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A Chinese Story About Harmony

On a rainy night of New Year’s eve, a lonely little girl was saddened by the disagreements that brought upon her family members.

Litte girl sadly said, "It's Chinese New Year's Eve, but it's been raining all day long. New Year is coming but everyone is not in a good mood. Brother insists on buying a new motorcyle. Dad, Mom, and Brother are quarelling about it again."

Dad told to Brother, "Can't you use the old motorcycle ? You just know how to spend money !"

Mom also said to Brother,"The economy is bad, why don't you just use the old one ?"

Brother angrily said, "The old motorcycle breaks down all the time, you can use it ! I won't !"

"It's your fault. You have spoiled him !", Dad said to Mom.

Little girl asked herself, "It’s New Year, but why is everyone unhappy ?".

"Kitty, can you tell me how to make everyone happy for the New Year?", asked the little girl to her cat.

Then, outside the window, the little girl looked four old men were coming, "Dad, Mom, look ! Brother, come and see, quick !"

Mom said to the old men, "Ah, it’s raining so heavily, Sirs, please come in for shelter !"

Old man #1 said, "Haha, thank you for your kindness, Madam. But we have a rule, only one of the four of us can come in. Who do you wish to invite in ?"

The four old men then introduced themselves one by one.

Old man #2 : "I am Wealth."

Old man #3 : "I am Success."

Old man #4 : "I am Well-being."

Old man #1 said with a laugh, "Haha, everyone call me Harmony."

Dad said to the four old men, "Surely we should invite in Wealth, then we can have a comfortable life !"

Brother said, "No, no, choose Success ! I want my family to be proud of me !"

Mom said, "Wait a moment ! I think Well-being is the most important !"

Dad exclaimed, "Wealth !"

Brother exclaimed, "Success !"

Mom exclaimed, "Well-being !"

Little girl asked to her mother, "Mom, Mom, What is harmony ? Why don’t you invite in Harmony ?"

Dad said, "Yes, you’re right ! Why don’t we invite in Harmony ? New Year is here, we should be harmonious. Let’s invite Mr. Harmony in, then !"

Seeing that all of the four old men came in together, little girl’s father said, "Eh ? I thought you said only one of you can come in ? Why did all of you come in ?"

Old men #1 replied,"Haha, we have another rule. If Harmony enters, Well-being, Success and Wealth will follow."

Little girl happily said, "Now I understand. To be happy is to be in harmony."

You can watch this full inspirational story in animation Youtube 《和諧》He Xie Animation

Story written by Ven. Master Xin Yun (Master Hsing Yun)

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Steve Jobs

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” 

American Businessman/Inventor

1955 - 

Can we change the world?  Jobs thinks so and he has done so with the Apple computer, the MAC, the I-Pod, the I-Phone and the I-Pad.  And yet he has not touched the human heart.

I think we can change the external world a lot easier than we can change the internal world.  Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and others like them have changed the way we communicate and interact, but they have not changed the people who communicate.  We still have liars, thieves, rapists and murderers.  We have greedy, mean and negative people. We still have people who are poor, hungry and jobless.  Technology does not change the heart.  The computer did not make us better people.  The internet did not make us better people.  Think about how many people run scams via the computer or hackers who steal people's information and identities.

Changing the human heart is an inside job.  Only I can change myself.  Only I can make me a better person.  And even then I often fail.  And some would say that only God can change the human heart.  Yet, if you look at some of the religious leaders who commit adultery and you will realize that He too has failed.  How many times have you tried to change old habits and failed?  Our human nature is often a barrier to our success.  People keep hoping the world will change and it does, just not always for the better.

So can we as creative leaders change the world?  I don't think the answer can easily be found.  We can change somethings but not all things.  But we must keep trying.  We cannot let failure stand in our way.  Let us celebrate the rebels. the misfits and the troublemakers because they look at the world through rose-colored glasses.  They see things that others do not see.  They find hope where others give up and quit.  So I celebrate hope amidst my failures.  And I still choose to believe that I can change.  Don't you?

