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Director of Marketing Anita Spicer Goff's blog
Anita has been Director of Membership at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce for the last 12 years and is a hobby writer.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

My youngest daughter, Lindsay, has an uncanny attitude that is unusual for a young adult. I’m sure she gets down in the dumps at times, and I know things don’t always go 100% her way; however, anytime I talk to her on the phone, she’s like a little ray of sunshine, always happy and positive and you can just hear that in her voice. It’s contagious!

Lindsay was recently telling me about her new job search. She has just moved to Pensacola to attend grad school and she’d had an interview that morning. She was hopeful that this particular job would work out because she really liked the other employees she had met, saying that they seemed to be a good team. She went on to say “And you know what they say…Teamwork makes the dream work!”

My first thought was that this was pretty corny coming from anyone, much less a 23-year old. But on second thought, I realized that as corny as it is to say (and hear), this statement really is true! Teamwork in any area of lives can help our dreams and/or plans materialize more quickly and more efficiently.

Most of us have probably figured out by now that there are many benefits to teamwork in a work setting. When we are part of a team, each member offers their unique perspective and multiple brains are just better for bouncing different ideas off of one other! Therefore, teamwork can ultimately lead to better decisions, products, or services.

Teamwork also allows us to accomplish tasks faster since in most cases, one person taking on multiple duties will not be able to perform at the same pace as a team which has divided up the workload. Plus, each one of us has unique qualities and skills which can help improve other team members. This allows us to be more productive and on top of our game in the future.

Creating a teamwork culture enables individuals to contribute and grow more than they ever thought possible. There is a funny cartoon which shows a group of penguins standing on an iceberg. A whale swims up and opens his mouth to have a little snack and all the penguins quickly ran to the other side so that they are all standing on the side away from the whale’s mouth. The whale then swims to the other side where the penguins are standing and all the penguins rush to the opposite side once again. And so on and so on. I guess even penguins know that we can accomplish so much more when we work together as a team!

 

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Bloom Where You Are Planted

There is an Egyptian proverb that says "The seed cannot sprout upwards without simultaneously sending roots into the ground." This is definitely evident during the height of this gardening season. I’m trying out some container gardening on my deck this year and so far, I have some pretty healthy looking herbs, tomatoes, green onions, and miniature bell peppers. Not to mention a variety of flowering plants. With all this rain we’ve been experiencing, everything is lush and green and fully blooming all the time and I’ve already had to repot some plants which had become root bound. And finally, after several weeks of careful vegetable nurturing, I’m beginning to reap the benefits of all my hard work. I must say, I’m enjoying it very much! Puttering in my deck garden, planting, pruning, repotting, feeding, and harvesting not only gives me something to do, but it saves me a little bit of money on items I purchase at the grocery store all the time. Plus, home grown produce is just plain healthy and delicious. And the flowers are not only pretty, but are a haven for bees and hummingbirds as well!  

Of course, this proverb is actually metaphorical for human beings. We, too, need certain things in order to continue to thrive. We are fed by the encouragement and mentoring of others, we strengthen our roots through friendships and networking, we grow by learning new things from books or workshops, and we might even need to be repotted every now and then just for good measure.

As you head into your next phase of growth, what parts of you need to deepen in order to reach your full potential? What growth needs to unfold as you reach toward the light? How can you go about balancing and stabilizing yourself? There is always something we can do to continue to grow and stay fresh and relevant, in both our personal and business lives. Do you feel as if you are sending roots and sprouting upwards or do you feel more like you are going to dry up and get burned out?

It’s good to ask ourselves the hard questions every now and then. Here’s a good one for you…If you were a vegetable, what kind of vegetable would you be? What would it take in order a harvest a good crop? Me? I’d be Basil. I’m pretty low maintenance. All I really need is a small pot to live in, a healthy portion of sun, a lot of water, and space enough to spread my leaves. However, I don’t wander enough to require the structure of stakes or cages. I can be potted with other plants or grow just fine on my own. I don’t require a lot of attention other than just basic needs in order to be happy and healthy.

School has already started, which means the summer is technically over for many folks. It also means that the growing season is getting shorter and shorter every day. Can you bloom where you’re planted or is it time to take a few new steps in order to fully thrive?

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Becoming Young

In the mid 1960’s, hundreds of Picasso’s paintings were exhibited in Cannes, France. These works ranged from the first pieces he painted as an adolescent to the latest of the master, who was then 85 years old. It’s said that as Picasso himself roamed the gallery, a woman stopped him and said, “I don’t understand. Over there, the beginning pictures - so mature, serious and solemn – then the later ones, so different, so irrepressible. It almost seems as though the dates should be reversed. How do you explain it?” “Easily,” replied Picasso, eyes sparkling. “It takes a long time to become young.”

