Category Archives: Words of Wisdom

Ron Robinson: We Only Go Around Once

Ron Robinson

Ron Robinson and CJRW coworkers after IABC Awards courtesy: Jason Burt

Last week, Ron Robinson, Chairman Emeritus at Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, was honored by the Arkansas Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators with the John K. Woodruff Award for Lifetime Achievement. He more than deserved the recognition. His career accomplishments are frankly astounding.

I’ve been to several of these awards events in the past few years. Honorees are generally really grateful, the audience squirms through perfectly nice speeches and the wine is usually average.

This was unlike any previous event. Ron’s acceptance remarks were both beautiful and cautionary. I’ve been thinking about them since. He spoke of the need for balance in life. I was a bit stunned to hear him speak so candidly. I won’t lie, I cried. I don’t do that. It was embarrassing. (the crying, not the speech)

Since I was so moved by his words, I asked his permission to share them here. He graciously agreed.

I will be brief, but I want to take this opportunity to pass on some personal and professional advice.  A Vietnam veteran, I have endured back surgery, a stroke, brain surgery, heart procedures, tumor surgery…and a bout with deadly pneumonia.  I have been through two divorces over the past thirty years….and I stand here hobbling with a walker, with double vision and the pains of a 68-year-old.  Therefore, I have given myself permission to share one singular plea with you.

ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR FAMILY AND YOUR HEALTH….NOTHING.

I worked for decades at a seven day pace…90 hours a week…pushing longer and stronger…my clients and my work were my mistresses.  And in this high-impact, high- stress communications business we all know…it is demanding…it is rewarding and it pays wonderful psychic and financial income. But this profession and all professional endeavors are not worth the sacrifice of your health and your family. 

My advice?

  • Seek balance in your life…enriching your body, mind and spirit.
  • Recognize the value of being harmonious with your God and your family.
  • Be persistent…but patient…in your pursuit of success.
  • Know that success is much more than a bigger paycheck, a bigger house, a larger fundraising goal, a newer car or whatever you choose.

Importantly, we all must define our own realities and our own definition of “success” and “happiness.”  Yes, there are times when our profession demands more and you should make that investment.  Your mission is to work smarter, not just harder.  Believe me, the path of constant sheer slavery to your work eventually will lead to a life where your passions and possessions possess you.

You will be your own best friend if you “put the luggage down” and make your life, your family and your career all positive contributors to what makes you “you”…today and tomorrow.  … my greatest reward is these two granddaughters who love me because I am “me” and who will carry our legacy and smile into the 21st Century.

Thank you again for this humbling honor.  Be mindful that we only go around once in this life…but if we do it right…once might be enough.  God Bless…

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The Years are Short

This gets me. Every. Time.

It’s specifically about parenting, but more importantly about being present in my life, whatever phase that may be. Wishing away my only life is a wasteful way to live.

Learn more about the this video and The Happiness Project.

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Words of Wisdom…or the best that I could do

As I was leaving work today, I saw one of Little Rock’s semi-famous homeless men. He’s one of the few recognizable faces of a community that remains mostly invisible to most of us. Years ago, someone who seemed to know about such things told me he’s got family. Actually, he’s from a good family. He was legitimately diagnosed some time ago with mental illness. His broken mind won’t let him go home. For a time, according to the tale I was told, his family would try to have him committed, but as he posed no physical danger to himself or others, it didn’t stick. Now, they keep up with his routes, bring him supplies and offer him shelter when he will take it.

I have no idea if this is true in part or in whole. I kind of want it to be true. I want to believe that family never gives up on anyone, no matter what. I guess because I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately. Some of my kin have been in and out over the past couple of weeks. It’s been wonderful to have them here. My sweet 15-year-old cousin is asking hard questions: the kind of hard questions 15-year-old girls ask themselves. Who should I let in my life? Under what conditions? What am I required to accept from family? What am I morally allowed to reject? Where do I  draw those lines? Who gets to be inside the chalk? Who doesn’t? What is required just because we share DNA? I’ve been asking myself those same questions since I was about her age. I still don’t know all the answers.

