The Value of Daily Affirmations

Al Franken as Stuart Smalley, Saturday Night Live, circa 1990s

Professionals who lead successful lives have a secret weapon at their fingertips: Daily affirmations. These short, meaningful statements support who you are, how you behave, and the goals you pursue. They keep you focused on moving ahead.

Even Stuart Smalley, the adorable character created by Al Franken* for Saturday Night Live  back in the early 1990s, had a great positive affirmation that he said to himself in the mirror every day: “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me!” Just thinking about it makes me smile.

With positive affirmations, you choose messages that perfectly meet your needs. If you want to lead a calming life, that can become one of your daily affirmations. If you want to land a specific job, or earn a certain salary, those can become affirmations as well.

Eugene Burger, an internationally known professional magician and former theology professor, repeats this phrase to himself every morning as he showers: “I give myself permission to be powerful today.” Say that phrase to yourself several times right now. How do you feel? You can create different messages for yourself by inserting a different word in place of powerful. “I give myself permission to be…(generous, caring, respectful, knowledgeable, brilliant, helpful, resourceful)…today.” Before you know it, through positive daily affirmations you will live more of the life that you desire.

Another great affirmation that boots your self-esteem is this: “I am a unique package, filled with plusses and minuses, and the package is good.” This phrase speaks to our humanness because it is true, we all have plusses and minuses, and we have to accept and love ourselves, even the imperfections.

One final word about daily affirmations. If you have never recited affirmations, it can feel awkward at first. It can feel foreign or artificial. As you choose affirmations to suit your needs, and you begin reciting them every day, you will notice a gradual lifting of your spirits. Before you know it, you will feel more powerful or brilliant, generous, knowledgeable, caring, helpful, and resourceful.

*Now MN Senator Al Franken

Words of Wisdom From a Café

Ernest Hemingway in Paris

The oasis in the life of many Europeans is the local café…a place to unwind with a café au lait and engage in conversation with friends, colleagues and family. It is part of the daily regimen, like taking a walk in the park or riding the Metro to work.

These simple acts of everyday life in two major European cities – Paris and Brussels – were abruptly stopped in 2015 and now in 2016 through brutal terrorist attacks. In both cases, the world stood in solidarity with France and Belgium.

Many of the world’s most creative minds in literature, art, poetry, photography, theatre, music, philosophy and politics have met at intimate European cafés, in cities like Paris and Brussels, to exchange news of the day, opinions and world views.

What words of wisdom would these luminaries share, to console the world in its grief? Their timeless quotes represent the strength of the human spirit.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway


“One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being.” May Sarton


“Only divine love bestows the keys of knowledge.”

Arthur Rimbaud


“Love is the greatest refreshment in life.” Pablo Picasso


“Total war is no longer war waged by all members of one national community against all those of another. It is total…because it may well involve the whole world.”

Jean-Paul Sartre


“Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” René Magritte


“Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself.” Simone de Beauvoir


“If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.” Emile Zola


“What is love? It is the morning and the evening star.” Sinclair Lewis


“When a work appears to be ahead of its time, it is only the time that is behind the work.” Jean Cocteau


“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Edgar Degas


“Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.” F. Scott Fitzgerald


“Those who weep recover more quickly than those who smile.” Jean Giraudoux


“The depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves. People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life, for only then do they have to fall back on their reserves.” Leon Trotsky


“Genius…is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one.” Ezra Pound


“Action and reaction are equal and opposite.”

Gertrude Stein

Don’t sit in isolation. Join the world in conversation. Search for and find compassion, humility, joy, beauty, and happiness. Pablo Picasso said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Art in any form provides an oasis to us. Visit a favorite café or discover a new one, sit in silence admiring a Monet or Magritte painting at a museum, or engage in spirited dialogue with friends or strangers. Engaging, thoughtful conversation activates the healing process.

Master the Executive Summary

executive-summaryIf you want to gain the respect of upper management, communicate with them the way they expect. Deliver information to the C-suite in a format they are accustomed to: The Executive Summary. Make it a point to get to the point quickly and deliver information in a clear, concise way.

Traditionally, an Executive Summary accompanies a larger written document. It provides, at a quick glance, the essence of the core message. It can be as small as a few paragraphs or as expansive as a page or two.

Treat every executive communication, whether verbal or written, as an Executive Summary. When you deliver information in an Executive Summary format, you will get to the point more quickly, your message will be clearer, and you will get invited back to future meetings because senior management will appreciate your brevity.

An executive wants to know three things when you meet:

1. Why are you here? (What’s the purpose of our meeting?)
2. What information do you have to share? and
3. What specifically do you need from me?

It’s that simple. Cater to the way the C-suite thinks.

Use this outline as a template:

Identify why you are there. What is happening? Provide an appropriate set-up. Are you there to:

  • Share results of an important study?
  • Take a project in a different direction?
  • Request more resources?
  • Share a brilliant idea that will save the company money?
  • Provide a project update?

State your case and share supportive information. Do not…I repeat…do not do a data dump. In the most direct, concise manner, tell the executive what you would like to do. What information are you sharing and why? How does it back up the case you have just presented?

Mention specifically what you need. Do you need:

Additional staff?
An endorsement?
A consideration?

Here’s a brief example. The Vice President of Human Resources is meeting with the CEO:

Why you’re there: Changes in the federal healthcare laws require greater compliance from our company. This is a top priority for all of us. Our current HR staff is not equipped to fully monitor these requirements while juggling their current job responsibilities.