The minute I read this quote, my mind immediately turned to my co-worker Rose Ann, who in her early 70’s approaches everything in life with such gusto and excitement that it’s contagious. I really hope I have that same great attitude about life when I’m her age, truly seeing everything as a blessing.

A few years ago, The New York Times published an article titled “Seventy is the new 57.” According to a study of aging from the University of Michigan, on average older people feel about 13 years younger than they really are. If we are particularly healthy and active, the gap between subjective age and actual age is even wider. Evidently, how we feel about our age defines how we act; if we define ourselves as someone who is old, we will most likely act as if we are old. The study also suggests that we are often aged by the culture we live in since cultural stereotypes are often out of date (or at odds with) how we perceive ourselves, especially when it comes to how we should look at a certain age or when we should retire.

You know that bucket list you’ve heard so much about? It’s never too late to start checking things off, like Rose Ann is doing, and we should never reach a point when we are not adding new items to our list. Our bucket list may morph into something else slightly as we age, but the basic concept is still there. For instance, I may not go backpacking through Europe like I planned to do the summer I turned 50, but I can travel to a few select European cities and stay in comfy hotels. I may not learn to play guitar; however, I might take some voice lessons. I probably won’t go back to school and finish my degree, but I may take a creative writing class or enjoy some art lessons.

At the end of her life, my mom said that she had always wanted to go to Branson, Missouri. By the time she mentioned that to me, she was too sick to travel and it makes me a little bit sad that she never got to check such a simple thing off her bucket list. Writing this, it’s just occurred to me that I should plan a trip there one day in her honor. Remember that “Today is the oldest you have ever been and the youngest you will ever be again.” Take advantage of that. Don’t act your age! Where/what is your Branson, Missouri?

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Visions of Vacations Dancing in our Heads

L.M. Montgomery, best known as the author of the Anne of Green Gables series said “I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.”

June is a wonderful, generous month where the days are sunny and hot, roses are in full bloom, and strawberries are ripe for the picking. School is out, summer camp begins, youth sports are in full swing, and vacation fantasies start flitting around in our heads.

Webster’s Dictionary defines VACATION as a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation. The idea of travel and recreation was once a luxury of wealthy people alone. In the Puritan culture of early America, taking a break from work for reasons other than weekly observance of the Sabbath was frowned upon. However; when a religious movement began which encouraged spiritual retreat and recreation, the idea of breaking from work periodically took root among the working class and the modern concept of vacation was born.

 

With the school year drawing to a close, June marks the beginning of vacation season. However, the thought of planning a summer vacation causes many people to break out in a cold sweat. Furiously trying to balance their vacation budget, finding a place to go that offers something for everyone, plus the decision of who to include in their plans can be a pretty daunting task. Not to mention the agony of dealing with the “Are we there yet?” backseat chorus.

Because of fluctuations in the economy the last few years, we’ve invented a new term called “staycations” wherein we take vacation time from work, but stay at home instead of traveling. Staycations are low cost, relaxing, and can be wonderful bonding time for the family if you structure things correctly.

While recently picnicking with my kids and grandkids at Percy Priest Lake, I looked across the water and announced that instead of going on a family trip to the beach in July as originally planned, we were going to stay at the cabins at Nashville Shores and spend our days at the water park and ropes course. The grandkids jumped up and down with glee and my kids said “Well, that could work.” Unfortunately, I said this as a joke since I had already reserved (and paid for) a beach house. But this did plant a seed that a staycation could actually be a lot of fun and could possibly save a lot of money.  

I googled staycations and came up with the following list titled “How to Know When You Need a Staycation:”

  • You and your partner have had at least two arguments about how much your vacation is costing
  • You promised you’d help your daughter re-paint her room - two years ago
  • You’ve spent so much time on the road, your neighbors call you “the visitor”
  • The patio furniture you bought last spring has never been used
  • You stay awake at night stressing out about planning your family trip
  • Your kids have never seen your own city’s major sights
  • The forecast for everywhere affordable is cold and rainy, except for where you live, which is sunny and glorious
  • The last time your family spent a Saturday together at home was the day you brought your children home from hospital
  • You promised your mother-in-law she’d be invited to the next family vacation

And last but not least:

  • You need a vacation to get over your vacation.

