Tag Archive: thought-provoking


Hiking

A few weeks ago, a friend invited Gary and I on a hike in western North Carolina. I haven’t hiked in years, but as I thought back to my semiweekly hikes in Frederick, Maryland, I wasn’t worried. Boy, should I have worried. As we started, I was confident. “No problem. I can do this” is what I thought to myself. HA! 20 minutes into the hike as we began our ascent up what I swear was an 80 degree incline, I began to pray, “Please, Lord, don’t let me fall out up here”. I looked behind me, but realized there was nowhere to go but up. We encountered at least 5 of these inclines and each time I prayed for physical and mental strength and most importantly, not to embarrass myself. Needless to say, since I am here writing today, we made it. I was, still am, so proud of myself.

But, as I think about this struggle turned triumph, I can’t help but to relate it to life. Throughout the hike, our friend kept saying, “This is just a physical representation of life.” I waved him off as I was huffing through the hike, but now, I realize he really was right. Although, we know that tomorrow is not promised, every night we lay down , we know that, if this is our blessing, morning will come. And in that morning, we know that our day will continue to another night. No matter what challenges we face, we just have to take one more step, then one more step. As simple as that is, our minds make it seem so much harder. So, today, I implore you to just take a step. Some moments will be hard and all you’ll want to do is cry from your soul; But know after you cry, take a step and morning will be here before you know it because no matter what, no matter where, no matter how, no matter why, no matter when, You Are Loved even through an 80 degree incline.

Enough.

I have a question. If you lived during the 1800s, would you have been an abolitionist? Could you have risked your way of life to save the life of others? Most of us would quickly, without much thought, say yes. We would have been abolitionists (or maybe, those are just my hopes).

But, recently I read an article by Amanda Kloer on CNN.com discussing modern day slavery on tomato farms and realized that we are less likely to be the Harriett Tubman-like characters that we envision ourselves to be. As I began to research this issue, I realized it doesn’t take much from each person to not just stand for something, but to act on it. In this age of technology that we are living in, a Facebook post, a tweet or any of the many different communication outlets that we have can be used to simply say, “Enough is Enough”. Today, I am asking you to really become that abolitionist that you think you are for just a few minutes and speak out against modern day slavery. Because today’s slavery, just like yesterday’s slavery might only be one degree away from you and if you couldn’t make your own choices, you’d hope someone would speak up for you and use the voice that you are not allowed to use.

You are…

You know, it hurts when not many believe in you. That pain can paralyze you or it can propel you. When you work your hardest and you know that you are doing great things because so many around you are copying your behavior and watching your every move, but you are treated like you don’t matter, that your work is just ok, that can shut you down. But, you can’t let it. You have to believe in you. You have to recognize the struggle is the hard work. That’s what makes you different. That’s what makes you know you have purpose, because life is not easy.

There are always going to be more people telling you you’re not worth it, you aren’t going to make it, you aren’t strong enough, you aren’t smart enough, you aren’t talented enough, you aren’t pretty enough, than there will be those who tell you that you are all of those things. But they are the people that don’t matter. They are the ones who are there to deter you, to keep you from your purpose, to really cause you to build strength and believe in yourself. And quite frankly, they are dealing with their own struggles and to make themselves feel better, they attempt to project their issues onto you.BUT you are worth it. You are strong. You are smart. You are talented. You are pretty. You are because you are here.

So, today, when you begin to choose not to do something because it scares you, remember you are capable and you will succeed. It’s not a coincidence that you are where you are. It’s where you are supposed to be right now. So, whether all is as you want it to be or you’re struggling, remember, it’s just the place where you are right now and you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will succeed. Even if you feel no one else does, I believe in you today, but most importantly, you believe in you.

Lately it seems I’ve had to make some really grown-up decisions and it hasn’t been easy. You know those decisions that don’t feel good. Those decisions that seem to make a mockery of your need to be ok with everything, even so far as to be in control of most everything. The decisions can be personal or professional, private or public, quiet or loud. They cause you to rethink things that you thought you were certain of, relationships you thought were secure, and even, attributes that you believed you had.

