture with so much stress on the organization is difficult – shutterstock_87804784but far from impossible. By combining and communicating the Three Questions with the CAN DO Core Beliefs, staff at all levels feel included and more empowered.  The Three Questions create an organic framework to keep the communication going across departments to help with planning on an ongoing basis; course corrections are less difficult because there is a Plan B already defined. What some see as problems, with some brainstorming and hard work, can become opportunities.  It’s not easy – but neither is feeling stuck!

In The Can Do Chronicles, I outline my 10 Core Beliefs of CAN DO. The 7th Belief is the one that I believe helps teams function during stress: CAN DO works to stay positive, proactive and responsible in all areas of the organization. This means:

1) collect and connect the dots, always looking farther, harder deeper;connect dots

2) no blaming, whining or name calling; and, 

3) ask the hard questions when looking at what is wrong, what needs to be change, and then looking hardest for what is right.

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I have learned some of these lessons from remarkable CAN DO leaders that have led nonprofits to success during the hardest imaginable times. MANY of these lessons I have definitely learned “The Hard Way!”  Some of them multiple times!

One of my goals for the CAN DO Blog is to help you and others avoid having to learn lessons “The Hard Way” too.  

Are these ideas helpful?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Who Is My Audience?

Ever since I started talking about writing and publishing my book, people have been asking me, “who is your audience?”  Those in the communication and marketing worlds have asked it a little differently, “who is your target market?”  I have given this question considerable thought, as the success of marketing hinges on answering it well.

The good news and bad news is that the audience for The Can Do Chronicles is “everyone”!

shutterstock_121223353On many levels, this is not just good news but GREAT NEWS because it really is a book that everyone can relate to. Gratitude + Hope = CAN DO. Not many books can say that they have such a universal message. For example: there’s CAN DO for married couples, for job seekers, for ministry folks, for corporate project teams and for people dealing with illnesses (theirs or others), to name just a few. And, every bit as valuable, there is CAN DO for people who just need a little inspiration to help build a better life.

The bad news is that it makes marketing a bit tricky!  Dear World… Hi Everyone…hmm… a bit overwhelming, if now a bit pretentious!  That is where having a blog comes in handy. Starting in tomorrow’s blog, I will spend time focusing on several specific audiences with their own CAN DO messages and applications. I am going to start with CAN DO for nonprofit organizations, a topic most dear to my heart. And timely, with the impact of reduced funding and now the government shut down. Several folks have suggested I start with Congress. I have replied, using an old military saying  that is also used often in the nonprofit sector: the difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.

I want to end this blog on a more serious note. In the book, I shared my personal ten beliefs that form the core of CAN DO and have become an anchor of hope in my life. The first of these beliefs has great universal application for the “everyone” audience.

The core of CAN DO is an honest and realistic “attitude of gratitude.”

shutterstock_104594060Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. Henry Ward Beecher 

Gratitude to gratitude always gives birth – Sophocles

Gratitude is at the very center of how we learn and grow. Even in our darkest moments, each of us can find one thing to be grateful for. The sunrise. A friend, new or old. A grandchild. Hot coffee. Cold milk. A favorite song. A special memory.  In the world of CAN DO, gratitude is the most important ingredient in taking the “but” out of “yes, but.”   That is why it is the first belief on my list.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share my CAN DO message with so many wonderful people, ones I already know and ones that I have yet to meet.

Have a great week!

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The shutdown brings back memories – and a message of hope!

govt shutdownBecause I live in the Washington, DC area, the news of the current government shutdown is everywhere I go. While the shutdown does not impact my family directly, the stories that I hear on line, on the news, in conversations with neighbors, colleagues and in the grocery store aisles remind me of how I felt three years ago last summer when my husband’s job was eliminated two weeks before my (planned) last day of work. We went from having two upper management incomes to NOTHING.  Zip, zap, zero!

O.M.G. The uncertainties associated with not having income can quickly become overwhelming. I had plans for starting my grant writing business, but no clients! There were moments of doubting my decision to quit my job, even though I had done so for very good reasons. There were doubts about how the mortgage will get paid on time and we became hyper aware of the cost of gas and groceries. We even had a garage sale to bring in some extra cash.

Over those next weeks, whenever one of us got discouraged or anxious, we reminded theno whining other that we did not have any other option but to keep moving forward and doing the next right thing. There was no time for negative; no time for whining; no time for feeling sorry for ourselves. It was in those weeks in the summer of 2010 that I began to take seriously the need to find and keep an attitude of gratitude at the core of my life.

June 2010 was the starting point of my CAN DO world view. I was determined to work with what I had, and not concern myself with what I did not have at the time – like a big savings account or a trust fund! I started to ask simple questions as I made each decision: WHAT CAN I DO? If that won’t work, WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?  When I stayed focused on the possible, I was able to move forward, away from my fears and into action.

Ned and I worked hard during that difficult time to keep our focus on the positive, stay connected with our friends and family for support; and we reminded ourselves every day how grateful we were for what we had. Within weeks, Ned negotiated a part time transition plan with his former employer and found some part time contract work that, in time, led to a full time job. With determined actions, my “plan” to start a grant writing business quickly became a reality. This was not the end of the story in terms of the struggles – but it set us on a CAN DO course that guided and sustained us through some more very challenging times. A CAN DO course that changed our lives.

coverThis weekend as I launch my new e-book, The CAN DO Chronicles, I think of the thousands of families in my community who are struggling with many of those same challenges, fears and uncertainties in the wake of the shutdown. Part of why I wrote the book was to help people get through tough times like these. My prayer for them is that they not lose faith, and that during this difficult time they can find within themselves the start of a Can Do world view and approach to life.

A CAN DO life is not an easy life, but it is easier than living in doubt and fear.