Opinion as fact…Don’t let them get away with it

One of the brilliant parts of social media is we can vet people before we agree to work with them (which is why I don’t trust any professional without at least a website).

I want to know what my providers do, how they do it, why they do it and if we share a world view.

I want to see if people work from a place of informed, educated expertise or are just winging it with self-determined confidence.

In other words, does what they say and do actually help, or are they just telling me it works based on their beliefs?

We live in a culture where opinion and fact are constantly blurred.

Science shows us we are in the midst of global climate change, yet a subsection of people ignore the facts, even when their state has unprecedented drought, fires and live stock dying by the thousands.

I understand we all suffer from our own version of confirmation bias. We see what we believe. Everyone is entitled to live by their opinion, rather than react to science and research.

That is, until I’m paying them to help me solve a problem.

Do you want your surgeon to wield a scalpel by intuition? Would you like your physician to diagnose your cancer based on a hunch? Would you prefer the civil engineer ignore the rules of physics when he designs the bridge your car drives over every day because “it feels right?”

Of course not. So when people who are in less-than-scientific fields (like therapy and coaching) tell me they are winging it based on an opinion and ignoring facts, I call it a cop out. Why do we hold ourselves to a lesser standard than the engineer and the diagnosing MD? Isn’t that asking to be dismissed as less-than? For me, it says this person has a word bubble over their head saying, “I’m too lazy (or unintelligent) to critically consider facts/research and don’t care enough about my clients to be open to new data that may help them.”

We have research that supports Reiki and energy therapies and other metaphysical phenomenon. I’m not saying we have to stick to only observable science. What I am saying is that when an intervention is shown over and over to NOT be effective and professionals insist it is so based on their opinion, we’ve walked down the road of weakening our authority and professional expertise.
Worse is when said professionals offer to “discuss” the science vs hunch issue and then take data and simply ignore or dismiss it as not relevant “because in my experience it’s helpful.” Again, they are seeking confirmation bias and anything that negates their view is deemed not admissable to the discussion.

The scientific method exists because the experience of ONE doesnt’ mean it a result of the same experience of many others. For example, eating a certain mushroom may make me grow bigger, but when given to 100 other people, they only got sick. If I go around telling people, “in my experience this mushroom makes you grow bigger!” and they eat it and get sick, I’ve hurt a lot of people based solely on my experience and ignoring data that challenges my worldview.

Opinions have a role. Theories have a place. Honest professionals will tell us when they are working from an opinion and when they are working on a data/research based platform.

But be cautious of those telling you they have facts when what they are telling you are opinions and personal experiences clothed as scientific data. “This has worked for me,” is  a horrible testimonial.

If we want respect and a voice in impacting how people get support and help, we need to respect the people we serve. While data may fly in the face of what “I know to be true,” at some point we need to acknowledge either we are doing our work to confirm our own worldviews or are  open to being available to information that may improve outcomes for the folks we care about.

So, let’s do our work with integrity. Let’s do our due diligence and offer services with a record of being helpful to more than a few, with replicable and valid outcomes. And don’t give your time or money to people who are selling a promise based on an n = 1. If someone is using intuitive work with you, that is cool if they are honest about their approach and authentic in that work. But mixing metaphors of evidence vs personal opinion is the slippery slope that muddies the waters and ultimately confuses our clients who need our focus to be on what we know will work for them.

 

 

 

 

Be So Good We Can’t Ignore You

Often marketers get it wrong.

You need to have something a value to market before marketing can work.

In fact, some awesome people and products barely market or advertise at all and still get great press and many customers.

Why? They’re so good, we can’t ignore them.

My hairstylist. Ed, is one of those people. He’s never marketed a day in his life. But if I want an appointment with him, I better plan 6 weeks in advance.  All his clients are repeat clients. He makes women look great without a lot of fuss. For me, that’s worth a trip into the city and whatever he charges. (I’m pro looking good and very anti-fuss.)

While I am a fan of being seen and telling people about the value you offer, most often, it’s best to be really, really good to the few people you work with now so they,

1. come back again and again and,

2. tell others about you

No one can pull the wool over clients’ eyes with flashy marketing, but crap service.

That is a very, very expensive and exhausting way to run a business.