What identifies making that grown-up decision is recognizing the need for the decision as well as determining how to move forward once the decision has been made. For example, two of my most recent grown-up decisions have been personal, private and quiet. I’ve had to reevaluate two relationships that were (and still are) close to my heart. I recognized that in one of the relationships the person loves me dearly, but loves me in their own comfortable way – not in a way, that is productive for me in my life right now. In the other, I recognized that the person was focused on the superficial in our relationship because they felt obligated. They are closer to my boyfriend than they are to me and as a result, feigned interest and affection toward me. Recognizing that neither of these relationships aided in my personal growth, I had to take action. I physically and emotionally removed myself from the relationships. I still care about both individuals, but I cannot control their behaviors and how they made me feel; therefore, I did what I could control and stepped away. This hasn’t been easy. In fact, it’s been heartbreaking and sad, but that is part making grown-up decisions.

Another example of making a grown-up decision was professional, public and eventually, loud. I made the decision to begin making changes to my marketing agency. We are now called “Katina Washington Consulting Group” and our field of concentration is within the retail industry and their internal communication. This grown-up decision came from what I felt was the lack of focus, direction and as a result, decline in business. I had to make swift and strong changes. In this grown-up decision, there also have been relationships that have changed. Working relationships that are not productive for the big picture are not smart and they had to be minimized. There has been and continues to be a lot of work to make this change successful, but it is the right decision for my company and my work.

Grown-up decisions, whether personal or professional, are necessary components of life, but it seems that the difficulty of the work to make the changes and/or the uncertainty of the outcome causes many of us to ignore the need for these decisions. Nevertheless, without these decisions, life is not really living. It is coping. It is maintaining. It is accepting less than what we are each worth and created for. We are not here to simply stand by and ignore that lump in stomachs that come from uncomfortable and unloving situations. So, I want to issue a challenge. Take a few moments of quiet and allow your mind to think about a situation or a relationship you’re just not sure of or that you don’t feel good about. Then, focus on how your body reacts to this thought and then, think about why your body is reacting negatively. If you feel a queasiness in your stomach, your neck muscles tense up or your head begins to hurt, then maybe it’s time to make a grown-up decision and make a change. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick, but you will grow and in time, be proud of yourself for having the courage to change.

Good luck. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you.

Clara* never went to college. She’s had a successful career, but Clara has always felt a sense of incompletion when it comes to her education. She also feels as though she has had some missed opportunities because she did not go further in her education. Right now, Clara has a chance to return to school part-time. The schooling would be paid for by her employer and certain classes would positively affect her role and responsibilities at work, yet she keeps finding reasons not to go. She doesn’t have time. She has too much work to do. When she brought this up in conversation and I listened to her tell me why she could not do it, although she really wants to and knows that she needs to, I finally just asked her what was she afraid of. Clara told me that she wasn’t afraid of school, just that she would be tired and didn’t have the energy for it. When I pressed, she said that she just didn’t really understand the importance and did not feel the need to make it a priority. I asked her what was at the root of all of these excuses and she just looked at me. I asked her if she thought she was smart enough to go to school? Did she think that others would do better than her and she would be laughed at? Would people whisper behind her back about how old she was and in a class that she should have taken years ago? Would people assume she must have flunked the class earlier so that is why she is at this level  in school? Would she fail? Would she be humiliated, embarrassed and downright disheartened? It was at that moment I saw a light bulb go off in Clara’s head and her mindset begin to change.

Our biggest enemy is our self.  We don’t truly believe in our powers, our abilities, our strength. We look to others to build us in all of our relationships. We wait for our bosses to positively reinforce us and promote us. We wait for our significant others to tell how special they think we are or how much they need us. We wait for our parents to tell us that we are exactly what they’d hoped for. We wait for the waitress to say thank you before we tip her. We wait for our friends to tell us how great we look and how we inspire them. Even in our relationship with God, we wait for Him to act in our lives. We pray HARD waiting for God to make something happen, but God gave us a mind and free will. Whenever I realize that I am avoiding a situation, when I keep hearing myself come up with excuses why I can’t, I think back to one of my favorite stories in the bible. In Genesis 12, God tells Abram to “leave your country, your people and your father’s household”. This passage strikes me because Abram had no idea where he was going, but he believed so strongly in God’s path for him, that he did not question, he just moved in faith. Can you imagine having so much faith in something that you give no regard to what may happen or what people may say? Everyone has heard the question, “What would you do if you could not fail?” Well, I think it is time to really have that honest conversation with yourself? How are you self-sabotaging by giving your power, which is your strength, courage and love, to your fear? As Joel  Osteen asks, “What is your mountain? Are you telling that mountain to move?” As much faith as Abram had, God wouldn’t do anything without him taking those first steps. Who are you affecting by not moving? Are you not fulfilling your dreams because of fear? Recognize that fear is the opposite of courage, love and you cannot be successful without courage and love.