State your case: I am recommending the addition of one full-time employee to the HR department to focus on the new federal compliance laws. That would mean an additional $95,000 in the department budget to cover salary and benefits for this new position.

Share information: Companies like ours are pursuing additional staff support. This salary is comparable to what other companies our size are doing. This separate document outlines everything for you (capture details in a leave behind printed document).

What you specifically need from the executive: I would appreciate your consideration and immediate approval to create this new position so I can begin interviewing, and hiring, a new staff person by June 1.

Of course, you will be prepared for the executive to ask questions as you present information. Whether they tell you or show you nonverbally, there is one thing on the minds of executives: “Get to the point.”

When you assume a higher level of leadership with greater responsibilities, you must elevate your presentation style and communication skills when working with the C-suite. Learn to think like executives and communicate in a format they are already accustomed to: The Executive Summary.

Need a Reality Check? Take a Hike!

ParkWalk3816It’s easy to fall into complacency in the material world that we humans have created, spending countless hours in front of our computers working, checking emails, or watching videos, or texting or scrolling on our mobile phones. But that’s not the real world. To me, the real world is the one that existed millions of years before we humans arrived. I’m talking about the natural world, the great outdoors. Get off you electronic devices and take a hike!

March is the time of year when Mother Nature teases us into thinking that there is no more Winter weather in the forecast. Every sunny day reminds us that Spring is just around the corner. Yesterday, Mother Nature gave us a gift here in Northeast Ohio: a sunny, 70-degree day. That doesn’t happen very often in our northern state in March. What did I do? I got out and enjoyed a 3.5 mile hike in the Metroparks with its warm sunshine and fresh air.

An article in the New York Times entitled How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain references a study by Gregory Bratman of Stanford University and his colleagues. Bratman has been researching the health of urban dwellers in recent years. His study reveals the health benefits of the brain by spending time in Nature.

Here’s a challenge for you: For the next week, get out in Nature every day for a minimum of 20 minutes. Walk in your neighborhood (if it is relatively quiet) or a nearby park. Get on your bicycle. If you still have snow, cross country or downhill ski. At the end of the week, see how you feel. Compare how you felt before (tired, anxious, frustrated?) and after (relaxed, relieved, in a better mood?) exercise. Be mindful of the quality of sleep you’re getting. Do you fall asleep faster/easier? (I do when I am more physically active). What is your mental or emotional state when your head hits the pillow each night? Is your mind clearer? Are you ready for sleep? Do you wake up more refreshed? Consider how much more approachable and pleasant you will be with office co-workers when you completely change your environment each day.

Nature provides an abundance of beauty and health benefits to you. Invest the time every day to appreciate a completely different environment in Nature, one that doesn’t judge you, one that accepts you for who you are, and embraces you and says “Welcome home.”

And the Winner is…Chris Rock

Oscars Host Chris Rock,

Oscars Host Chris Rock Gave Diversity a Platform. Credit:


With all of the tension surrounding the 88th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, which aired on February 28, 2016, there was no one better qualified to handle it than comedian and Master of Ceremonies Chris Rock. And handle it he did. In his opening monologue, he put diversity front and center, and it remained there throughout the entire program. The result: He made everyone in the audience feel comfortable, laugh, and of course exhale.

Some African-American celebrities chose to boycott this year’s Awards ceremony because of the absence of African-American nominees. Those who chose to attend, like Whoopi Goldberg, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Hart, John Legend and Common, were there to support their fellow actors no matter what race or creed.

Chris Rock looked sharp – elegant in fact – in a white tuxedo jacket with black pants, a perfect rhetorical nod to the controversy at hand. His comments were fair and balanced. He was able to poke fun at the issue without offending people.

The chain of events that led up to the Awards ceremony provided fodder for Chris Rock’s raw comic talent. His example showed others how to handle adversity. Rock and writers worked diligently to create several on-topic, hilarious parody videos. My favorite was Saturday Night Live alumnus Tracy Morgan’s comic portrayal of The Danish Girl.

What can we – as professionals – learn from this historic event? For one thing, it’s a reminder that life gives you choices. You can either choose to be for or against something; sometimes you lead the charge and other times you follow other people’s leads. You also have to pick your battles because there are many in life. When making those decisions, you must ask some critical questions: What do I gain from taking this stance? How am I positioning myself? Will it help or hurt my reputation?

The game changer statement that Chris Rock made was when he said that in 1962 there were no African-Americans nominated for any Oscars, and there were no boycotts then. Instead, he said, black people at that time were demonstrating against important social issues (like being raped or lynched) rather than who won best cinematographer. And he said it in his own inimitable Chris Rock way, funny and cutting to the core of truth. Were some of his words hard to hear or even admit to be true? Yes. Therein lies the power of the moment.

From my perspective, Chris Rock solidified his image as a brilliant, talented, quick-witted comedian who chose to be collaborative rather than combative.

Another big winner at the Oscars was the Girl Scouts, thanks to Chris Rock’s plug and plea to the audience to buy Girl Scouts cookies. That product placement is sure to result in a spike in U.S. cookie sales.

The action of the boycott itself and the response of Chris Rock and the Oscars producers has encouraged conversation around diversity and will hopefully spark some positive changes on the Academy board and within the voting process.