Do great work. Tell people about it in smart, valuable, non-annoying ways.

You’ll see great things happen.

 

 

Do You Suffer from Overanalysis Paralysis?

My enjoyment of Facebook is fading.

I see too much naval gazing, self-promotion and overanalysis paralysis.

You know what overanalysis paralysis is, right?

It’s ruminating and second guessing and reading all you can about the whys and hows of procrastination.

Honestly, it’s exhausting.

And it is directly correlated to every reason people are stuck and not as successful as they want to be.

I’m sure diagnosing the whys and hows of our limits has some value. I just don’t give myself the luxury to consider it. Because, if I do give hours to answering the question, “How does resistance show up in my work?” I’m not doing any actual, real, income producing work. See how tricky that is?

The only way around overanalysis paralysis is through.

Here are my steps to getting over myself and doing the work that needs to doing.

1. Set a goal. Just set  a goal. Go ahead. No overanalysis if the goal is “good” or “right” or “bringing me toward enlightenment.” Please, child, set the goal.

2. Commit to the goal. Stand up and state it out loud. Raise a fist if it helps. Repeat until you own this goal and want it more than a hot fudge sundae.

3. Eliminate distractions. No excuses. Shut off Facebook (you don’t need to see someone else’s sunset, Sunshine.), toggle down Twitter. Turn. off. your. phone.

4. Get to work. Go. Now. No, you don’t need ice water by your side. No, you don’t need to meditate first. No, you don’t have to do one more load of laundry, or check in with your guru. Turn off the damn word counting, step measuring, “tell-me-how-I-measure-up” app. Because those suck and make us all feel like failures. Just do the fucking work.

5. Accept that there is no “secret.” This work is awesome and hard and anxiety provoking in turns. Flow with the process.

6. Ride all the waves.

7. Repeat.

No one can do the work for you. No one has the answer for you. No comparison or permission granting or check-ins with a friend to debate the pros and cons of the work will get you to reach your goal.

The only way we reach a goal is to take steps toward it every day.

And overanalyzing the process does no good.

It slows you down and wastes the precious energy you need to rock it out.

Now clear your head and get out there. You have goals to achieve!

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Let’s Talk About Authentic Success

In my work with young people with attentional and organizational challenges, I’ve spent my career promoting the reality that we all have gifts and challenges and need to define success on our own terms.

A brief moment of self-analysis lead me to understand that, as a teen who grew up in a high pressure, high achievement culture, followed the rules, got into the “right” schools, got the “right” degree none of that stuff made me particularly happy or special.

From an objective standpoint, I’ve achieved what we culturally define as “success.” But the degree, prestige and position never made me happy. Success for me is the freedom to choose. I get to choose how I work, when I work and who I spend my days with. It is a freaking rush. Would I be happier as a VP of a “Big Name Company,” or a professor at “Prestige U?” No way.

I chose Authentic Success

Not so ironically, the idea of authentic success comes from Wilma Bowers, a mom and champion of authentic success. I read about her crusade in this piece in the Washington Post about  the high achieving town of McLean, VA, where getting into Harvard is expected and anything less is scorned.

I remember being that teen in that kind of town and how now, 25 years later, it doesn’t mean much in terms of who is “successful” and who is not.

The key, really, is how one defines success. I see friends from high school in prestigious jobs who are miserable and some who decided to be stay at home parents who are super happy. And visa versa. Right?

I figured out a hybrid. I have my own business that allows me to be home with my child when we want and need that to happen.

No one ever offered that to me as a “success formula.” Some people still think it’s whacky or impossible or not a “real job.”

Eh, I shrug off the doubters. Because I’m happy where I am. What others think or feel about my life isn’t my concern.

The truth is real, authentic success is 100% unique. No one can dictate what makes you feel like a success. Not your parents, not your teachers, not your friends.  And success is subjective. Mostly, it’s a feeling and a belief, not a state of being or a position. Because, as much as we buy into this story, when we say it out loud, “She lives in Weston, which means she must be a success,” we sound shallow and immature.

If you have a degree from Harvard on the wall and need 3 drinks a night to manage your stress and anxiety, how is that success?

The outer stuff doesn’t matter as much as we hope it would.

This is both good news and bad news.