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Dorothy Fadiman

"Each of us is an artist, capable of conceiving and creating a vision from the depths of our being."

American Filmmaker

I believe that every person is capable of creating artistic works.  Some of us may have had our creative impulses damaged as a child by either a parent, a teacher or another child.  Someone somewhere made fun of something we created.  I know I have had those people in my life, but for some reason I kept going.  In fifth grade, I was given the opportunity to write about my class for the weekly newspaper.  Our small town newspaper published a page or two of articles written by school children.  My first article was criticized by the editor as be too much like advertising.  My headlines were too bold.  I was writing ads not journalism.  I never seriously wrote for a newspaper again.

When I was a junior in high school I started writing poetry as a way to express my feelings.  When I was a senior, I submitted a paper composed solely of my poetry in a social studies class.  My English teacher asked me why I had not showed her my poetry.  I had no answer for her.

I believe inside each of us is a need to find an outlet for our creativity.  For some that might be sewing, or cooking, or fixing cars.  For others, our creativity finds its outlet in writing, drawing, painting, singing or acting.  Unfortunately, naysayers have blocked our creative impulses and we must learn to open our creative channels.

Here are clips from one of Dorothy Fadiman's films: Reclaiming Their Voice, Saving the Petroglyphs: Teaser.

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Wayne Dyer

"The child in you, like all children, loves to laugh, to be around people who can laugh at themselves and life.  Children instinctively know that the more laughter we have in our lives, the better."

American Author/Speaker

1940 -

Do you love to laugh?  Or have you forgotten how to laugh?  I don't remember laughing much as a child?  I probably did, but I can't remember.  I know that I was a serious child and have been known to be a serious adult.  I know that my grandfather on my mother's side was very strict and serious.  He probably considered laughter to be the devil's work.  I know that as an adult I don't smile a lot.  I think that it is because as a child I spent a lot of time in the sun.  I squinted so I was able to see in the brightness.  I know that I do laugh as an adult, but I don't always laugh at what others consider to be funny.  I know that many of the movies that people think are funny I find stupid.  I guess you could say I don't like people acting dumb or stupid.  I like serious humor.  I don't like humor that puts people down and makes fun of individuals or groups of people.  I did not grow up in an environment where we told jokes.  I don't know how to tell a joke.  I don't like planned or canned laughter. 

The best laughter for me arises unexpectedly and spontaneously out of the moment.  Something someone says or does will strike me as funny and we will both experience a deep belly laugh.  It is not laughter that you can share with others.  If you were not present when it happened, it will not be funny to you.   

As creative leaders, we must be careful not to take life too seriously.  We must learn to laugh and enjoy the moment.  In the laughter we are refreshed and we will find hope.

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Harley King

"Service to others in their time of need is a privilege and an honor."

— Harley King

American Speaker and Poet

1949 -

As creative leaders, we inspire, encourage and give people hope with our paintings, sculptures, poetry, stories and music.  Our creative works touch the hearts and souls of millions of people with passion and power.  Reading novels have helped people through difficult times in their lives.  Listening to music has brought encouragement to unhappy souls.  It is a privilege to help others in their time of need.  

Have you been inspired by a poem or a novel you have read?  Have you found peace and comfort in a song?  Has a painting opened up new worlds for you to experience?  Just as we as creative leaders have been inspired by other artists and writers so our audiences are inspired by us.  Yes, we often feel we are creating for ourselves, but in the end our legacy is to be found in the people to whom we have given hope to through our creative expression.

Here is a short video of a speech I gave in May at an awards banquet to over 1000 health care professionals about the privilege of service to others in their time of need.

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Marilyn Chin

"Poetry is my passion.  It is my art.  It is my love, it is my first love, my love beyond all loves, beyond romantic love.  It's as necessary for me as breathing is necessary for me.  I can't live without it."

Marilyn Chin

Chinese-American Poet

1955 -

Are you passionate about your art?  What would happen if you could no longer create works of art?  Would a part of you die?  For me, my writing is a part of who I am.  And I agree with Chin that it is as important as breathing.  If I could no longer write, I would not be happy and a part of me would wither and die.  I need to feel the creative juices flowing through my body.  And hear my voice speaking to the universe.