While she was here, we received word of a death. It’s close enough for us to feel sad, but far enough away not to be overly personal. I was telling my cousin about what happened. A dear friend’s father passed away. He was married to a lovely woman for more than four decades. They raised two kids into fine adults who contribute to their communities. We both sat there quietly for a long time.

She spoke first, “Some people really do it, don’t they? They really spend their whole lives together, and it’s good.” I thought of all the broken relationships both of us have seen. “Yes,” I told her. “Some people do. It really does happen.”

We went on to talk about boys, prom dresses, dance team, college and all the other things that fill her days. Since I didn’t have much in the way of wisdom for some things she wanted to know, I told her the things I know to be true:

  • Be kind to your siblings. (You need them more than you know.)
  • Don’t take drugs.
  • Keep your pants on.
  • Google is forever.

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Enough

My friend Sarabeth (who seems to inspire a lot of blog posts) wrote about the voice in her head who likes to tell her she’s not enough. I have several of those. The broken record of my teen years gets cranked up and boy howdy! I can throw a pity party like nobody’s business.

Ronya with her youngest son

A few weeks ago, I was about to make a client presentation and was feeling uncertain of myself. You know those moments when the right person says the perfect thing? I had one.

My friend Ronya sent me the brilliant words of Marianne Williamson (I mistakenly thought they were the words of Nelson Mandela). It was exactly what needed to put my shoulders back and hold my head high. So now I give them to you because you never know when you might need them. (bolding is for my emphasis):

Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

~Marianne Williamson

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What My Mama Taught Me

first flower I ever gave my mom for Mother's Day

I know Mother’s Day is technically over. But I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my mom. She was never a Kool-Aid mom, partly because that’s not in her DNA and partly because of circumstance. The Donna Reed idea appealed to her, but apron never quite fit. She was human and flawed and at times downright insane, but she taught me some important things.

my favorite book as a kid

My favorite book

Reading is Awesome: My mom taught me to read when she didn’t think the school was doing it fast enough. She used McGuffy Readers. It was awful, for both of us. I remember crying, “I don’t want to learn to read.” She would shoot back, “You. will. love. it.” She was right. Say what you will about anything else this woman ever did, my mom taught me to love books, to love words, to ingest them and let them nourish me. I contend there is nothing out of your reach if you are a reader. I love books. I love reading books. I’m a reader. Because of my mom.

You are never too old to change who you are: The woman who was married to my dad as a mother to me and my sister when I was a kid is an entirely different woman than the woman who is married to my step-dad with all kids out of the house. They are both great women, just not the same. There have been growing pains for all of us as my mom evolved into the new woman she is now. But it’s such an important lesson for me and my sister: who you have been does not determine who you will be. She is happy in her new life. We are happy for her.

Mama in her curlers

Character Matters More than Beauty: When I was in 9th grade, my mom caught me in a lie. She made me write out every verse of the Bible on lying, liars, honesty, truth, anything she could think of on the topic. (FYI – Revelation 21:8 – liars burn in hell.) She told me every person in the their life has has told a lie, but I should be the kind of person who is truthful. She said she could never respect a liar. There is no substitute for honesty or integrity. Pretty on the outside can only take you so far if you’re ugly on the inside. I have not always been someone my mom could be proud of in this area, but I’m trying every day to be better.

Chocolate Chip Cookies Rock: My mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the world. I challenge anyone to find a problem they can’t make better. She taught me to make them too. I would give the recipe but I’m pretty sure Toll House has the actual claim to it. I’m just saying.

Give Yourself a Break: This is the lesson we are both still trying to learn fully. My mom and I both struggle with “beat yourself up” syndrome. Recently, I was complaining about my unhappiness with my physical appearance to her. She looked at me with a steely stare, “Could you for once in your life, just give yourself a break?!” I don’t think anyone else could have said that to me and made me listen. She was right. I did… a little. Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, according to Anne Lamott… and my mother. Just give yourself a break.

