Getting Real with Resilience

Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller

I’m amazed at how people have responded – and continue responding – to the pandemic and other serious issues affecting us. I’m talking about something people do individually and collectively; something they may not even realize they’re doing that needs to be acknowledged and recognized.

This “something” is resilience – the ability to face adversity, bounce back from it, and learn and grow from the experience. Too often people take their ability to move forward in difficult situations for granted. When they step back and acknowledge this capacity, when they and others reinforce it, they’re more likely to learn from/build on their experience as they work their way through.

“No matter how much falls on us, we keep plowing ahead. That’s the only way to keep the roads clear.” Greg Kincaid

Necessary to move forward in life, resilience involves strength and stamina; it also can be gritty and hard. Here are several more of my favorite quotes on this topic.

“Resilience, the ability to adapt to difficult situations, doesn’t make your problems go away. Rather, it gives you the ability to put problems in perspective and to better handle stress.” Izzy Gesell

“In the aftermath of shocking events, people often start over and re-think their priorities. They might change careers to better match their values or reconnect with estranged friends. Many experience greater purpose, stronger social connections, or deepened spirituality. Psychologists call this ‘posttraumatic growth'” …” Jamil Zaki

“Resilient people can be anxious, angry, afraid, and sad, which doesn’t make them less resilient. It makes them – us – human.” Julia Mines

“Truth is, resilience is often very quiet. It’s putting one foot in front of the other even when the steps feel heavy. It’s deciding to try one more time. It’s taking a deep breath and promising yourself you won’t surrender just yet. It’s looking in the mirror, knowing the cavalry isn’t coming to save you, and choosing yourself again today.” Amber Naslund

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

[Image credit by symphonyoflove on Pixabay]
Engagement Training & Development

Blog-Inspired Nonprofit More Than a Relative Success

It all began with a popular blog.

Cousins Shane Burcaw and Sarah Burcaw Yunusov had the idea to start a nonprofit while in college.  Their dream was inspired by Shane’s “Laughing at My Nightmare” blog where he posted his “funny, absurd, and at times, gut-wrenching” experience living with a severe form of muscular dystrophy.” His message was “no matter what life throws our way, there is always a reason to laugh.”

Sarah describes their family’s experience:

“Shane and I grew up in a family that was always laughing [and] we learned how incredibly powerful humor was when dealing with adversity … His blog was basically just an extension of the mindset instilled in us by our family. It’s about the hilarious and crazy experiences Shane has had living with muscular dystrophy, but more than that, it teaches readers that a positive attitude can help them effectively cope with stress and adversity.”

Bolstered by the positive response to his blog, Shane and Sarah’s nonprofit, Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc. (LAMN), was officially launched ten years ago with a dual mission to “teach children that all people deserve kindness and respect, regardless of their differences, while also providing free equipment to people living with muscular dystrophy.”

I was first drawn to LAMN because I had a cousin with muscular dystrophy. Getting to know Sarah and Shane and seeing their passion and commitment in action, I became a strong advocate, supporter, and mentor.

Besides promoting understanding and acceptance of diversity to students in hundreds of schools, Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc., has given more than $500K in adaptive equipment/assistive technology to those in need. It also launched a COVID-19 Resource Relief program to help members of the disability community deal with the extra burdens imposed by the pandemic.

In honor of Laughing at My Nightmare, Inc.’s 10th Anniversary, this post is dedicated to Shane, Sarah, their families, and all LAMN supporters. Congratulations!

To learn more, check out Shane Burcaw’s books:





Leaders, Business Owners: Now is the Time to Do Something Intentional and Impactful

If you care about your employees, now is the best time to show them.

We’re in the midst of “The Great Resignation,” also known as the “The Great Awakening,” in which millions of people are quitting their jobs or striking for better work conditions. Not only has the pandemic lead to job and career burnout, it’s given people the time and impetus to re-assess their work options.

This assessment and self-exploration process includes people asking themselves two critical questions:

  • Do I find meaning and purpose in my work?
  • And does my employer value what I do?

For those fortunate to answer “Yes” to the first question, a “No” in response to the second question can be a deal breaker as doing meaningful work doesn’t ensure employees’ continued commitment to what they do when they don’t feel valued by their employer. 

Everyone needs to know that their work matters AND that they matter

Ideally, employees’ value should be embedded in a safe workplace and positive company culture that also honors them in special recognition programs, celebratory milestone events, Employee Appreciation Week, etc.

The months November through January, however, offer a unique opportunity to acknowledge employees’ collective contributions in sustaining operations and serving customers – especially in these most challenging times – as part of holiday festivities, a year-end wrap up, or new year kick-off.

These quotes sum it up best:

“In this tight job market, the last thing a company should do is forget to show appreciation. That’s important all of the time – and especially during the holidays … The holiday celebration is a worthwhile investment that will impact your company’s morale and, ultimately, its bottom line. It shouldn’t be trivialized.” Tina Hamilton, founder, myHRPartner, Inc. [Learn more in her article, Creative Ways to Celebrate Holidays in the Workplace.]