This is your time. You will only have this one time and instead of letting other’s determine what we will do through fear, let’s wake up and move. Even if you don’t know where those steps will lead you, just move. All of us have our own Big Bad Wolf. In fact, we have many, but if you believe more in yourself than what you think might happen, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life that you’ve imagined (Thoreau).”

*Name was changed.

In the earlier blog, we considered the questions that prospective business owners should consider as they think through the possibility of starting a business. Before we answer the questions, let’s create a profile of this possible business owner and the business that they are considering.

For this experiment, let’s say that the prospective business owner (Sam) is an experienced sales manager  who is based out of Western North Carolina and has a personal interest in yard sales, estate sales, auctions and general antiquing. Sam also enjoys refinishing furniture and sometimes, reselling the pieces. Sam does not have any professional experience in estate sale management. Sam has a MBA and values overall work-life balance. Sam has a personal interest that he/she would like to turn into a profession.

Estate Sales are similar to garage sales in that they are selling people’s items, however, an estate sale is different from a garage sale in that a professional group typically runs the sale. The profits are split in a previously agreed upon percentage between the estate owners and the professional sellers. Keys to success in this business is the ability to organize and be organized, recognizing  possibly rare or valuable items, strong advertising and selling skills and a good rapport with people. This is a quick overview just to give us a foundation for this project. There would, of course, be greater detail if this were an actual market research project.

Now onto the overview questions. The first draft of these answers can be formatted in any fashion that is easiest for the prospective business owner. For this experiment, I’ve initially formatted them into a word doc. Take some time to look then over and assess what you can surmise from these answers and we will discuss further early next week.
CASE STUDY_Estate Sale Management_online

 

As a francophile, I am nothing less than excited to celebrate Bastille Day today. Also as a historian, I enjoy learning about other country’s way of celebrating their culture and why they’ve chosen a particular date. The French National Day celebrates the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, which was a fortress-prison that typically held people jailed for royal crimes that could not be appealed.

The movement away from King Louis XVI and the royal government began with an economic crisis. France faced financial woes in 1789 due, in great part, to their regressive tax policies. These are tax policies that decrease as the wealth increases; therefore, the poor are paying higher taxes than the wealthy. The Estates-General, a general assembly that represented three parts of the government: the church (The First Estate), the nobility and 2% of France’s population (The Second Estate) and the common people (The Third Estate), met in May 1789 to offer and define solutions for the government’s financial issues. When they continually came to a standstill throughout May and June, due to the conservatism and old standards of the The Second Estate, the Third Estate created their own National Assembly on June 9th. This was one of the first steps toward a revolution against the archaic standards of The Estates-General and the King Louis XVI. Another step was the nobility’s refusal to pay the King any taxes. The third and fourth steps, the storming of the Bastille and the subsequent Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen occurred on the morning of July 14, 1789.

Support of the National Assembly grew in popularity and political debate spilled into the public conversations and the commoners grew more and more impatient with the Royal Court. The final straw came when King Louis XVIon July 11th, under advisement of  the Privy Council (his advisers), dismissed and banished the country’s Finance Minister, Jacques Necker. Necker was a sympathizer of the Third Estate’s new government, therefore, causing an uproar in the public’s opinion as the news traveled around the country. On July 12th, the people began to publicly demonstrate against the King and fight the French troops that had been stationed around Paris and Versailles. The public believed that the troops were sent to Paris to disband the National Assembly. Also, people in and around Paris, frustrated with the increase of food and wine prices, attacked the customs posts that they believed were responsible for the costs of such items. On July 13th, the people began to plunder all of the areas that they knew held weapons, including Saint-Lazare, a property of the clergy. Concerned about unnecessary bloodshed, the Royal Troops did nothing to stop the people from attacking and destroying.