Here is Marilyn Chin reading her poem, The Floral Apron.

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Ann Linnea

"The essence of parenting is to never lose faith in your child and the essence of adulthood is to assume that faith in yourself.

American Author/Educator

1949 -

Many have compared the act of creation to the act of giving birth and to their creations as their children.  And there is some validity to the analogy.  But the more important message is that one should never lose faith in what you create.  Believe in your creation as you would a child.  And believe in yourself as an artist and creative leader.

Too many people give on their creativity because they haven't found fame or fortune.  Lack of interest in your art by the world does not negate what you have created.  The opinions of others don't much matter.  What is important is that maintain your faith in yourself and what you create.  Don't give up or give in.

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Marian Wright Edelman

"Learn to be quiet enough to hear the sound of the genuine within yourself so that you can hear it in others."

— Marian Wright Edelman

American Author

and Child's Rights Activist

1939 -

Our world today is filled with man-made noise that drowns out many of sounds that can be heard in nature as well as the voice with in in our hearts.  Many of us cannot go anywhere without our I-Pods, I-Pads and I-phones or their equivalents.  We cannot live without filling our ears with sound.

As writers, musicians and artists we must learn to be quiet.  We must have the self-discipline to shut out the noise from the outside world and learn to listen to the small voice deep inside.  If we learn to hear that small gentle voice, then maybe we will one day be able to hear that voice in others.  We will be able to connect with others through the sounds of our voices.

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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"Own only what you can carry with you; know language, know countries, know people.  Let your memory be your travel bag."


— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Russian Novelist

1918 - 2008

Here in America we are a nation of buyers.  Buying drives our economy and puts money in our pockets.  Money is circular by nature, always coming and going, saying hello and saying goodbye.  We have accumulated so many goods and products that we now have a reality TV show about the hoarders in our midst -- people who can't let go. 

And along comes Solzenitsyn who says to own only what you can carry.  Wow!  How many people are ready to live that lifestyle?  Travel light.  Worldly goods are of little value.  What is of value is the knowledge you gain and the memories that keep you warm on those cold winter nights.  What baggage are you carrying around that you need to let go of so you can travel lighter?

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Barbara Kingsolver

Photo by Annie Griffiths

"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for.  And the most you can do is to live inside that hope."

American Novelist, Poet

1955 - 


What do you hope for?  What are your dreams?  Do you live inside those dreams?  Do you have faith that one day you will achieve those dreams?

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Christina Baldwin

"The gate to any new period of growth or maturity in our lives requires a period of discomfort and disorientation.  Out of this experience we eventually create a more deeply integrated story."

American Author/Speaker

1946 -

Growth as a creative leader is often associated with pain and discomfort.  Anytime we try something new or learn a new technique, we must pass through a period of frustration and unhappiness before we become a master.  Everything has a price and we must pay that price.  The paradox is that when things come to easily we become bored.  We like a challenge and  new opportunities for growth and development.  And the more pain the stronger our personal story becomes.

What are you struggling with at this moment?  What barriers stand in your way?  What is frustrating you?  There is light at the end of this tunnel even if you can't see it.  And you will be a better artist, writer or actor when you come through it.  Give thanks for these moments of growth.

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Keith Harrell

"Challenges — life is full of them; without them, how would you know and realize the awesome power that lives within you."

Keith D. Harrell

American Speaker

1956 - 2010

We all face challenges in life.  No one ever lives a life without some challenge.  For some of us, the challenges seem to be overwhelming.  I don't know how I would survive living in a war zone or a prison.  In many ways, I feel blessed because I have had fewer challenges than some.  But I have also had more than others.  I think the first mistake is to compare my challenges to those of others.  It does no good.  

What is more important is what we learn from the challenges we face.  What do our experiences teach us?  How have our challenges made us better artists and writers?  How can we use our challenges?  Our challenges can help us find that hidden strength that we all have within us.  We are stronger than our challenges.  So the next time you have a challenge in your life.  Be thankful for what you are about to learn.  Be grateful for the gift of learning that you have been given.