Robert Orben, a comedy writer and speechwriter for Gerald R. Ford said “A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in.” I guess the key to a great staycation is not checking chores off your “To Do” list at home, but in making plans to get out and do things. In our area, there is a lot you could do to make a stay at home vacation blissful. For instance, you could ride the train downtown and visit some of the museums, get together with friends or family for a cookout, schedule a massage, go horseback riding, take a family hike or picnic at one of the local state parks, go to a water park, enjoy a yoga class, spend the evening at a Sounds game, or enjoy one of the area’s many art or music festivals.

After all, the point of a vacation is to unplug and spend quality time away from all the daily distractions which typically keep us from truly enjoying each other’s company. With a little bit of advanced planning, and some disciple, a staycation could be the best vacation you’ve ever taken! So, look out kids - in 2014, Nashville Shores, here we come!

 

 

 

 

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Coppertone Days

I had an awesome Mother’s Day sitting in my porch swing talking to my youngest daughter for about three hours in the morning and then meeting up with my youngest son and my oldest daughter and grandkids for a picnic at the lake that afternoon. We had a great day of fresh air, sunshine, laughter and stories.

At the end of the day, I was extremely happy, but terribly exhausted. I also had a horrible case of sunburn on my face, which looked as red and tight as a juicy, ripe tomato. Plus, it was painful! I felt feverish and just plain “blah.” And you know what? Several days later, my nose peeled! I don’t remember peeling from sunburn since I was about 12 years old. Remember those old Coppertone billboards - the one with the little girl on the beach with her dog? Those were promoting suntan oil/lotion, not sunscreen. And as a kid at the beach, I remember many summers where my shoulders would literally blister and then those blisters would ooze and pop. It’s horrifying to think about that now!

I’ve been much more careful in my adult years about applying sunscreen. I’m not sure what happened on Mother’s Day except maybe I just didn’t realize how fragile my winter skin was or how strong the sun was on that particular day. We’ve had so much rain this spring that it was glorious to spend the day in the sun. But, I felt totally convicted when I read an article a few days later stating that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. This was like a kick in the pants!

According to the article, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime, even though this lifestyle disease is highly preventable. What preventive measures can we take? Seek the shade during mid-day hours when the sun is strongest; don’t burn in the first place since a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he has five sunburns at any point in life; avoid tanning beds since UV radiation from tanning machines is known to cause cancer and the more you tan indoors, the higher the risk; cover up with clothing, which can be your most effective form of sun protection - the more skin you cover, the better; use UVA/UVB sunscreen with an SPF of 15 every day, higher for extended outdoor activity and remember to reapply if swimming or sweating; and last but not least, examine your skin periodically to check for suspicious moles.

Sunburn looks bad, hurts, peels and inflicts wrinkle-inducing damage, which I certainly don’t need at my age! But mistakes happen, just as it did to me on Mother’s Day! The best defense once this happens? Get out of the sun! Sunburn tends to sneak up on us and can take a few hours for symptoms to develop - a touch of pink now may turn into a big problem later. Slather on a moisturizing lotion to soothe the skin after a cool shower. Drink extra fluids and take ibuprofen for a couple of days. Lastly, vow to do better and be more careful.

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The Heart of the Matter

I read recently that “you can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.” Apparently, Indira Gandhi originally spoke these words during negotiations over a border dispute in the early 1970s. When I read this quote on this particular day, it really stuck in my mind as a great motto for all of us in our everyday lives.

The book ‘Peace of Mind: Daily Meditations for Easing Stress’ mentions guests (twins) on a popular talk show who had cut off contact with one another. One twin related how her brother hadn’t talked to her for years even though they lived two miles from one another and they often passed each other on the street. On the show, the man told his sister that he stopped talking to her because he was mad at her about something and he wanted her to apologize, but she never did.

The author goes on to mention that staying angry at people, while it may not end a relationship, can severely damage your ability to connect with that person if you are not able to let go of negative emotions. While we can’t change the actions or behaviors of others that have caused us anguish, we can strive to reconcile the past with forgiveness in the present.

How can we let go of anger? Write a letter to vent your feelings, but don’t mail it. Or maybe simply remember good times with this person and identify their good qualities. Focusing on good instead of negative things can help you release your anger. If there is someone in your personal or professional life with whom you’ve experienced some conflict, be the bigger person and extend your outstretched hand, not your fist.

As far as I’m concerned, nobody says it better than The Eagles in their song The Heart of the Matter…“There are people in your life who’ve come and gone; they let you down, you know they hurt your pride; you better put it all behind you, ‘cause life goes on; you keep carrying that anger, it’ll eat you up inside; I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter; but I think it’s about forgiveness…”

 

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If You're Not at the Table, You're on the Menu...