On the morning of July 14th, the Bastille was practically empty of prisoners, having been shut down to save money right before the insurrection began. The Bastille was stormed by the angry and determined demonstrators whose  purpose was to gather the large quantity of guns and ammunition, however, this invasion was a huge moment in what would be known as the French Revolution because of the Bastille being considered a symbol of France’s royal tyranny. Two of the demonstrators were called into the Bastille to negotiate and a third was allowed in later to give the definite demands of the demonstrators. After several hours, the demonstrators grew weary and impatient. They took control of an outer courtyard and cut the chains of the drawbridge. Firing began and the demonstrators surged forward into the Bastille. After several hours of fighting, Bernard-René de Launay, the Governor of the Bastille, ordered a cease-fire and opened the inner gates for the demonstrators. They captured the Governor and as his captors discussed his fate, de Launay shouted, “Enough. Let me die!” and kicked a pastry chef in the groin. He was killed immediately. de Launay’s head was cut off and placed on a spike and carried around town, to show the demonstrators’ victory. It was reported that 98 demonstrators and one defender were killed in the actual battle. There were other subsequent deaths. Paris was turned over to the Third Estate and the French Revolution and the empowerment of the French’s working class began.

As I reacquainted myself with the story of the Storming of the Bastille, I am reminded of how cyclical history is and how if we don’t maintain knowledge of our and other’s histories, we will forget where we’ve been as a culture and remember the lessons of how to move forward. So, Happy Bastille Day. What are you going to do today to celebrate freedom?

Historical Information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storming_of_the_Bastille

I think many would agree that communication is the key to our professional and personal success. If we communicate effectively, then expectations are noted, processes are created and action is begun. However, if we do not communicate effectively, it is easy for goals to be missed, feelings to be hurt and most importantly, a brand damaged. Since we know that a brand is the perception of who you are, ineffective communication can play a larger role in our lives than we would expect.

A friend told me about an incident that happened recently to him. After he taught a training class, he was speaking with a colleague and people just walked up and asked their questions with no regard for the conversation that was going on.  They just interrupted the conversation. As the two attempted to continue their conversation, another (very new) employee walked up to my friend, who is considered an expert in his department and told him that he knew nothing and was doing everything wrong. She went on to say that she would no longer be asking the subject expert questions, but relying on someone who is knowledgeable. but not an expert. Now, in that scenario, we have two communication issues. The first is the fact that there was no regard for the conversation that my friend and his colleague was having. That immediately shows a lack of respect as well as only a concern about self. Second, there is a better way to speak to someone and if you’re not sure how, the best solution is to pause before you open your mouth. The first set of people will simply be considered rude and green in their roles. The second person has more permanently damaged her brand. Now, when the expert sees or considers her for other projects, he will remember this incident. He will consider her inexperienced, unprofessional and not worthy of his placing any expectations on her. She has possibly sabotaged herself, in regard to her growth in her work environment.

These two incidents show how your brand can quickly be damaged through ineffective communication. You work hard at developing and defining your personal brand. Don’t let  a few inadvertent statements reverse your hard work. Today, take a second and review your communication skills. Are they as strong as you think they are? How do others react to your communication tactics? Are you destroying your brand through what may be perceived as ineffective communication?

Recently, I had a conversation with a peer about the issue of people being resistant to change. They like their routine, their way of doing things and when we, as brand strategists or change agents, get involved, not everyone is ready to do their part. This caused me to start thinking about change and why we are sometimes against it. I know that I have a certain way of doing things and if that is disrupted, I can quickly lose my place. But within the big picture of the work environment, it seems change is the everyday constant. When you begin your day, you never know what is going to happen and in a work environment, the bottom line is to stay relevant and to grow. Growth is such a trigger word right now, yet, it seems people would like to receive the growth without dealing with the change. Now, don’t get me wrong, just as Ellen Glasgow said, “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward.” But growth is defined as a stage of development; therefore, to mature and become better, you must grow and to grow you must change.