Mothers Day 2007

My mother is not the perfect mother. I don’t honestly know who is. But she raised two daughters who turned out pretty great, if I say so myself. We are gainfully employed, we pay our taxes, we vote, we are nice to animals and old people, we recycle, we are good wives and mothers and friends. I’d say she did her job well.

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Mother’s Day Soapbox

Dear Moms Everywhere,

Today is the day we celebrate all you do. The stuff you do that no one ever shows their gratitude. Today is the day we say thanks for waking up early and going to bed late so that everyone else in your family can have what they need. We’ll take you to brunch, give you flowers or gift certificates for massages. We’ll do our best to make you feel special. It won’t be enough. It never is. It can’t possibly be.

That is why you must pay attention to advice you’ve heard before and most likely ignored: make a decision to celebrate yourself every day. Sometime in between diapers and homework and science fair projects and Halloween costumes, you must make a place for your personal dreams. You must start today. Your children are the most immediate thing in your life. In some ways, they’re the most important work of your life. But it’s still your life, and when this mommy temp gig is over, you’ll have to keep living it. Make sure you’ve got a life left to live. (Side note to Moms with husbands, be sure you’re taking care of your marriage and not just your kids or you’ll be living with a stranger soon.)

Signed,

A Mom who is trying very hard to practice what she preaches

Your time is now. To be fearlessly resilient. To rebound with purpose and power. To lead with intention. To discover what you want — and go get it.

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This is our life

A few years ago, Baby Daddy and I were sitting at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. I told him I’d been overcome by dread. “I just have this feeling like something bad is about to happen.”

He looked at me like I was simple. “Of course something bad is gonna happen.” I’m not kidding. That is what the man said to me. It wasn’t really the kind of reassurance I was looking for. Fortunately, he continued. “And something good is gonna happen. And more bad, then more good and it’s all gonna get mixed up together and we’ll call it our life.”

While wise in its simplicity, this was still not what I was looking to hear. I’m not usually interested in the truth. I’m interested in feeling better about things. But it’s true.

Christmas 2009

Since that night: friends died tragically, older relatives passed away, we put our beloved, old dog to sleep, Monkey Boy has celebrated birthdays, I left a job that was no longer a good fit for me, I started a new job, his company was bought and restructured, we had some really close moments in our relationship, there were days I wasn’t sure who the man living in my house was, I totally washed out on some commitments when I went down for 3 months with mono which damaged my pride more than I’m comfortable admitting, Monkey Boy finally got potty trained which made me happier than I’m comfortable admitting, Katy Kat became a bigger part of our lives, we bought a new house, we shared the joy of friends’ marriages and babies, we’ve worried about money, we’ve felt flush, we’ve forged new friendships and counted ourselves blessed because of old ones, I cut some toxic people out of my life and it all got mixed up together. And that’s our life.

I was reminded of our bad/ good conversation when a friend told me of financial concerns she’s facing. There’s no two ways about it, this is one of those bad times for her family. Then I came across a piece my friend Kyran wrote about recession proofing your marriage. Her deeply personal tale tells of uncertain financial times in her life. She writes an important part of how they came through the process was to practice gratitude, which is good advice regardless of your money situation.

“I’m not talking about the false gratitude that denies that you or anyone else is suffering. Nor the shadowy kind that depends on the truism that somebody, somewhere, is always worse off than you, nor the timid thankfulness that doesn’t dare ask more from life than basic survival. I mean really appreciating what is in front of you right now, even if you don’t know if you can count on it tomorrow.

I have everything I need today,” became the mantra that brought us through that hard year. Even when we couldn’t quite believe it, it never failed to be true.
***
I reached over the screen and ran my finger along the worry line in my true love’s forehead, as if I could smooth it over. It was so much deeper now than it was over a decade ago when we traded all those blithe promises. I had no clue then how poor, how sick, how awful we could sometimes be. Nor any idea how rich, how strong, and how good. For that matter, I still didn’t.

Life can get better, it can get worse. It will probably do both.

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