Nature Reminds Us To Be Fully Present

eclipse-lunarOn Monday, August 21, 2017, millions of people travelled to the path of the total solar eclipse to view the entire cycle, and particularly that moment when the moon travels in front of the sun, leaving a spectacular ring. Millions more viewed the eclipse on television or a mobile device. The rest of us viewed a partial eclipse from our back yards or office parking lots. Even Alaska Airlines maneuvered a flight into the path of the total solar eclipse for invited astronomers and special guests.

The sheer beauty of nature is best revealed in these moments of awe-inspiring wonder. When you sit back, become fully aware, and let nature unfold, you realize that that moment will never again be repeated. Ever. Sure, there will be other sunrises, sunsets, eclipses, but not that same one. It’s a powerful thought.

When you are fully present in a moment, any moment, you derive the greatest pleasure from it, because your mind is nowhere else. It’s not cluttered with thoughts of your To Do List or what you could make for dinner. Your mind is completely focused on that moment.

The benefit of present moment awareness is that it allows you to take in what is happening in that moment. You can set aside other feelings or hidden agendas, anger or angst, and simply be.

We witnessed that on August 21, when we experienced the solar eclipse in person. It took our breath away. It left no room for anything else except our focus and attention. We were suspended in that moment of pure exhilaration.

We came from different cities, countries, socio-economic backgrounds, races, religions, genders, and education levels, and somehow it worked beautifully. We collectively shared that moment together.

Let’s take what we learned in that moment and apply it to our workplaces, our communities, and our country. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tweeted “Enjoyed watching #Eclipse2017. A great reminder that all darkness is temporary.” Let’s listen and learn from each other. From awareness comes change, true change. It begins with open dialogue. Let the conversation begin.

Be Inspired By Youth

MarelHidalgo080517

Photo credit: Mark Zust

When you think of who inspires you, do you often think of someone who is older than you who taught or mentored you? Perhaps it’s someone whom you have admired from afar? Or a world figure who remains with you in spirit?

Don’t overlook today’s youth for inspiration.

While reading the Sunday newspaper, my husband noticed that a special free concert was being hosted that afternoon at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, featuring a nine-year-old rock and roll prodigy, Marel Hidalgo and his band, the Stonefeathers. It was a perfect Summer day and having no plans, we decided to go.

As the band assembled on stage, Marel positioned himself center stage, ready to play. The electric guitar was almost as big as he was! As we sat and enjoyed listening to the music, I also enjoyed watching the surprise and delight of passersby as they realized the young age of the talented guitarist. The playing was not accompanied by any theatrics or jumping around. Marel simply stood and played his guitar. Occasionally he shared a simple “Thank you” following the audience’s applause.

I was impressed with his composure and clarity of purpose. Playing the guitar since the age of four, Marel plays many of the great guitarists, including Santana, Prince, and Jeff Beck. His Purple Rain tribute to Prince is touching. Sometimes adults can be quick to judge or under-estimate “today’s youth.” For me, Marel Hidalgo inspired me, and it’s safe to say he inspired everyone in that audience.

The next time someone asks you, “Who inspires you?” think of a young person you may have met, seen, or heard who inspired you to live your dream or to just be yourself.

 

Find Joy in Serving Others

HelpingHands2One of the greatest pleasures you can get out of life is being completely selfless — thinking of others before you think of yourself. It doesn’t require much effort…just a little.

On a hot summer day more than a decade ago, my husband and I attended a local art festival. Did I mention that it was a hot day? It was about 90 degrees. After an hour of walking in the heat, I needed something to quench my thirst. The iced cold beverages were flying out of the vendors’ coolers and I decided to buy one. As I stood in line, a woman in a wheelchair was ahead of me. She asked the vendor how much the water was. “One dollar,” he replied. “Oh, I don’t have a dollar with me,” said the woman. The man said he was sorry but the water cost one dollar.

