Inspiration Man—Florida Association of Colleges and Employers (FloridaACE) Keynote

Keynote

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.  The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.

(Winston Churchill)

To keynote or not? 

This was a question I faced back in October 2021 when one of my friends asked me to consider being the keynote speaker for a virtual Drive-In conference.

The Florida Association of Colleges and Employers (FloridaACE) members come from college/university Career Services and employers who maintain active on-campus recruiting programs.

I have been a member of FloridaACE for over 10 years and have made some great contacts throughout the state of Florida. 

Fun fact, I was selected as the keynote for the inaugural Drive-In Conference back in 2016.  I gave my keynote address at the University of Central Florida in the building I used to work in prior to moving to FSU.  Who says you can’t come home again? 😊

The Drive-In Conference is designed to be shorter than a regular conference—a day and a half instead of a full week.  The concept of the Drive-in Conference is to make it accessible to a large population of attendees who can physically drive to the location and not need hotel accommodations.

COVID-19 made the concept of virtual conferences come to life and this Drive-In Conference was switched to a virtual format.

I love to spread the Inspiration Man message to any group that will sit and listen.  I hesitated to accept this request because it was via Zoom, and I did not know how my message would translate on a virtual platform.  I love in-person audiences and feed off the crowd when I present.  A virtual keynote was a challenge to me but one I am happy I accepted—things went well from start to finish.

The 2021 FloridaACE Virtual Drive-In Conference was titled: Gulf-to-Coast Connections.

I reached out to my friend to get a better understanding of the conference title and how significant it was to attendees.  Turns out the term gulf was picked so people in western Florida would not feel left out.  I decided to focus on the conference in terms of how people on both coasts (Gulf and Atlantic) could connect to build Authentic Connections.  Yes, I put authentic in most things I do these days. 😊

Happy to report I accepted the Keynote invitation and was able to move the crowd on a virtual platform.

I researched the term Authentic Connections to build my knowledge base as I worked to create a presentation to inspire others.  There is a ton of research available, and my new task was to filter this data in a way to build the presentation.

The key to any form of connection is RELATIONSHIPS.  My goal during the keynote was to highlight to the attendees how technology (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, etc.) allow us to reach a larger audience than before.  There was always a mindset to catch-up with colleagues during the annual in-person conference or workshop.  This was an effective way to connect back in the day, but COVID created new options/ways to connect.

We can reach out to potential mentors and colleagues by utilizing the technology we have.  My keynote centered on how FloridaACE members could leverage technology and build authentic connections.

Authentic Connections should be genuine, direct, and focused.  My point for the group was to highlight relationships can be built virtually, in-person or a combination of both platforms.  You must want to make a connection for it to happen.  Networking with an intentional mindset helps build connections too.

I would have been remiss if I did not talk about some of the challenges we face when attempting to make new connections:

  • COVID-19
  • No in-person events
  • Zoom fatigue
  • Multiple platform (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, etc.)

Simply figuring out how and when to connect with others has been a challenge even for me. 

Some folks prefer a phone call, others are all about Zoom and then you have a set who want in-person connections because they want to feel normal again.  I shared with my audience it is okay to identify a preferred platform and stick with that.  I prefer Microsoft Teams now when connecting with anyone not on-campus with me.  The key to this I have found is to state the preference up-front and then provide a Microsoft Teams calendar invite to eliminate confusion on how/when we will connect. 

The concept of recalibrate was addressed to ensure attendees understand they must adjust thought processes in today’s world.  We are not going back to pre-COVID networking so finding authentic connections should be prioritized for them to happen.  Following up after making a request is an outstanding way to continue to build the connections needed to make a difference in the world.

Being a keynote speaker during a virtual conference was a new experience for me but I was able to make several authentic connections during and after the event.  Will see how many attendees follow-up with me and leverage the wisdom I dropped on them.

How do you make/ensure authentic connections in your world?  Thanks!

“Speakers who talk about what life has taught them never fail to keep the attention of their listeners”.

(Dale Carnegie)

Waxing Poetic!

