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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Why I Wrote The Book…

coverThe CAN DO Chronicles narrates my journey through some significant life challenges and describes the transformation of a person with a semi-permanent chip on my shoulder to a life grounded in hope and gratitude. The last three years have been tough ones for me and my husband Ned, with an array of hiccups, challenges and “opportunities for growth” – ranging from job losses to a 400 mile move to hip surgery – then, from six months of chemo to my wonderful new life. During the months of ups and downs, I made a commitment to myself, Ned, my family and to God that my approach and attitude would be as completely CAN DO as possible. I crafted three simple “CAN DO Questions” that have guided my decision making, and helped me take the “but” out of “yes, but” the majority of the time. Several new, healthier habits help keep it that way. My new approach to life intentionally focuses on both possibilities and gratitude. CAN DO has taken on a life of its own and become far too important to me to risk losing it.

In deciding to write this e-book, I realized that The CAN DO Chronicles is about much more than my story. Every day I hear or read about individuals, couples and families whose lives have been turned upside down by cancer or some other disease, job loss and unemployment, foreclosure, divorce and other problems. The Great Recession has brought downsizing, outsourcing, layoffs and very slow job growth, with those lucky enough to have jobs repeatedly being told to “do more with less.” Important programs like Head Start have recently lost funding, reducing their capacity to make a difference for children and families in greatest need. Discussions I have with friends and colleagues in the helping professions often focus on the concern we share that the stresses of life are becoming more challenging, and people are feeling more stuck and less hopeful. We ask each other and ourselves, “What can I/we do to make a difference?”

In the midst of all the stresses and struggles of life, there are some individuals who shutterstock_114396031possess and are able to keep a positive attitude and outlook in spite of it all, and who, by example, encourage and teach the rest of us to have hope and do the same. I know many people like that, and I search in the wider world to learn the stories of more so that I can share them on this blog. I admire them, and I want to continue to grow to become more like them. Writing this book, by definition, has required me to own CAN DO fully, deeply and without hesitation. I have. And, I believe that I am called to share my story.

I am a strong believer in the power of stories because they open us up to understanding life, its mystery and its lessons more dynamically. My hope is that people who read my story and learn about how I was able to knock that well-worn chip off my shoulder will make a connection and find inspiration to focus their lives on what they CAN DO.  I want as many people as possible to discover the energy, joy and hope that an attitude of gratitude can bring in a world that is filled with struggles, fears and way too much CAN’T DO!

In my small way, I want to make a difference, and let others know that they can too.  It’s what I CAN DO – and so can you! Together, we can build a CAN DO world.

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