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Jean-Francois Millet

"I want to put strongly and completely all that is necessary, for I think things weakly said might as well not be said at all."

French Painter

1814 - 1875

Potato Planters

Does your art speak with a strong, clear voice so all can hear?  Or is what you say weak, vague and uncertain?  Creative leaders need to make powerful statements through their creative works.  The world needs to know where you stand.  Don't be a shrinking violet.  I am not talking about political or religious statements.  I am talking about sharing your vision of the world — your understanding of truth, your moment of honesty.

What is the message that you want to communicate?  What is in your heart?  What is in your soul?  When we read your stories or observe your paintings, do we hear you?  Speak loud enough for us to hear.  Help us understand the person you have become.  

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George Tooker


"Painting is an attempt to come to terms with life.  There are as many solutions as there are human beings."

American Artist

1920 - 2011

Life is about finding ourselves and coming to terms with why we have been born.  And there is not just one answer.  There are millions of answers.  Creative leaders are no different than the rest of the world.  They, too, must come to terms with why the are here and what the meaning of life is.  In fact, creative leaders because of their sensitivity often have a more difficult time coming to terms with whom they are.

I think we become who we are meant to be.  The challenges and difficulties that we face help to strengthen the persons whom we are meant to be.  Whether you are 24, 44, 64 or 84, there is a reason why you are here.  Have you discovered that reason?  Have you become the person you were meant to be?

George Tooker is one of my favorite artists.  I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to see a collection of his work at the Columbus Museum of Art.  I wrote two poems in response to his paintings:  Subway and Mirror.  Here is his painting, the Subway.


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Kurt Vonnegut

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

American Novelist

1922 - 2007

Who do you pretend to be?  Have you stopped pretending?  Every artist, writer and actor needs the skill of pretending.  A writer invents worlds that he inhabits through multiple characters.   An actor must climb inside the psyche of the characters he plays.  An artist must inhabit the paintings he creates.  So who do you pretend to be.

When I was young I pretended to by a professional pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.  I pretended to be a professional basketball player.  A child loves to pretend.  The three-year-old child that my wife and I are raising loves to pretend to be a dog.  Many of us as we grow older lose the habit of pretending.  We are taught to live in the real world, not the one of imagination.  In fact, day dreaming is frowned on.  Yet, as creative leaders, we must encourage and cultivate our imaginations.  It is with our imaginations that we create new artistic expressions.

Play with your imagination today.  Become someone else.  Pretend to be what you want to be and enjoy it.  Relax, sit back and day dream.

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George Sand

"The ease (of writing) increases with age, and thus I do not allow myself to work at this more than two or three months of each year. . . . Indeed I only write two or three hours per day, and the interior work is done while I scribble away at my watercolors."

French Novelist

1804 - 1876

Some writers struggle to write after early success.  The second and third novel are difficult to write.  Other writers are prolific.  They adopt a pseudonym so they can publish more.  Some writers face writer's block and struggle to write.

Like Sand, I have found it easier to write the older I become.  When I was young, everything had to be perfect.  So I struggled to find the right word, the right metaphor.  Perfection is not my goal today.  I just want to get the story down on paper.  I can sit anywhere and I write — even in a noisy mall or a quiet art museum.

What about you?  Is writing easy?  Or do you struggle to put words on paper?  Do artists struggle to paint?  I have come to art later in life so I am not trying for the perfect painting.  I enjoy the process of creating a painting or a sculpture.  And I don't worry about others because I am not looking to sell the piece.  I am painting to relax my spirit — to make me feel good.

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Cristina Marrero

"To question the world around us and all its complexities is not blasphemy, but simply using the mind God gave us for its intended purpose.  God is an artist.  Artists do not create to have someone just glance and say, "That is pretty."  Artists want viewers to look closer, deeper — to really see what they have created — not just glance."