The good news is, you get to create your success and define your happiness.

The bad news is, you can’t blame some external force when things don’t work out or feel good.

You have great power, which brings all that responsibility.

Isn’t that awesome?

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The Looking Outward Trap

When it comes to creating a business or marketing in the digital age, looking at what others are doing is a trap.

The people who attract attention, get the clients/customers and make the money are doing something no one else is doing.

We humans are attracted to the new and the novel. We want to be part of something from the ground up. We all desire to be “cool” no matter what our age. We are always looking to be the first in line.

This is why following a marketing “guru” or using a blueprint, plan or approach that works for someone else is asking for trouble.

If Mary blogs every day about kale juicing and has 100,000 Facebook likes, what are the chances a copy cat blog about kale does as well?

If newsletters work for me at Child Development Partners and then another psychologist comes around writing newsletters about ADHD, we become defacto competitors. Who does that help? Is it useful to the marketer? To the community of clients?

The reality is, copying another person’s format for your business model or marketing is a set up to fail. When you engage the same strategy as someone else, you are competing in their space, on their turf and they got a lead on you.

If you want to use a blueprint model, buy a franchise. I mean that sincerely. The franchise model is all about using a clear blueprint with an already established brand so all of the foundational decisions about how and when to market and to whom are done for you, Of course, you pay for the formula, because those systems and approaches are expensive to create and valuable once they are repeatedly effective.

However, if buying a franchise isn’t your deal, toss all plans to follow the path others have trod before.

Stop looking outward for answers. Instead, look inside.

You are a creator. When you own your own business, you have a big canvas to paint on.

The only way to get noticed. The ONLY WAY to get attention and clients is to be different, to create something new.

And it has to be good. Really good. Half-assed doesn’t pay the bills.

So if everyone in your industry blogs and you don’t love writing, what can you do differently? Can you use video, audio, cartooning, announce a word-inspiration-quote of the day?

And do stuff you enjoy, for the love of Pete! I see people lamenting (read: “whining”) about hating to blog, but they slog through the blog because “people say I should.” Oh please. Let’s grow up. Stop letting others tell you what to do and do what you feel is good and useful.

For example, I know video would be a good medium for me to use in my marketing. But, hot diggity, I don’t love producing video. It’s a a pain in the ass for me. I don’t love to dress up, wear makeup and the production is tedious and boring (for me). You, on the other hand, may love video and if you do, go all out. Video to your heart’s content.

When I write and you do video (or whatever medium you dig), we now stop being competitors. We can collaborate. People can read my blog and watch your video. People who prefer to read over watch video will hang out with me and visa versa. Neither one of us is doing it “right,” and neither one of us is doing it “wrong.”

The tools we have at our disposal for free or super cheap are astounding. It’s a freaking miracle when you think about what people did to get a photograph 100 years ago and what we can do in seconds on our phone to produce content. And rather than use the endless options to create new, awesome stuff, we look around and try to copy someone else because we think they have it all figured out.

Truth. No one has it figured out. Creating something new means experimenting and seeing how it goes. When people hit the right notes and stand out in authentic, vulnerable ways, they get attention and a line at the door.

So rather than spend time and money on the next “trend in marketing,” I suggest investing in blazing a trail. Use you canvas, color outside the lines. It leads to a happier more successful experience in the long run.

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What “Doing the work” Looks like

work photo

Today I am knee deep in “doing the work.”

We almost always see the glossy , tidy, pretty end result of the work.

That’s why when we get knee deep in the work, we often feel like crap. We look at the polished outcome of someone else and say, “She’s all gussied up, with make up on and has this gorgeous website and video and admiring fans and I’m here in sweats and empty coffee cups strew about hoping it all pays off.”

That is called “doing the work.”

The glossy brochure was born of the empty coffee cup on the table.

No one graduates from school by avoiding the work.

No one discovers success under a rock.

The picture above is what doing the work looks like in my world today.

What does doing the work look like in your part of the world?

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How to change shame culture

If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies. – Einstein

Part of living a self-empowered life means taking responsibility for how we show up in the world.

For me, it means speaking up when I believe something needs to be said.

So, here I am speaking up about shame and what we each can do to empower people to see each other compassionately. This matters in life, business and parenting (big time).