Poetry December 2021

Thinking of you

Thoughts of you crossed my mind today

Seems like you just stopped by to say hey

Maybe this was your way to let me know everything will be okay

Either way, it was great for you to drop in

Because I have really missed my friend

Don’t stay away so long

Thoughts of you make me smile

Intellectual curiosity

Creative picture

(Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay)

“There is no magic formula for great company culture.  The key is just to treat your staff how you would like to be treated”.

(Richard Branson)

Psychology Today identifies intellectual curiosity as a deep and persistent desire to know.

Betterup.com dives deeper by defining intellectual curiosity as curiosity that leads to an acquisition of general knowledge. 

At this point I am sure you are wondering where I am headed with intellectual curiosity.  Glad you asked! 😊

This has become a major characteristic I look for when working with others.  I was never able to find the exact term until recently but intellectual curiosity in the workplace provides a foundation for success.

Interestingly, this is not something everyone is able to display easily.  I see people who practice this trait when something is near and dear to them on a personal or professional level.  The key for me is for everyone to translate intellectual curiosity daily in the workplace.

Why you ask?  Great question!

People who display intellectual curiosity can find new ways to get things done.  There are multiple work environments where the mindset is we have always done it that way. This may be true but organizations and people who cannot evolve are doomed to fail.  It may take time for the demise, but it will happen.

Intellectually curious people understand how things are done and continue to look for ways to improve the process daily.  I love being surrounded by these type people because they understand the concept of moving forward.  Processes and techniques change daily, and organizations need to be able to pivot.  Pivots and adjustments are needed quicker as we introduce more technology into the workplace.

COVID-19 allowed intellectually curious people and organizations to make the necessary adjustments to ensure services were provided.  Most of my work colleagues had never heard of Zoom prior to the pandemic.  Turns out the Zoom platform in the hands of intellectually curious organizations increased the ability to provide services and made meetings more efficient.  Staff did not lose time driving or walking to meetings anymore—they simply logged into their computers and joined the meetings via their laptops. 

I never imagined university career fairs could be done completely online.  Intellectual curiosity has allowed people in my career field to find more efficient ways to connect students and employers.  There are some organizations that have been slow to adapt to the changing world and they are rapidly being left behind.

I challenge staff to become intellectually curious daily.  This is the only way to ensure an organization has a growth mindset.  The way we did business two years ago is not coming back so organizations need the ability to adapt, grow and move forward.

I propose organizations staffed with people with intellectual curiosity will thrive—those without will slowly fade away.

How do you display intellectual curiosity?  I welcome your thoughts!

“Don’t dwell on what went wrong.  Instead, focus on what to do next.  Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding an answer”.

(Denis Waitley)

The grateful 5 (5 things I’m grateful for)

Grateful

“A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles”

(Pinterest)

Dictionary.com defines grateful as feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful.

Pretty simple concept and one to dig into a bit more.  I do a lot of reading and came across a blog article titled the Top 5 Things I am Grateful For.  The article and title are straight forward so I decided to try my writing chops to explore this from my perspective.

Family

Spend any amount of time with me and I will tell you about my family.  My family on my mom’s side consists of 5 uncles and 4 aunts.  The last time we counted I had 32 first cousins and 69 second cousins.  I know that last number has gone up, but we have not counted them in a long time.

This large extended family unit allowed me to grow up in an environment where most of my early friends were family members.   We did not add nonfamily friends until we started school because there were enough of us around to field our own teams in most sports.

I am grateful for having so many family members who go out of their way to look out for each other.  Seems like a simple thing but we spent most Thanksgivings with this large unit and enjoyed our time together.  COVID-19 put a halt on our large family get togethers last year but hopefully we can find a way to get the crew together this year—safely!

Friends

My Walk into the Future journey has allowed me to make some truly great friends.  Please note, I do not let a lot of people into my inner circle, so my friends are special people to me.  I have friends who are not cousins and I have known them my entire life.  We stay connected and get back together whenever possible and continue to grow our friendship.

I have friends I met while in the Air Force and we have become our own family unit.  I look forward to getting together and catching up whenever possible.  COVID-19 has put a halt to our running tourist trips, but I am sure we will get back on track in the future.  New Orleans is calling!

I met my best friend in the gym one morning as she bullied me to help her with the weights she was lifting—true story! 😊  Seriously, a simple gym conversation launched a great friendship, and we chat and catch up on life as much as possible.  See you on Park Avenue!