That’s when I decided that I would buy this woman a bottle of water. After I made my purchase, I walked over to the woman and handed her the bottle. “Here is some water for you,” I said. She looked at me in disbelief. Surely she was mistaken. Why would a total stranger present her with a bottle of cold water? “What?” she asked. “I overhead you say that you wanted some water. Here’s some water for you,” I said again. She extended her arms up and pulled me down to her to give me a hug. She began to cry. She said, “God bless you! Thank you. I was just released from the hospital this morning and I don’t have any money with me. I’m so hot and thirsty. Thank you so much.” Giving water to that woman was the high point of my day. I have a feeling my act of kindness was the high point of her day.

Think of the people around you — at work or at home — who may be struggling, frustrated, or simply confused. Your word of encouragement, act of kindness, or generosity of time can change their outlook. What can you share with them?

Sometimes you have to trust your intuition and do what your heart, not your mind, wants to do. When you see someone in need, ask yourself how you could help. You, too, could make someone’s day. Wonderful surprises await you. Ask yourself every morning, “Who can I help today?” At the end of each day, ask yourself, “Who did I help today?” It only takes a minute or two. Soon, serving others will become so natural for you, you will do it without thinking.

©Christine Zust

This Summer, Consider Hosting a Reunion

family-reunionSummer is the time of year when you can kick back and relax, go on vacation (or a stay-cation), cookout on the grill, enjoy daylight longer, and reunite with family and friends. Even if you’re in the midst of a demanding project this Summer, you can still take a break to enjoy nature or a short retreat.

A reunion is important. It reconnects you with people who you haven’t seen in a while, or family members you haven’t visited in a long time. If you were to make a short list of “must-see” individuals this Summer, who would make it onto your list? Pick up the phone and call or send a quick email or text.

Why reunite? To reconnect. To remember. To say “Thank you for being there.” To celebrate the good times. To simply be.

I recently co-chaired a reunion event for a women’s civic organization that I led as president more than 25 years ago. The organization sadly closed its doors about a decade ago. My reunion co-chair was the club’s executive director during my term as president. She remains a close, longtime friend. We decided to recognize the club’s founding in 1916 with a 101st anniversary celebration.

Sixty women attended the event, some of whom I hadn’t seen in 20-25 years. The energy level was palpable. Over cocktails, during dinner and dessert, there were lots of laughs and plenty of hugs and kisses to go around. We paid tribute to the years of history we shared together. Many served on the board as I did, chaired committees, or volunteered in the office. The women reminisced about their collaborative community work, fundraisers and programs they had chaired, and lasting friendships they had made through their club membership. Everyone felt valued and connected, celebrating being part of something larger through the club.

When asked to comment on what lessons they learned or a favorite memory, they shared: “Meeting diverse women who I would not have met otherwise.” “Great women.” “Lifetime friendships.” “Best leadership training ever.” We received rave reviews from the women who joined us that evening, some of whom insisted that we reunite every year. It is clear they want to remain connected, so we will make sure that happens.

What about you? What reunion will you be planning this Summer? Who will you be reaching out to for a get-together? Whether it’s a larger group or just a few people, take the time to celebrate who you have shared history with. Rekindle those relationships with people who have influenced or inspired you. The years pass by too quickly. The time to reunite is now!

At Penzeys Spices, Kindness Rules

KindPinI have never met Bill, yet, I look forward to receiving and reading his frequent emails. He is one person who is changing the world one email at a time.

You see, Bill is the CEO of Penzeys Spices, a purveyor of herbs, spices and all things gastronomic. Not only is he passionate about cooking; he is passionate about being kind to others.

Bill is not your average CEO. He is way above average, a CEO who understands what it means to pay it forward. I wish more company leaders provided an environment of love, support, and kindness. Imagine the level of true prosperity that we could experience as a society.

Being a fan of Penzeys Spices, I – like many smart gourmandes – signed up for the email list for free spices, offers, recipes, and other goodies. What I received in return was a newly-acquired taste for goodness. I’m not talking about just gourmet goodness…I’m talking about simple human goodness.

Bill is a good guy. The goodness he shares comes from his world view, his spirit, and his written word which appears in Penzeys Spices emails.

The one email that got my attention was Bill’s offer to send a free Kind pin (pictured within this article) to anyone who marched in The Women’s March on Saturday, January 21, 2017. As you recall, this national spirited March attracted unprecedented numbers of women, men, and children in Washington, D.C. who had a strong desire to share their voices with the world. And this March happened not just in cities across the United States; it happened globally, in cities around the world. The voices of the masses shared positive messages of hope, compassion, joy, love, understanding, peace, acceptance, and kindness.