So let’s talk about how to address the yuck of shame culture.

There’s a lot of blah-blah-blah about how a culture of shame leads to abuse, violence, depression, anxiety and worse.

While it is all true, shame does lead to negative outcomes, when we tune into social media we are often faced with an entire screen of shame based messages. Some are direct. Some are indirect. Most are passive aggressive.

People who claim to be healers or helpers are posting about “The 10 things you are doing wrong…” Women’s advocates post about “how to lose baby fat..” Hell, there are whole shows (sponsored by Disney,no less) dedicated to shame, America’s Funniest Videos, right? We laugh at people getting hurt or embarrassed and then they make money off of it.

Being shamed hurts. Shaming others is crappy. And we often aren’t aware we are on the receiving or projecting end of shame.

All that being said, there’s lots we can do to change shame culture. They are easy. Ready?

1. Don’t shame others. Don’t tell people that eating a cupcake is “bad” and juicing kale is “good.” Avoid all judgement about body type, clothing choice and whether or not people look better with make up (or not). Choose the high road. Agree to disagree. Keep your mouth shut when the opinion or judgement doesn’t add constructively to any outcome. Think before speaking. Tell no secrets. When you have to vent (and we all do), vent face-to-face with people you trust with you life. Don’t use public or social platforms to rage or “make a point.” Shaming is a cheap way to make ourselves feel better and every time we do it, we add to a culture that is harmful to all of us.

Oh and don’t post those horrible, “I know most of you won’t like or comment on this blah-blah-thing-about-me, but if you post it on your wall or tell me what body part you like on me the best, it means you care.” This is SHAMING people into feeding your ego. And it’s  a huge yuck-o experience for those  of us reading it who want to like you, but cant’ like your pleas for weird attention.

2. Don’t  allow people to shame you. When someone sneers, rolls their eyes, tells you that you “don’t get it,” or are “too emotional,” or should “do your research” and you know you aren’t wrong, you can do a few things:

  • Ignore them
  • Fight back
  • Shame them, too

I’m cool with ignoring, fighting, not the shaming. You decide what is warranted in your situation. In some cases, I walk away from jerks. In others I stand my ground.

True story -  nothing irks me more than losers who send me personal email complaining that what I write in my blog “offends” them. I’m fine with constructive criticism, but it’s the judgemental ones who say stupid shit like, “your blog is very self-serving,” or “using curse words makes you sound unintelligent,” that I want to punch in the face. So, I do the next best thing, tell them to take up their issue on their own blog and empower themselves to have a voice. This isn’t shaming. This is empowering someone who felt cognitive dissonance about something I wrote,  and rather than stand up straight and look themselves in the eye and coping with their own reaction, decided to try to shame me to shut me up instead.

Sorry, no. I don’t accept that chess move of shame. Stand up and empower yourself. Check.

3. Don’t let others get away with shaming. We all see it and hear it. People saying shaming stuff to others in their space. The ones that make me sad are when women try to “support”each other by holding each other accountable to “be good” on a diet or exercise program. Eating lettuce or running 10 miles doesn’t make you “good.” Helping the homeless, adopting a kitten, holding your child’s head as she vomits are good human choices. Juicing isn’t a validator of how things will turn out at the Pearly Gates, if you get my drift.

So stand up to that BS when you see it. You can be nice. You can be empowering. But don’t let that “You are amazing because you fit into a size 4 dress!” crazy talk into your stream and cheer back,”Size 14 for the win!”

4. Metaphorically and literally high five people. When you see good stuff going down, speak up, cheer it on, share that stuff, join in the goodness. High five all the awesomeness you see and hear.

We think we do this, but we don’t.

Don’t believe me? Try this experiment. Today,post to your Facebook stream a crazy rant about how people suck because they don’t understand you. Whine. Blame. Throw a hissy fit. Notice how much feedback you get. You’ll get all sorts of comments, likes and validation that your hissy fit matters. Tomorrow, post about something good. Share a story about a hero who helps veterans or works for Doctors without Borders. You’ll get crickets on that good stuff. Sure, maybe a few likes, but nothing like the swoosh of feedback you got when you were being a brat. (If you don’t want to do that on your wall, go see how it goes down on other pages.)