I was recently at a Chamber conference and heard the old saying, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!” We all got a chuckle, but it really made me think about why people are asked to be at the table in the first place. What makes someone the kind of person who gets invited to the table? I asked some key people in my business circles and this is what they had to say:

  • Having something interesting to say. Don’t you relish sitting next to someone who always has something interesting to say? For most of us, an invitation to any table comes with some lead-time, so there is no excuse not to have some interesting topics in your back pocket. Even an introvert can do this!
  • Knowing what’s going on in your industry. People enjoy hearing about new, fresh trends and ideas. This boils down to staying curious and being open to new types of thinking and new ways of doing things. This is how you create a reputation of being an expert in your field, and become a person whom others seek out to hear about what’s coming around the corner.
  • Being genuinely interested in other people. People love to be asked what they think about things and what ideas they have. Those we find the most charming are usually those who have the ability to draw us out and make us feel special and interesting. When you purposefully listen, you create trust and rapport. People who create trust and rapport get invited back to the table.

To make sure you always have a place at the table, whether that’s social, work, leadership or otherwise, ask if yourself if you’re demonstrating the types of characteristics of those who are sought after. If you’re not, then get out of your own way and start making changes today!

Ask yourself these questions: How have I demonstrated my strengths and capabilities? Are my communications skills, written and oral, as proficient as they should be? Do I have the ability to engage others and get things done? Have I established a strong personal brand of presence and competence?

If you answered no to any of these questions, you may be your own worst enemy. In today’s business world, you’re either moving up or moving out, so be sure to take the proper steps to always keep moving onward and upward. How do you do this? One of the best ways is to engage three mentors, one within your organization, one within your industry, and one completely outside of both, all with unique (and candid) insights on your core strengths and weaknesses. Another way is to profile the leaders you wish to model and then identify the gaps of your current abilities and where you would like to be in the future.

 

How are you staying off of the menu?

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Things My Cat Taught Me

Anybody who knows me will admit that I’m a cat person. I just don’t like dogs jumping all over me, licking my face and slobbering all over my hands. I prefer to sit quietly with a cat who, rather than invade my space, simply shares it.

Missing my old cat (Chloe) recently, I found myself looking back fondly and reminiscing about old times, such as the night (at about 10 weeks old) when she crawled out an open window and onto the roof only to find herself at a loss as to how to get back down. So, there I was in my pajamas at 10:00 at night, climbing up a ladder to rescue her. And another time when after being declawed, she jumped up into a chair only to slide down the side because she had lost her grippers. She looked at her paw with a quizzical expression on her face and shook it hard as if saying, “Why aren’t you working?”

Chloe met me at the door every day when I came home from work and never missed an opportunity to jump up on my bed to wish me a good morning. Looking back on the good memories prompted me to make a list of all the things I learned from her that can apply to everyone in their everyday lives:

Stretching is good for you

Wash your hands constantly

Purr when you’re happy

Enjoy a good nap every day

You’re never too old to play

Take time to sit quietly by yourself

Greet your loved ones when they come home

Brush your hair every day

Long nails aren’t necessary

Take time to sit in the sunshine

It’s funny how we can learn things from people and animals who are supposed to be learning from us. I guess if we keep our eyes open for these types of opportunities, there’s no telling what kind of wisdom we might glean from those around us.

Garrison Keillorhost of the public radio show ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ once saidCats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.”

Maybe the best thing my cat taught me was to give myself permission to simply enjoy the present moment without feeling guilty. That, and there is not enough masking tape in the whole world to really ever get all the cat hair off your couch.

 

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Abraham, Martin and John

Even though there has been some good music written in the last few decades (and I’ve got a lot of it downloaded on my ipod), I still most often listen to tunes from the 60’s and 70’s. It may be that I’m a bit nostalgic and listening to this older music takes me back to a simpler, freer time. But I also have to admit that songs written back in those days actually had something to say. They weren’t necessarily just a catchy tune. These singer/songwriters were storytellers. The words meant something.

One of my favorite tunes, “Abraham, Martin and John,” was written in 1968 and first recorded by Dion, reaching #4 on the U.S. Pop Singles Charts. This song was re-recorded by Andy Williams, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, and Marvin Gaye and was subsequently performed by Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, Bon Jovi, Emmylou Harris, Tori Amos, Whitney Houston, and Bob Dylan.