In return for the free Kind pin, Bill requested that marchers share their personal stories of why they marched, and any kindness that they experienced or witnessed that day. In an email, Bill said, “I believe history will show just how important The Women’s March was, and just how great of a debt we owe those who Marched. Their humanity, kindness, and strength were just the reminder we needed of what really makes America great, at the very moment we so desperately needed to be reminded.” In total, Penzeys Spices shipped 174,139 free Kind pins to people who participated in The Women’s March.

What Bill – and Penzeys Spices – did through his generosity and act of kindness was to remind us that true change begins with one simple idea that is put into action. Thank you, Bill, for being a positive role model and inspiring others.

What type of change do you want to initiate? Get started today!

Photo credit: Christine Zust

Without Art, There Is No Humanity

Pictured: Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre. Photo by Steve Wagner.

Art is an essential part of my life. It enhances my well-being. You may be the kind of person who values access to community programs that offer music, dance or theatre performances, literary readings, or lectures on philosophy or history. Without art, there is no humanity. Without humanity, hope is compromised.

I was introduced to the arts at a very early age. My mother, a gifted singer, played piano and sang to me in our living room to keep me occupied before I was old enough to go to school. She also acted in our local community theater for many years. I have fond memories of sitting in the back of that community theater, watching my mom in rehearsals. I continued that love of artistic expression into adulthood, and served on the board of directors for several small arts organizations. Today, I remain a dedicated arts patron.

Every nonprofit arts organization relies on some form of public funding to bring its creative and brilliantly produced programs to the community. Currently, several important cultural institutions are being threatened: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). As independent agencies of the U. S. Federal government, the NEA and NEH were established through the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, which was enacted by Congress.

The NEA supports arts programming in the areas of accessibility, dance, international arts, media arts, musical theater and theater, visual arts, design, literature, museums, opera, arts education, folk and traditional arts, and music.

“What are the humanities?” you may ask. The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, as amended, explains:

“The term ‘humanities’ includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.”

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a nonprofit corporation created by Congress in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 is also under scrutiny. CPB provides funding assistance to more than 1,500 public radio and television stations across the country. Programs provide rich educational, historical, and entertainment content.

Funding for these three essential organizations is less than $750 Million. To put things into perspective, proposed U.S. military spending is expected to increase by 10%, equivalent to a $54 Billion hike. That’s with a B, and that’s just the increase.

Where would our American society be without the arts and humanities? The value that these three organizations provide to citizens is unparalleled. Millions of underprivileged children have benefited from after-school arts programs. Senior citizens on fixed incomes have tuned into interviews with thought leaders and listened to great performances. Families have enjoyed free community performances.

Consider how your life (and the lives of your family, your children), has been enriched by programming in the arts and humanities. Now think about how the lives of future generations will be affected if these vital organizations disappear. Take a moment to join the fight to retain the NEA, the NEH and the CPB. It only takes a moment.

#NEHMatters

#NEAMatters

#CPBMatters

#SavetheNEH

#SavetheNEA

#SavetheCPB

@NEHgov

@CPBMedia

@ClevelandPublicTheatre

Women’s Voices Are Significant to the World

iwd-logomain2Today marks International Women’s Day, one day each year that celebrates the “social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.” This year’s theme is Be Bold For Change. Take a moment to honor and recognize the women who have served as positive role models in your life, who have inspired and motivated you, and who have bravely charted new territory as pathfinders.

Now imagine your life without them. Oh, wait a minute. You wouldn’t be here if not for a woman! This message is being reinforced by leaders of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March. They are encouraging women to participate in A Day Without A Woman on this International Women’s Day by not spending any money (or alternatively supporting women- and minority-owned businesses)  and by not engaging in any work.

Think about all of the women who have encouraged and inspired you. Mothers. Grandmothers. Aunts. Sisters. Daughters. Granddaughters. Great-granddaughters. Sisters-in-law. Mothers-in-law. Teachers. Bosses. Co-workers. Neighbors. Religious leaders. Shop owners. Community leaders. Political leaders. Friends.