Change is not necessarily easy and can seem to require more work, even if the workload is the same, but  just a shift in process can difficult. I believe this is why so many struggle with change, but in a world that is growing smaller everyday, change is now the standard, not the variable. We all must shift our thinking to live in this world of ever-changing dynamics. But, as long as you know, understand and recognize your truth, then change can become a variant within what you know as your professional and personal roles.  Take time to be aware of what may change and how you can adapt to it. This is your time. Make change work for you, not against you.

With today being our celebration of our country’s Independence, I thought it would be fitting to share National Museum of African American History and Culture museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, Lonnie Bunch’s,  review of Frederick Douglass’ keynote address at an Independence Day celebration in 1852. From this overview, I hope a conversation begins about not only our history as Americans, but also how we are affecting our present through our actions toward others. Take a minute today to think about what our Independence Day really means to you. Happy 4th of July, Everyone!

A Page From Our American Story

On July 5, 1852 approximately 3.5 million African Americans were enslaved — roughly 14% of the total population of the United States. That was the state of the nation when Frederick Douglass was asked to deliver a keynote address at an Independence Day celebration.He accepted and, on a day white Americans celebrated their independence and freedom from the oppression of the British crown, Douglass delivered his now-famous speech What to the Slave is the Fourth of July. In it, Douglass offered one of the most thought provoking and powerful testaments to the hypocrisy, bigotry and inhumanity of slavery ever given.

Frederick Douglass, Portrait 1847-1852
Daguerreotype of Frederick Douglass
(1847-1852) by Samuel J. Miller.
The Art Institute of Chicago

Douglass told the crowd that the arguments against slavery were well understood. What was needed was “fire” not light on the subject; “thunder” not a gentle “shower” of reason. Douglass would tell the audience:

The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery, most likely in February 1818 — birth dates of slaves were rarely recorded. He was put to work full-time at age six, and his life as a young man was a litany of savage beatings and whippings. At age twenty, he successfully escaped to the North. In Massachusetts he became known as a voice against slavery, but that also brought to light his status as an escaped slave. Fearing capture and re-enslavement, Douglass went to England and continued speaking out against slavery.

He eventually raised enough money to buy his freedom and returned to America. He settled in Rochester, New York in 1847 and began to champion equality and freedom for slaves in earnest. By then, his renown extended far beyond America’s boundaries. He had become a man of international stature.

One suspects that Rochester city leaders had Douglass’ fame and reputation as a brilliant orator in mind when they approached him to speak at their Independence Day festivities. But with his opening words, Douglass’ intent became clear — decry the hypocrisy of the day as it played out in the lives of the slaves:

Fellow citizens, pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

You can easily imagine the wave of unease that settled over his audience. The speech was long, as was the fashion of the day. A link to the entire address can be found at the end of this Our American Story. When you read it you will discover that, to his credit, Douglass was uncompromising and truthful:

This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn … What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? … a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham … your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings … hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.
Frederick Douglass USPS Stamp (1967)
US Stamp honoring
Frederick Douglass, 1967.

US Postal Service

Reaction to the speech was strong, but mixed. Some were angered, others appreciative. What I’ve always thought most impressive about Douglass’ speech that day was the discussion it provoked immediately and in the weeks and months that followed.

Certainly much has changed since Douglass’ speech. Yet the opportunity to discuss and debate the important impact of America’s racial history is very much a part of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Douglass’ words remind us that many have struggled to ensure that the promise of liberty be applied equally to all Americans — regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. And that the struggle for equality is never over.

So, as we gather together at picnics, parades, and fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July, let us remember those, like Frederick Douglass, who fought and sacrificed to help America live up to its ideals of equality, fair play and justice.

Frederick Douglass’ life and words have left us a powerful legacy. His story, and the African American story, is part of us all.

To you and your family, have a joyous and safe Fourth of July and thank you for your interest in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Lonnie Bunch, Director All the best,
Lonnie Bunch
Director

 

P.S. To read the full text Frederick Douglass’ speech of July 5, 1852, click here: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=162

http://go.si.edu/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=23922&em_id=21781.0