Puerto Rican Writer

1989 - 

To question is the essence of being an artist.  We should never accept the world as it seems.  We should dig deeper and explore the layers truth woven in the fabrics of our existence.  And then we need to reveal what we found for the world to see.  Those who accept the faith of their fathers without question will have a fragile faith.  Those who question the status quo and challenge the accepted wisdom will eventually strengthen their faith.

Have you paid your dues?  Have you dug deep within your soul to discover the truth?  Or have you skated on the surface, accepting what everyone sees?  I challenge you to go deeper within yourself and find the essence of what you believe.  And then share the truth you find in your creative work.

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Alexandre Hogue

Dust Bowl

"I was raised on a ranch in the Dust Bowl and I was there when the dust storm hit . . . . To me, as an artist, it was beautiful in a terrifying way.  I painted it for that terrifying beauty."

Alexandre Hogue

American Painter

1898 - 1994

Erosion No. 2 Mother Earth Laid Bare

Sometimes our subject matter chooses us.  The events of the times we live in impact and change our creative output.  The subjects we choose to paint or write about are found in the world around us.  Those who have experienced war as a civilian or soldier will bring that experience to their paintings and writings.  Those who experience the violent wrath of Mother Nature will be drawn to paint those images.  How much has your creative work been influenced by the times in which you live?  

My writing has been influenced and impacted by the fact that I lived through the turbulent 1960's from the protest marches to the hippies.  I experienced the death of God movement and the rise of Black Power.  I lived through the decade that saw the assassinations  of John, Bobby and Martin.  To some extent I am a child of the times and that is reflected in my art and whom I have become as a person.

What external forces have shaped your art and given it focus and meaning?  For some the first decade of the 21st century will define their art and who they become.  For some global warming and the extreme weather conditions will define their art.  To some extent, we are all products of our times.  

The Crucified Land

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Shantideva's Inspirational Wish

"May I become food and drink in the eons of famine for those poverty-stricken suffers.

May I be a doctor, medicine and nurse for all sick beings in the world until everyone is cured.

May I become never-ending wish-fulfilling treasures materialising in front of each of them as all the enjoyments they need.

May I be a guide for those who do not have a guide, a leader for those who journey, a boat for those who want to cross over, and all sorts of ships, bridges, beautiful parks for those who desire them, and light for those who need light.

And may I become beds for those who need a rest, and a servant to all who need servants.

May I also become the basic conditions for all sentient beings, such as earth or even the sky, which is indestructible.

May I always be the living conditions for all sentient beings until all sentient beings are enlightened."


"While their evil ripens in me, may all my virtue ripen in them."

~ Shantideva, "Bodhisattvacharyavatara - Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life"

(8th-century CE)

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Luc de Clapiers

"Great thoughts come from the heart."

French Writer

1715 - 1747

Are you cultivating the power within your heart?  We spend a lot of time and money in  western culture educating the brain, but little educating the heart.  Yet, science is now discovering that the heart has its own intelligence separate from the brain.  We must train our minds to listen to our hearts.  The best artists, writers and storytellers understand that the heart is smart.  Have you learned how to listen to your heart?  What is your heart telling you to do?  Why haven't you done it?  Pick up the phone, dial in and listen to your heart.

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Theodore Hesburgh

"The  very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision.  You can't blow an uncertain trumpet."

American Catholic Priest, University President

1917 - 

As a creative leader do you have a vision of what you want to achieve?  Some of you may be saying to yourself that you are not leaders.  You don't manage anyone.  You work by yourself in a studio or an office.  You wield a paint brush or a pen.  As artists and writers we are creative leaders.  Our ideas and thoughts open up new worlds for others.  Our creative ideas bring about change in the world.  So you need a vision.  You need to know where you are going and what it is that you are going to accomplish.

My vision for my life is very simple:  I choose to plant seeds of hope in the hearts of others.  I believe that in every aspect of our lives we have choices to make.  We choose our attitude even if we don't choose what happens to us.  I also believe that I cannot change someone else.  Whether they change or not is their choice.  All I can do is plant seeds of hope.  Some seeds find fertile soil and take root.  Other seeds land on hearts of stone and fail to grow.  Some may be inspired for a day, others for a month and some for a lifetime.  I simply am planting seeds.  