“What’s one thing you’re going to do to signal to people that you value and appreciate them for their efforts and making progress?” Christopher Littlefield, founder, Beyond Thank You

How will your employees know they’re valued this season?

[Image credit: photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]

I Don’t Need to Have the Answers

… as long as I have the right questions.

That’s one of my most important tasks as a facilitator: to carefully select the “right” questions. These are thoughtful questions that engage all participants in purposeful discussion leading to outcomes such as resolving a problem, getting everyone on the same page, setting strategic priorities, identifying resources and next steps, etc.

“Most facilitators spend considerable time looking for and thinking about a question for a particular situation with a particular group of people.” Dorothy Strachan, facilitator and author of Making Questions Work. 

That’s why I put much effort and energy into building a toolkit of engaging and focused questions – collecting them, adapting them, and coming up with new ones. It’s one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of my work.

My clients are smart 

I learned that the groups I work with have the answers – they just don’t know it. My role is to come up with the best questions and guide the process that enables clients to uncover the answers they need to get unstuck and move forward.

Sounds simple, but it’s not. I feel a tremendous amount of pressure to come up with the most appropriate questions for each group. Given the answers are unknown until participants ponder the questions, their answers cannot be presumed or predicted in advance. So the stakes are incredibly high in choosing the right questions and creating a psychologically safe space in which to pose questions that:

  • frame the issue(s)
  • provoke thought
  • provide focus and clarity
  • prompt creative thinking
  • foster idea-exchange and development
  • encourage the sharing of relevant experiences that help people learn from each other.

Coming together to address carefully chosen engaging questions, reflecting on them, building on one another’s responses, and reaching resolution is most important for the participants … and most satisfying  for the facilitator.

“I asked, ‘What would you like me to do when you feel stuck?’
She said, ‘Do what you do best. Ask questions. Help me find an answer.'” Peter Drucker

[Image credit: Pete Linforth from Pixabay]
Engagement Musings

Worried Much These Days?

Unlike MAD Magazine’s “devil-may-care” poster boy, Alfred E. Neuman – described as “someone who can maintain a sense of humor while the world is collapsing around him” – many people I know are worried. They’re worried about COVID’s resurgence, especially as flu season approaches, in addition to feeling stressed over continuing political and environmental issues.

I’m worried about my friends and family members who feel this way. And although the music video is entertaining, suggesting to people that they “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is insulting.

What helps me cope is to try to maintain a sense of perspective about worrying itself.

“Worry is a by-product of feeling powerless. We fear the unknown and are frustrated that we can’t do anything about it. We also want to influence daily events, but some things are beyond our control. The key is to face that reality and go with the flow. Most things that we worry about never come to pass … In fact, in most cases, worrying is a lot worse than the actual outcome.” – Frank Sonnenberg

Please know it’s not my intention to make light of or dismiss the seriousness of dealing with anxiety issues. I’m just sharing what helps me cope, and here are some of my favorite quotes on the subject:

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality. – Seneca

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” – Swedish Proverb

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” ― Corrie Ten Boom

“If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” ― Shantideva

“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.” – E. Joseph Cossman

A sense of humor (ala Alfred E. Neuman) is also helpful.

“[One fellow] worried so much that he decided to hire someone to do his worrying for him. He found a man who agreed to be his hired worrier for a salary of $200,000 per year. After the man accepted the job, his first question to his boss was, “Where are you going to get $200,000 per year?” To which the man responded, “That’s your worry.” ― Max Lucado

Besides a sense of perspective and humor, check out this helpful article on coping tips this season.

[Image: Alfred E. Neuman, created by Norman Mingo for MAD Magazine]
Customer service Engagement

Attention, please

Pandemic-induced stress and other reasons have led to decreasing workforce numbers and increasing pressure on remaining employees. Demanding, rude, and uncivil behaviors by some customers – and employers – only exacerbate the situation.

Please be patient, understanding, and considerate. Thank you.

[Image credits: “Dude breathe” photo by Kyndall Ramirez on Unsplash.jpg. Sign posted in office or store window – source unknown.]

What I’ll Miss Post-Pandemic

I’m feeling a bit unsettled as we ease out of pandemic-related restrictions. All of a sudden it seems my work and social calendar are filling up with in-person meetings and meals with friends, colleagues, and clients. With more people fully vaccinated (including me), I’m cautiously excited about having a busier schedule with more than just Zoom meetings.

Who could have imagined the many mundane things we took for granted before the pandemic? Activities like being together to share birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, and memorial services … attending concerts, plays, sporting events, museums, and conferences … planned and impromptu get-togethers for coffee or lunch or dinner … handshakes and hugs (especially hugs!).

“A crisis can be very clarifying. When you have emerged from a crisis you learn to cherish what really matters.” Scott Cochrane

While we’re fortunate in the U.S. to say “Good riddance!” to the worst of the pandemic, I find there are some aspects of the past 15 months that I’ll actually miss. Here are a few of them (in no particular order):

  • a renewed sense of respect for front line and essential workers like grocery/convenience store/drugstore clerks; healthcare professionals; delivery and truck drivers; etc.
  • a greater appreciation for nature’s restorative benefits
  • people proactively reaching out to connect with others near and far to check on their wellbeing
  • self-acceptance that it’s ok to say you’re not ok
  • increased awareness of the importance of mental health —  the impact of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that emerged and/or deepened during the pandemic, along with the need to de-stigmatize them.