I for one would not be the person I am today were it not for the courageous, intelligent, fearless women who came before me.

On this day, I honor my maternal grandmother who emigrated from Poland to begin a new life in America. She spoke no English when she arrived at Ellis Island. As a wife and mother, she ran a large household (with seven children) on a small stipend. Her values of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice were passed on to her children.

My 96-year-old mother continues to inspire me every day. I have enjoyed many lengthy conversations with her over the years, listening to her life story, and understanding her remarkable life as a first generation American. It took her ten years to work her way through college to receive her first degree – at the age of 47. At the age of 80, she received her second college degree. Although she could have audited classes for free as a senior citizen, she preferred to pay for every class so she could earn a degree.

Many women have inspired me from afar. The list is too long to include all of them here, yet, a few stand out…women of all ages and backgrounds:

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem

 

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou

 

“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”

Tina Fey

 

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai

 

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa

 

“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” Amelia Earhart

 

“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.” Barbara Walters

Now more than ever, women’s voices must be heard. We are economic decision makers, leaders in education, innovators in science and technology, entrepreneurs, and nurturers of the human family. Our inclusive and collaborative style leads to positive change. A quick review of Forbes Magazine’s “The World’s 100 Most Influential Women” will remind you of the capabilities and accomplishments of women.

At some point today, pause for a moment, and silently thank the women who have encouraged, supported, and inspired you. Or better yet, pick up the phone and call them!

Follow more activity on:

#InternationalWomensDay

#BeBoldForChange

#ADayWithoutAWoman

What the Obamas Taught Me About Leadership

Credit: The White House

Credit: The White House

There are many lessons that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have taught me during the past eight years. The greatest lesson is that of leadership. Since President and Mrs. Obama will be returning to private life soon, I want to share the impact that their leadership as President and First Lady has had on me and on millions of Americans, young and old alike.

Charting New Territory. As the first African-American President and First Lady, the Obamas handled the challenge with style and grace. They set the tone on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, by walking the limousine route, embracing the American people every step of the way. Leaders are risk takers and confident, even when they are entering uncharted territory. 

Fresh Perspective. While it is customary for presidential couples to bring children and/or pets with them to The White House, for the first time, a mother-in-law joined The First Family. This act represented the importance of family to the Obamas. Inclusive leaders bring along others with them.

Positive Role Models. On national and global platforms, the President and First Lady represented our country with diplomacy and respect, whether a happy or sad occasion, or a tense moment. Effective leaders walk the talk and hold their behavior to the highest standard.

A Sense of Humor. Whether the President sipped a beer in the Rose Garden or the First Lady danced with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, the Obamas proved that they have a sense of humor, and that they are real people. Authentic leaders capture my attention and hold my heart.

Credit: The White House

Credit: The White House

Passion. Both the President and Mrs. Obama share a passion for America. More importantly, they opened up dialogue and initiated change, addressing tough issues like race, education, poverty, healthcare, nutrition, and American values, to name a few. Passionate leaders inspire, motivate, and empower others to initiate change.

Persistence and Grace. Throughout two presidential terms, the President and First Lady were met with obstacles and challenges. Sometimes it came from House or Senate leadership. Sometimes it came from political pundits. Sometimes it came from citizens. Through it all, the Obamas took the high road. They never buckled under pressure and remained calm and level-headed. They handled adversity with perseverance and grace. Leaders never give up, even when they know it might be a tough road ahead.

Partnership. Seeing them in the public eye for the past eight years, it is clear that the Obamas have more than a good marriage going for them…their commitment to a lifelong partnership, anchored in common values of trust, respect, and equality, is evident. You can see it and feel it when they are together or when they speak of each other. Exceptional leaders treat you like a valued partner, regardless of your position or status.

Eloquence. Both the President and the First Lady are eloquent speakers. Their words are spoken from the heart, and thoughtfully executed. President Obama’s speech on race and his farewell speech on democracy were two of his finest. You could hear a pin drop during First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2016 Democratic National Convention speech. Leaders who share a powerful message command attention.