We like drama. We are all wired to pay attention to the negative. This is why tabloid papers are still around and really profitable. Shut down the crap and focus on the good. You get what you focus on.

The bottom line is, we get a shame culture because we ALL participate in it. Whether explicitly or implicitly we let shame rule and leave the good stuff to wait for another day.

We are the culture. We are the community. If you feel shame hurts, be part of the shift toward light and compassion. Start today.

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Where We Fall Down on the Path to Success

trees at sunset

We’re all striving for a goal. Whether it be making more money, finding a healthy relationship, losing weight, exercising more, or parenting our kids safety into young adulthood, we all have a goal of “success.”

In my travels and a parent, person and professional, I observe varying levels of people achieving the successes they desire.

Some people seemingly achieve one goal after the other with ease. Others can’t seem to get out of their own way.

The difference, it seems, isn’t in ability or access to information or resources.

The difference in almost all cases is focus.

Let’s consider someone who wants to climb a tree. She identifies the tree, it’s sturdy, she sees the branch she wants to reach and plans a strategy to get there. She grabs the tree trunk and begins her climb. As she goes up she is focused on where to put her hands and feet, pulling herself up carefully. This process continues until she reaches her destined branch and stand victoriously to see the world from up in the tree.

But what would happen if she kept shifting her focus from her hands, feet and tree to looking at the ground, clouds and birds? What if she let her mind wander to thoughts of falling or how she will brag to her friends about this amazing feat or bravery?  If she lets go of her focus on that branch, chances are she won’t ever get there. She’ll fall or stall or second guess her next move. She’ll let doubt creep in, question her sanity, motives and talk herself down–literally and figuratively.

When we lose focus on our goal and the steps we need to get there, we lose all momentum and more often than not, miss our target.

How we Screw Up Focus

Just yesterday I read an article in the Boston Globe about research that found people would rather receive an electric shock than sit with their own thoughts for 15 minutes.

Let us pause and think about that for a minute (see what I did there?).

If you are a person who is constantly reaching for your phone, listening to music or otherwise avoiding your own thoughts, you will struggle mightily to reach any goal you desire.

Why?

Your brain needs time to formulate a plan, create a vision and focus on the steps to get there.

In fact, most inventors and creative thinkers take a great deal of time to sit with their own thoughts. Many are what would be considered introverted and find pleasure in working through ideas.

The answers we need to create something of value are not on our phone or in someone’s quickly written self-help book. The answers aren’t housed in a “secret” vault a business coach invented. Your partner, mom, kids don’t have the map or the code or the magical solution up their sleeve. The success we all desire comes from our ability to focus and move forward accordingly.

If you would rather shock yourself with electricity than focus on your own thoughts for 15 minutes, you are in trouble.

How to Focus

Sustaining focus is  a cognitive skill like reading or doing math.

In today’s world, we can be distracted from our own thoughts 24/7.

In fact, it’s more work to get quiet thinking time,than it is to be 100% distracted, 100% of the time.

So the very first thing you need to do to better focus is to simply decide that you want to focus.

Intention dictates commitment, which leads to appropriate action. So set your intention to learn how to focus.

When working on focus, it’s probably best not to declare you will focus on how to change the world, but rather something less intense and easily achievable.

The second step is, decide on a clear, achievable focus goal.

[Right now, some people will get stuck. The act of deciding brings out all kinds of anxiety. Seriously, if you are feeling stuck get over yourself, do not distract yourself. Just pick a damn goal. Maybe your focus is on cleaning your kitchen, or finishing a book you started, taking a 15 minute walk/run without music or talking, or staring out the window with no distractions. Simple focus goal for now. Trust me, you can add on the complicated stuff later AND there will never be a shortage of things to think about.]

Step three is to go forth and do your thing without distractions.

Sounds simple, but for some of you, this won’t be easy. You’ll find yourself wanting to look at your phone, check in on Facebook, text a friend, check on your kids. In fact, you will probably be surprised just how distracted you are all day long when you try to actually focus for 15 minutes.

Once you focus on the task and get it done, you can go back to distractions. Go ahead. We’re not trying to torture your poor brain.

Your final step is to commit to this practice. Every day, do this exercise. If 15 minutes becomes easy breezy, increase the time to 30. Start to set goals of substance. If you want to blog, use Twitter, write  a book, try new recipes, do these during your focused time.