I sincerely hope these will not disappear during and after our recovery.

What about you? What part of pandemic life will you miss?

[Image credit: photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash]
Engagement Marketing Musings

Special Mother’s Day Tribute from My Favorite Geek

[Note: I’m happy and humbled to re-post the following written many years ago by Jason Stershic, digital marketing professional, blogger, podcast producer, host of The Palmer Files Podcast, and (best of all!) my son. Thanks, kid!]

Sybil Stershic is my mother and, for most of my conscious life, she’s been the proprietor of Quality Service Marketing. When she founded the business, I was 5, and it has had a profound impact upon both my personal and professional life.

Personally, she was around more than most, as she worked from home. I was the audience for her as she practiced her material to a room of one, and she was there to take breaks and be a mom.

As I grew up in a world of advancing technology, I became her “Chief Technology Officer,” a title I still hold today. I came to set up computers, fax machines, modems, tablets, smartphones and introduce her to the world of social media – and I now jokingly take all credit for her social media success.

Professionally, I have to give her credit for my views on internal marketing. I assume I came to most of them by osmosis, due to the fact that I was her audience in the beginning and I don’t recall having great conversations about them until well after I established my own views. I’m fortunate – for several reasons – that they coincided with hers.

Those views have allowed me to be successful. I know to treat internal marketing and communication with the same importance as external. This was completely evident as I worked in retail for a company that had a good idea of internal marketing but horrible follow through.

Almost five years ago, I set upon my own business endeavor, Spectyr Media, Ltd. I do consulting for social media and internet marketing as well as branding, graphic design and website design (this one included).

My mother is now a treasured business associate, taking the time to answer any questions a small business owner may have and being supportive of my business. When I can, I urge those of my clients who could use her services to do so.

My mother has a great marketing mind and she is also a great mom! Happy Mother’s Day, to my mom and to yours. If you’ve learned and gained as much as I have personally and professionally from your mother as I have, then consider yourself fortunate. I know that I do!

[“Mothers Day” image credit: Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay]
Engagement Musings

A Twilight Zone Episode? If Only!

[Note: I’m delighted to feature this brilliant piece written by Izzy Gesell, who generously allowed me to share it here. A former stand-up comedian and public school teacher turned professional facilitator, coach, and speaker, Izzy creatively applies improvisation to enhance personal and organizational learning. You can learn more about this “organizational alchemist who helps individuals and organizations transform their thinking from commonplace to extraordinary” by visiting Izzy’s website.]

“Ladies, gentlemen & non-binary passengers. This is your Captain speaking. This inaugural flight of Air Pandemica is beginning its final descent into the partially renovated New Normal airport.

I know we’ve been in the air much longer than anticipated so I hope the complimentary Zoom memberships made the journey a bit easier.

Please take the remaining time to check around your seats and into your heart and make sure your risk-tolerance belt is tightened low and snug around your assumptions.

The flight crew will make one final pass through the cabin to collect all old habits, empty sanitizer bottles and the take-out food containers that have sustained you during this trip.

In your seat pocket you’ll find our complimentary in-flight magazine called “Lessons Learned.” You are welcome to take it with you. Please read it and discuss it with your children and grandchildren so they might know what to do if or when they have to take the same trip.

We’ll be landing shortly, fingers crossed. Vaccinated passengers wearing masks will depart first. Thanks again for flying Air Pandemica. We know you had NO choice in airlines but we thank you anyway. Hope never to see you again. BuhBye.”

[Thank you, Izzy Gesell!]

[Image credit: photo by Daniel Norris on Unsplash]

Volunteers Get to the Heart of the Matter

Q: How would you facilitate a meeting-of-the-minds between two competitive nonprofits?

A: Very carefully.

That was my challenge when I was asked to facilitate a special meeting of two organizations striving to enhance their impact in their community: one was a local affiliate of an established nonprofit and the other was a grass-roots start-up. Both groups were dedicated to helping people with cancer.

Concerned with competing for limited donor and volunteer resources, the established nonprofit felt threatened and candidly admitted they wanted the new organization to just “go away.” Fortunately, they accepted the new group’s invitation to sit down together and explore how they could co-exist to serve the community.

Focusing on what matters

I remember my feelings of trepidation as I prepared for the joint meeting – I was a facilitator, not a peace-keeper! But my fears dissolved after interviewing several volunteers from each organization. Their message was clear and consistent: “We don’t care who we work for as volunteers, we just want to eradicate cancer. So find a way to work out your differences.“

These volunteers provided the critical reinforcement and reminder both nonprofits needed to hear: purpose supersedes politics. It also proved to be the perfect framework for a dynamic and fruitful dialogue.

I’m happy to share both organizations took the volunteers’ message to heart as they continue to successfully co-exist and collaborate in their efforts to help people with cancer.

[Image by Lou Kelly from Pixabay]