My tree branches are all friends I look forward to catching up with.  Could be a simple email, text, or phone call but love hearing how well my folks are doing in this world.  I enjoy seeing them exploring life via Instagram stories and pictures they share.  I live through them daily and enjoy seeing the growth of my tree. WE ARE!  Go Bucks! Go Noles! Go Gators!

Running

I found running later in life but cannot imagine a world without me putting in my miles.  The concept of running a half marathon was foreign to me in 2013 but now I run 6 to 8 half marathons yearly (pre-COVID).  I had no intention to run another half marathon after my first attempt because it took me three full weeks to recover.  Of course, I had no idea how to train, hydrate or recover properly—lessons learned the hard way! LOL.

My stated goal for 2022 is to explore my first full marathon.  I am hoping COVID does not come back like 2020 and eliminates all future running events.  I am always looking for motivation when I run so training for a full marathon should keep me putting in the miles for years to come.  Trying to convince several friends to come race with me. Let’s go Laurens! 😊

“Running helps me maintain my ‘never killed anyone’ streak”.

(Pinterest)

Health

Happy to report I can eat and drink whatever I want.  My running and weight training programs help with this, but I am blessed with good health.  Running has not caused undue aches or pains and helps me maintain a healthy weight without counting calories.  My weight training provides strong muscle structure to keep me moving forward.  My annual physicals produce good numbers, and the doctor does not have to get onto me to eliminate anything from my diet.  Grateful to continue to age well! 😊

My Blog

Started the Walk into the Future blog without a clear understanding how it would impact me.  I thought I would just write a few things down and see if anyone wanted to read my words.  Turns out the blog has become an extension of me and gives me a platform to share thoughts, ideas, and adventures.  My writing process has slowed down as my work obligations expand but I am still able to keep 4 to 5 weeks of blog articles in my production library.  I would like to get back up to 8 to 10 weeks of articles in reserve in case I need to revise or update them before publishing.  Not sure how long I will continue to publish the blog but still have a ton of material to explore so hope you stay with me on this journey! 😊

Bonus:  My readers

Grateful for everyone who takes the time to read my blog.  Your positive affirmations always put a smile on my face and inspire me to work to produce better content weekly.  Thank you for following the Walk into the Future blog!  Well done!

What are YOU grateful for?  I welcome your thoughts!

“The struggles ends when the gratitude begins”.

(Neale Donald Walsh)

Make your bed!

Books

“Good order is the foundation of all things”.

(Edmund Burke)

My Walk into the Future allows me to pick and choose my adventures and some take me to amazing places.  Others find me rooted at home but still bring a level of joy and satisfaction.

I am an avid reader and love to find new books to help me as a lifelong learner.  My latest find was the book by retired Admiral William H. McRaven titled Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe The World.  

The title is simple enough and gives the reader an understanding of what the Admiral will cover in this book.

I love the fact the book is broken up into short chapters that are easy to follow and integrate into daily life for readers.  Admiral McRaven uses things from his life to help highlight the importance of how little things add up to make life move forward.

The book starts with the simple premise of why making your bed daily sets the tone for the day.  I understood this fact when I read the book but did not fully gain knowledge until I shared the book with a coworker who reads more books than I do.  My coworker assumes since I am retired Air Force the concept of making your bed was instilled in me during my time in the Air Force.  He was surprised when I told him I rarely make my bed because I did not see the importance of the act.  I am not a slob but making my bed happens when it happens—I did not go out of my way to make the bed before heading to work.

My coworker was shocked with my admission. I can be set in my ways but went back and read the chapter on making your bed to figure out what I missed.

I started making my bed DAILY after reading again to see if this simple act made a difference in my day.  The verdict is in—yes, it does!

This simple act appears to be a springboard for a productive day for me. 

The flow I have been able to display at work came once I made the decision to start my day with a simple act of organization.  Taking the time to make my bed and organize before leaving the house for work or my runs puts me in a better mindset for the day.  I arrive at work with a mindset to organize and I can transition quicker once I make it to my desk.  This may all be a coincidence but the flow, production, and ability to get more accomplished came once I decided to make my bed.