The success thing…it isn’t rocket science. But you have to want it. And you need to prioritize it.

The difference between those who reach the top of the tree and those who don’t isn’t their climbing skills, it’s reaching up one step at a time to get to the goal without looking down.

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The Conversation We Need to Have About Mindset

Every part of your life sources in your brain.

Your breathing, your heartbeat, your sex drive, your success and your failure.

If you can’t think it, it can’t happen.

If you can’t imagine winning the race, you won’t every finish first.

If you can’t see yourself at Carnegie Hall, you’ll never play on that stage.

However, if you CAN see it in your mind’s eye, you have a chance. You’ll focus your efforts to reach that goal. Nothing is guaranteed, but at least you’re moving in the right direction.

Your brain is THE most powerful organ in your body. Nothing good happens when the brain is out of whack.

And yet, we treat the brain like chump change.

We sleep poorly, eat poorly, drink and drug and let toxins build up.

We fuck up our brains pretty good.

And then wonder why we don’t feel well, can’t succeed or have poor relationships.

It really is all in your head.

People talk about a “success mindset” like it’s a switch in your head.

“Just think good thoughts and good things happen.”

This idea of “manifesting” is bullshit. Complete and utter.

Sure there is energy out there that can help you along, but if you’re tired, unfocused, depressed, all the good energy in the world can’t get you where you want to go.

A success mindset is a realistic mindset. It’s a thought pattern of focus, determination and resiliency.

You have to train yourself to cope when you fail.

You have to have a plan for when the worst happens.

Because sometimes the worst happens.

Hiding our heads using magical thinking that we control our universe is childish.

Every successful person has a failure story. Often many of them.

Every famous athlete has lost a game, dropped the ball, got booed.

They are no different than the rest of us, except in mindset.

They have  a plan to get back up.

They cope.

They fight to play another day.

They see themselves with the trophy, even after they fell down.

Positive psychology is about more than just singing a happy tune and blithely wandering through life smugly expecting your happiness will get you where you want to go.

A healthy mind rides the wave, never expecting to stay complacent in one emotional state or pursuing only one goal forever and ever.

Mindset matters. It’s everything. But it takes work to stay the course, make consistent positive shifts, get up when your thinking is down.

And don’t forget to take care of your brain. It can’t help you out when it’s not feeling well.

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The Resilency of Passion

My son, the baseball player, had a rough game this weekend. He struck out, didn’t follow a coaches signs, had a rough inning of pitching, dropped a ball at 2nd base.

He felt bad.

I feel some of the adults around him weren’t optimally supportive. He was confused about something. He asked a question and was shamed. And while I am absolutely NOT OK with that (and it was addressed), that isn’t what this post is about.

After that rough game and the difficult interaction with a coach, Alex started to fall apart. He was anxious, which led to silly, which led to a talking to by dad, which led to tears, which led to a heart-to-heart with mom.

I told him I loved him.

I told him he had a right to be upset.

I told him we had to find a way to solve his confusion.

I told him he has to be better than those who bring him down.

“You have to be better.” Were my exact words.

He blinked through tears.

“You have a goal. You have the skills. You had a rough game and someone didn’t help you like he should. You have two choices – give up or be better, and I’m ok with either decision.”

Then we sat in the car in silence a bit and ate cheese sticks.

After about five minutes he quietly said, “I want to be better, Mom.” We strategized a plan to be better. He went off to execute. I went off to get sandwiches.

When I returned he was smiling, laughing with friends. He shared his ham and cheese with them (But not his chips. Don’t touch the chips, dude). I caught his eye, “Did you figure it out?”

“Yes.”

Then Game 2 started.

He was better. Way better.

He pitched like a champ.

He hit a double, then a single and got two RBIs.

He had clutch play at 2nd base.

The team lost, but Alex knew he had won.

And even if he never plays a game of baseball ever again, I hope he remembers how he overcame a dip, chose himself over adversity, took matters into his own hands and stepped up when he could have chosen to step down.

Because when things get tough and unfair in life, work, relationships and business we have two choices – to give up or to be better.

You always  get to choose your next step. Cheese sticks are optional.