What is your vision for your life?  What is the legacy that you are going to leave behind?  How will you be remembered?  What lives will you touch?  What hearts will you heal?  What gifts will you give?

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Marcel Marceau

"Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us all without words?"

French Actor and Mime

1923 - 2007

Words can not always communicate what we feel.  Sometimes silence is the best response to what happens.  Marcel Marceau was a master of silent communication.  He spoke volumes with movement and facial expressions.  I had the privilege of seeing Marceau perform live in concert in Canada in the late 1960's.  Words cannot describe the power of his performance.

As writers we live and breathe by the word.  In the beginning was the word and we felt whole.  But I have also learned that there is power in silence.  Too many words can confuse the communication.  We need to allow time for silence.  We need to enjoy the silence.  Painters understand silence.  They live in a world of color and shape.  They don't speak.  They breathe silence.

Take a few minutes today and enjoy the silence.  Turn off the TV, the I-Pod and the cell phone. Listen to the wind in the  trees.  Listen to your own breathing.  Listen to the silence.

Here is a video of Marcel Marceau performing.

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Elizabeth Bibesco

"It is never any good dwelling on goodbyes.  It is not the being together that it prolongs, it is the parting."

English Writer

1897 - 1945

Saying goodbye is difficult for some people.  They linger, wanting to stay longer in the company of their friends or family.  Saying hello is difficult for other people.  They are shy and afraid to meet new people.  Are there people in your life to whom you have difficulty saying goodbye?  

I have said goodbye to thousands of people over the years.  I say goodbye to the people who attend my seminars.  We know each other for two or three days.  We are almost like ships passing in the night.  We come together as strangers, share a few stories, laughs and tears before parting often never to see each other again.  So I have learned to say goodbye and to keep moving.

I have often said goodbye to my family because I have traveled so much.  It is much harder to separate from those you love than strangers you meet in the classroom, on an airplane or in a restaurant.  Saying hello to family is easier than saying goodbye.

Saying hello to strangers can be very difficult for me.  I was very shy growing up and still am when I am in a room of strangers.  If I am speaking, I have no problems approaching people who come into my  classroom and greeting them.  On an airplane, I have been known to strike up very enlightening conversations.  But if I attend a seminar as a participant, I usually don't approach the strangers.

Creative leaders must learn to say hello and goodbye if they are to be successful marketing their art.  And in today's world we have to market our products.  We have to attend book signings, art fairs, radio talk shows and if we are lucky TV talk shows.  We have to be good at saying hello and goodbye.

Marvin Gaye, the singer, had a difficult time performing in public.  He often cancelled his concerts because of his anxiety and fear of people.  He had difficulty saying hello.  How about you?  Do you meet people easily or are you filled with fear?

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David McNally

"The circumstances of our lives have as much power as we choose to give them."

American Speaker/Author

The circumstances that we find ourselves in — being poor or rich, educated or high school dropout, being married or single, being published or not — only have power to influence how we feel if we choose to give them that power.  We did not have control over the fact that we were born into a family that was poor, but we do have a choice about how we will respond to our circumstances.  We have no control over how others respond to our painting or writing, but we do have a choice about how much influence the opinions of others have on us.

I had an opportunity to hire David McNally to speak several years ago.  I was impressed with his story about making a documentary film about Terry Fox, a young Canadian who ran 3/5 of the way across Canada and raised 24 million dollars for cancer.  McNally had no experience making a film but was inspired to tell Terry's story of purpose.

At the age of eighteen, Terry Fox was diagnosed with cancer and had his leg amputated.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he decided to find some purpose in what had happened to him.  His goal was to run across Canada and raise a million dollars for cancer research.  He made it 3/5 of the way before he became too sick and had to stop.  He died a short time later.  McNally movingly tells Terry's story in the film, The Power of Purpose.

The circumstances that we find ourselves in — being sick or healthy, employed or without a job, homeless or with a roof over our heads — only have the power to influence how we feel if we choose to give them that power.

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