This is a recent phenomenon for me but exciting at the same time.  The ability to make a difference daily is something I take pride in.  Making my bed appears to heighten my ability to get this done.

Let’s be clear on this!  I fully understand making the bed has not given me a new superpower, but it provides me an opportunity to cross off a daily task early in the day.  I view making my bed as the first win of the day and gets me ready to win throughout the day.  I love crossing things off my to-do lists and I can get this started before I leave the house. 

Therefore, making your bed is an important step for the day!  It sets the tone and establishes a foundation for success—give it a try and let’s see what making your bed can do for you!

What are your thoughts on the importance of making your bed?  How does it set the tone for the day?

“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned”.

(Benjamin Franklin)

Poetic Flow

Poetry

GLORY

Nothing ventured

Nothing gained

The glory we need

Must be maintained

Seeking the knowledge

Becomes a daily challenge

To continue to learn and grow

To make today better than yesterday

Seeking the future glory

The goal remains the same

Make the world a better place

And remember to say the names

(George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery)

Why I continue to blog

Blog

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“Blogging is like work, but without coworkers thwarting you at every turn”.

(Scott Adams)

I never imagined three years ago I would still be blogging about my life, thoughts, and adventures. 

The need for me to document things via the Walk into the Future blog continues to grow as my views and voice get stronger daily.  COVID-19 slowed down the adventures, but I still write to share my ideas with my followers and the occasional new reader around the world.  I also write as a form of therapy for me to release energy into the world—sounds poetic, huh?

It still amazes me when I see a reader from France, India or Spain checking out one of my articles.  Never thought my idea for this blog would travel so well but travel it does. 

I make a point to write about things that speak directly to me and adventures I have decided to tackle.  Some of my best content comes from friends and family who send me topics they would like to read about.  This process is exciting to me because I get to conduct research to bring the topic to my followers.  It is a bit more complicated than just hearing a topic and then I sit down and write.  There are times when the words just flow for me but other times, I must come back to a potential topics multiple times just to get it production ready.  I do not think I have ever experienced writer’s block but there are days where writing just does not flow for me.  I find I just need to clear my mind and let my fingers do the walking—that is an old telephone book reference! 😊

I have had a few articles I wrote but never published on the Walk into the Future blog.  Never thought I would have canned articles but not share them on the blog.  This does not happen too often but the articles I hold back do not fit what I want the blog to represent.  Yes, this is my blog, but it is also open access and I owe it to myself and my readers to put my best work forward daily. 

2020 saw so much turmoil in America and the way black people are treated caused a lot of frustration for me.  My ability to channel these frustrations provided some of my best work (my opinion) but needed to ensure my words match the intended purpose.  I revisit the articles I put on ice to see if I can salvage them, but they remain on ice—I am sure I will share directly with my tree branches but some of these will never be blog worthy (Seinfeld reference).

I find joy in putting words down to see if I can develop into something others would want to read.  The challenge to keep generating articles is with me daily.  I find inspiration to write in multiple settings but me sitting down on my laptop and just hammering out content is the norm for me now.  COVID-19 took away my coffee shop vibes, so I sit at my dining room table with my laptop, beer, and Bob Marley music as I lay down these tracks.

Plan to keep writing as long as it is fun to me and people continue to read what I am laying down. 

My hope is to get back to a certain level of travel again so I can write about my exploits in exotic locales.  Negril, Jamaica is my first stop once it is safe to head back down.

So, I have listed some reasons why I continue to blog.  Why do YOU continue to read?  I welcome your thoughts! 

Irie!

“The currency of blogging is authenticity and trust”.

(Jason Calacanis)

Positive people make positive things happen!

Positive

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results”.

(Willie Nelson)

Positive people make positive things happen is one of my favorite quotes to live by!  This quote has been with me for years—I do not even remember when or where I started using it but incorporate this quote in life daily.

The quote is straight forward and simple but has the power to transform.  Think of the negative people you know and their impact within the work environment.  I mention the work environment but negative people impact us whenever they are around.  I would love to say you can avoid negative people but there are times when you will come in contact with them.  Do not let this time linger as these folks can drain you.  Nothing is ever good enough or there is always a reason why something cannot be done.