“Abraham, Martin and John” is a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans - all icons of social change - namely Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Each of the first three verses features one of the men named in the song's title. For example:

“Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me where he's gone? He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good they die young. But I just looked around and he's gone.”

The fourth and final verse mentions Robert "Bobby" Kennedy and ends with a description of him walking over a hill with the other three men.

After recording the song, Dion came to realize that this socially conscious piece was a reflection of the state of the world. “I realized that what these four guys—Lincoln, King, and the Kennedys—had in common was a dream.” Dion stated. “It was like they had the courage to believe that a state of love really can exist. ‘Abraham, Martin and John’ was a way of reminding people that they could aspire to great things, even in the midst of tragedy and confusion.”

Hearing this song makes me wonder what dreams and aspirations I might have once had and why I’m not doing anything about that. Is it just too easy to go to work every day and not get involved? Am I simply getting too comfortable with my life as I know it? There is another line in this same song that says “Someday is going to be one day soon.” Wow, if that doesn’t create a sense of urgency, what will? If not now, when?

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Are you a Tomato or a Bean?

In the book Soul Feast, author Marjorie Thompson compares human beings to plants. She states that in order to grow properly, tomatoes need to be attached to stakes and beans need to suspend from strings. Without the support of these stakes and strings, their blossoms wouldn’t have the space - and the sun - they need to flourish and they would most likely wander aimlessly and/or lie on the ground and rot.

I had never really thought about it this way before, but after much careful consideration, I realize she is totally right! Humans really are a lot like tomatoes and beans! Not only do we sometimes share the physical characteristics of these plants…some of us are short, some of us are round, some of us are long and some of us are lean, and sometimes we are red from the sun or green with envy. However, the way we most closely resemble tomatoes and beans is that we, too, need structure and discipline in order to curb our tendency to wander, plus we need the support of a community of friends and mentors because we just can’t go it alone.

We need collective wisdom since no one person ever has all of the answers. We need to surround ourselves with others working toward a similar goal so we will get motivation, support, and friendly competition to push ourselves a bit further than we would have done on our own. We need people who believe in us more than we believe in ourselves on those days when big goals seem impossible and we most want to give up. We need divergent views since we all approach the exact same problem slightly differently.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu said “God created us differently so that we could complement each other.” I believe he's right in that it takes a lot of different people with different personalities and skill sets to make things run smoothly. With a brand new year looming, what better time to take a look at the status and strength of your stakes and strings?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You Getting a Bad Rap?

One of our basic human needs is to communicate. Communication is how we exchange information, share life, connect, and get to know one another. Even though text messaging has earned a bad rap with experts saying it ruins social interaction, writing skills, and expression, it remains an inexpensive and convenient way to keep in touch. Text messaging is the #1 most popular way American adults communicate today and statistics show that 25% send and receive between 11-50 texts a day.

Most of us have experienced the frustration with smart phone auto correct when we type one word but a different one pops up instead and totally changes what we meant to say. I’d like to share some autocorrects I found in a Google search…..

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Spaghetti Sauce and Toilet Paper

Several years ago, my daughter Autumn and grandson Landon were on their way to pick up a few groceries and head home for the evening after a long day at work and school. Hoping to involve Landon in the process, Autumn asked him to help her remember two important items: spaghetti sauce and toilet paper. Well, much to her surprise, he repeated this over and over, out loud, as they walked into the store. He was bound and determined to be responsible enough not to let his mama forget these two very important items. As you can imagine, many people smiled at the sight of a skinny little freckle-faced redhead walking into the store reciting “spaghetti sauce and toilet paper, spaghetti sauce and toilet paper.”

Memory tricks become even more important the older you get. I’m already experiencing the embarrassment of walking into a room for something, seeing something else that needs to be done, and then forgetting why I walked in that room in the first place! Since I work at a job where it’s important for me to remember names, it’s been imperative that I develop some good memory tips. And the best tip is...you guessed it...repetition.

When you first learn a person's name, say it three times in your mind. Repeat it back immediately out loud, such as "Nice to meet you, Bradley” and make it a point to use their name several times during the conversation with them. Don't worry, they won't think you are crazy. The sweetest sound to anyone's ears is the sound of their own name!

Another good tip is to make an association between the person's looks or personality and their name. I was having trouble remembering whether a woman’s name was Janice or Janet, so I used the tool “Janice is nice” and it has stuck in my mind ever since. I used the same tactic with a guy named Tyler. For the life of me, I could never remember his name until I pictured him wearing a tie (he's very stoic and conservative) and now his name is forever embedded in my memory.  

The key is, do whatever works. The only one who will know about it is you, so have fun with it!

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