Intelligence. Intelligence is more than just a high IQ. It’s being sensitive to the needs of others around you. The Obamas showed us intelligence and thoughtfulness through every new program or initiative that was introduced. Intelligent leaders are critical thinkers and encourage others to carefully think things through.

Class act. Singularly and collectively, the Obamas are a class act. They embody the very essence of professionalism in every aspect of their life. With the Obamas, though, it is no act. Genuine goodness and decency resides at the core of who they are. Leaders with class are admired for their fairness and decorum.

Thank you, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, for your exceptional public service. Your legacy of hope, collaboration, and leadership lives on. You will continue to inspire and motivate me and millions of Americans to initiate positive change in our lives, our communities, our country, and the world.

Celebrating the Gentleman, John Glenn

johnglennlifemagcoverThe word “gentleman” evokes a bygone era, yet, treasured American hero John Glenn reminded us through his actions exactly what the word meant. He was a gentleman and a gentle man.

As a native Ohioan, I was saddened to hear the news of John Glenn’s passing. He has been part of my collective memory since I was a child. He was – and always will be – one of Ohio’s greatest leaders, a dedicated public servant, and positive role model.

In his 95 years, he excelled in several careers: World War II and Korean War Marine pilot and decorated war hero, astronaut and space pioneer, NASA advisor, businessman, and U.S. Senator.

In 1962, he became the first American to orbit the earth. Thirty-six years later, in 1998, he returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery at the “youthful” age of 77 and became the oldest man to travel in space, another first. After retiring from the Senate the following year, he and his wife, Annie, founded the John Glenn School for Public Service at The Ohio State University. Glenn inspired us with a can-do attitude, built on traditional values of hard work, discipline, trust, honesty, and family.

“We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.” John Glenn

And so it was with John Glenn’s life and career. He became a pathfinder and risk taker who explored the ultimate unknown frontier, space. The lessons he learned from space exploration served him well in his long career as a public servant.

There are certain qualities that come with the moniker of gentleman: Mannered. Polite. Diplomatic. Honorable. Courteous. The world could use a few more gentlemen (and gentlewomen too!) who possess the right stuff.

Glenn’s death came during this holiday season, a time of year when we are closing out one year (a time for reflection) and beginning a new year (a time for planning). Take a moment to remember those individuals, like John Glenn, who were gentlemen and gentle men, who inspire and motivate us to reach for the stars and see what is possible.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

The Grace and Integrity of Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill, pbs.org

Gwen Ifill, pbs.org

America lost a media trailblazer this week with the passing of Gwen Ifill, co-anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour. She was a woman of unparalleled integrity, unstoppable spirit and character. There will never be another.

This past summer when the Republican National Convention visited Cleveland, where I live, my husband and I decided to drive downtown and enjoy the excitement of a major political convention in our city. We walked along the trendy East Fourth Street area, which served as home to all of the national media posts. Well-known reporters, news anchors, and commentators were everywhere, mixing and mingling with visitors and conducting interviews in the street. My eye scanned the crowd, and there she was – Gwen Ifill – eating a light lunch at a sidewalk cafe. She smiled that stunning smile and was gracious as people approached her.

When you read about her journey as an award-winning journalist, and hear her personal story of humble beginnings, you are reminded that any person who has a dream can pursue and achieve it.

“Journalists are accused of being lapdogs when they don’t ask the hard questions, but then accused of being rude when they do. Good thing we have tough hides.” Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill knew how to ask the tough questions, and she never backed down. Her professionalism and level of intelligence were at their finest in her role as a political debate moderator. The questions she asked were thought provoking, and she brought a certain level of authority, responsibility, and respect to the role.

She encountered discrimination, racism and bigotry in her life, yet she remained undaunted and focused on her dream, her future. The integrity of her work demonstrated that she was not only capable; she was the best in the business. She led by example, was a trusted friend and advisor to many, and served as a mentor to many young women coming up through the ranks. That example continues to provide hope to young women, especially women of color.

I can only imagine the conversation she is enjoying now – on that other plane – with longtime friend and fellow journalist Tim Russert, who also left this earth too early. Oh, what a great reunion.

Reflecting on all that Gwen Ifill accomplished in her lifetime encourages me to be a better person. May we all as professionals look to her example for inspiration as we strive to succeed in our careers and in life.