Let’s get back to the positives in this article! 😊

Positive anything is better than the negative counterpart.  Think of the positive people in your life and how they make YOU feel.  These folks are always seeking a way to make things around them better.  It could be how they greet you in the morning or the ever present smile on their face even when things are not going their way.  It would be easy for them to complain but they do not.  They seek the positives in the situation and how to make things better.  They strive to get things done and not worry about the circumstances.

This ability to seek the positives directly translates to making positive things happen.  This is not a coincidence—focusing on positives allows these folks to generate positive outcomes.  They use their time and energy to find solutions to make a difference on projects they work on. 

These are the folks I gravitate towards because they are solution focused—not looking for excuses why things cannot get done.  I pride myself as a positive person and wake up daily to make a difference in the world.  This mindset has helped guide me towards successful outcomes in whatever venture I seek to conquer. Please note, there are days when negative thoughts creep in but I quickly shake them off so I can continue to move forward.

That negative friend, coworker or family member drains energy by identifying why something cannot be done.  These negative folks spend more time taking away from finding a solution—there are times where I see this negative mindset attract like minded folks and they feed off each other.  Do not fall into this trap—avoid these people at all costs.  Better yet, be so positive they want to avoid you or at least want to emulate the positivity you put on display daily.  I find joy frustrating negative people by not allowing their issues to come into my world. 

My goal is for them to join in on the positive things happening. 

What do you do to ensure a positive mindset?  How do you avoid the negative noise from others?

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another

(Proverbs 27:17)

Turning the corner on COVID-19

smiley-4836178_1920

(Image by Sergei Tokmakov, Esq. from Pixabay

“Choose to be optimistic.  It feels better”.

(Dalai Lama)

I do not know if we have truly turned the corner on COVID-19 but it does feel like we have made some progress.

The rollout of the vaccine has been moving forward the past three months and my excitement is firmly rooted in the fact I have family and friends who are fully vaccinated.  Happy to report I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Friday and should be fully vaccinated by the time you read this article.

I realize there is more work to be done before we get to herd immunity but there are positive signs daily.  We need to maintain a level of caution and not get too far ahead to ensure these positive vibes remains.

My excitement for turning the corner is because I was able to visit my family in northern Florida and did not feel like I was putting them at risk.  My mom, aunts and uncles are completely vaccinated and this was the first visit where I did not have the same concerns about possibly bringing the virus into their homes.  Please note, we still maintained physcial distancing and masks wearing but mentally it felt like we were safe again.  I have not hugged my mom in months so a simple side hug this time was a welcomed aspect of the visit.

My goal is to have my second shot completed before I head back up to visit with family and friends again.  The peace of mind knowing everyone has been vaccinated will allow us to spend a bit more time together and not worry about passing a virus on to a family member. 

The concept of physical distancing and how we fellowship will probably be changed forever.  Simple things we did around the holidays will most likely change—I do not know if I will ever be comfortable again with our large Thanksgiving gatherings again.  We set up tables and chairs outside for Thanksgiving 2020 and this process went better than I expected.  The weather was great and family was able to spend time together but not in a closed environment. I see this being the new tradition as long as the weather cooperates.

I hope the Walk into the Future blog readers are in the process of getting vaccinated. 

I questioned the rapid pace of the vaccine creation and deployment but put those concerns aside in order to ensure I was protected.  This protection extends to my family, friends and coworkers—getting the vaccine is my way to get closer to normal again.  I would like to get back to being a running tourist again in 2021.  This will only happen when more and more people get the vaccine—here’s hoping herd immunity is a real thing!

Note:  I got sent home from work the day after I wrote this article due to contact tracing.  COVID-19 is still alive and well—stay safe!

When are you getting the vaccine?  What are you looking forward to once herd immunity is gained?

“The nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer he is to strength”.

(Marcus Aurelius)

Why wait until tomorrow?

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Tomorrow is not promised

But the promise of tomorrow leads the way

To ensure every effort today

Is made without delay

Waiting for tomorrow

Shortchanges things you can get done in the present moment

Wasting opportunity and precious time

To find the pot of gold you deserve

Start using your time today

To find your path to a better tomorrow

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INSTAGRAM: @jayla_brianna

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