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How I Won The Lottery

MBurmeisterby Misti Burmeister

Imagine the power inherent in knowing how to cash in on the value of your life experiences. While I did buy a lottery ticket ($1.5 billion—who wouldn’t), the greatest winnings I’ve accumulated have little to do with paper (tickets or Benjamin’s).

In reality, the odds are stacked heavily against the $1.5 billion Powerball winner. And unfortunately, no dollar amount can buy a deep seeded belief in oneself, nor the courage to risk the vulnerability necessary to reach for your greatness.

How To Stop Pretending & Profit From Your Passion

I felt dread course through my body as I wondered, “Is she okay? Is this moment going to stop her from singing forever? I hope not.”

Just moments before, I’d watched Korin Bukowski, not once, but twice forget the words to, “Try,” as she sang live on The Voice. She has probably sung that song a million times. What happened?  By the grace of God, she managed to make her way through the song, and hold herself together as the judges—and Carson Dailey—did their best to console her.

“There isn’t a judge up here who hasn’t forgotten their lyrics,” Blake Shelton said, as he encouraged the American public to vote for Korin to continue in the competition by using their “instant save” capability.  And even though she wasn’t saved that time, she was instantly connected to the public in a powerful way. Anyone who’s ever made a mistake in public could relate.

As she walked off the stage, I couldn’t make sense of the intensity of my own emotions. I wasn’t the one singing live on The Voice, but somehow the feelings were intimately familiar. Try as I might to forget about Korin’s performance, the scene continued to replay, and so did the emotions. Busying myself by inhaling gobs of chocolate and exercising like crazy didn’t seem to stop the persistent nagging brought on by the event.

Clearly what happened to her had triggered something in me, but I didn’t know what it was. And honestly, I found it a whole lot easier to talk and think about her mistake than dredge up my old stuff.   So, I refocused myself on my work and prepared to interview Rich Sheridan, CEO and co-Founder of Menlo Innovations, a software company in Ann Arbor, MI, that has won numerous awards for the profound impact it has made in the world.

Toward the end of the interview, I asked Rich, “What’s the greatest challenge you see leaders facing globally?”

“Changing human behavior,” Rich said, almost as if a solution to such a universal challenge was simple.

But he was right.  Regardless of title or level of success, changing our own behaviors (or the behavior of others) is difficult. It’s the reason we buy hordes of books on dieting, exercise, and wealth, attend self-improvement workshops, and engage in team-building seminars with our co-workers.

“Give our listeners one step they can take to change human behavior on their team,” I asked Rich.

His answer to this question changed my life.

Four simple words—“Watch what you reward,” Rich said, “And I’m not talking about money, though that is one. When you talk about how ‘busy’ you are all the time, you’re rewarding ‘busy.’”

Parents unconsciously reward a whole host of behaviors in their children that drive them crazy, like whining, begging, and interrupting, just to name a few. What you put your attention to—i.e., reward—grows. I know this not because I have children, but because I still drive my parents crazy.

Curious about my own results, I headed out for my normal evening walk, asking myself, “What am I rewarding?”

Digging a little deeper, I asked, “What are the results I’m creating? And what are my ‘Payoffs’ (another word Rich used to further identify what he was referring to) for getting these results?”

Of course, my mind naturally went to my results, which are typically the opposite of what I want. Results that drive me crazy, and leave me feeling frustrated. Results like:

  • Exhaustion from spending hours recording one two-minute video,
  • Then over-eating, which probably causes…
  • Persistent pain in various joints, and constant soreness from over-exercising.
  • And then, the most painful — random and few opportunities (over the past five years) to share my talent.

That last one feels like lead in my stomach.

I love this work.

So, what gives? Why have I thrown monkey wrenches at myself, avoiding the very opportunities where I can contribute the most?  That’s when it hit me. Monkey wrenches and joint pain are less painful than dealing with people—that’s why.

“Am I afraid of people?” I asked myself, wondering if I should check myself into… the grocery store to get more chocolate.

While in the Trader Joes checkout line—chocolate in tow, I struck up this awesome conversation with an older couple who had just finished a hike. We exchanged contact info, and soon we’ll be on a hike together.

Clearly, I’m not afraid of all people, I realized. So, who is it, and why?

“People with suits,” I decided, “The fancier the suit, the more chocolate I consume.”

That’s it—scary people in suits are to blame. If we could just rid the universe of suits, then my shoulders, knees, and lower back would be in such better shape! Abolish the suits!

Later that week I struck up a meaningful conversation with a gentleman in a sharp looking suit at Starbucks. He was in Baltimore seeking additional venture capital for his tech start up. Thinking I may know someone I could introduce him to, I probed a little deeper, asking about why he started this business, how many employees he had, and who he was pitching.

Considering he had already raised several million dollars, I was surprised by his response. “I’ve been working sixteen-hour-days and I have a couple of full time people,” he said, as he pulled out a beautifully bound notebook, along with a few flyers, detailing his product and his plan.

“I’m not a graphic designer, but I put these together.”

Still not understanding why this product mattered to him, I asked about his history. Essentially, I wanted to understand how he made his way into caring enough about this product to start a business around it.

“I was raised in a mobile home,” he shared.

Considering the product he was seeking venture capital for had nothing to do with mobile homes, I was confused.

“Why does it matter that you grew up in a trailer park?”

“I’m a hard worker.”

“Your results speak for themselves. You don’t need anyone to take pity on you, and offer you a chance because of where you come from. Share your passion for the product, the excitement of your current investors, and your plan,” I responded.

Interestingly, he spent the next twenty minutes telling me about how he bought that trailer park, and sold it for a sizeable profit several years ago.

“Now that’s inspiring! Tell your story that way,” I said, astounded by his journey and courageous spirit. “In fact,” I suggested, “Show those investors how you took every one of your challenges, and turned them into opportunities. It’s you, your stories, and your passion that will not only attract the right investors, but also inspire others (employees, suppliers, etc.) to help you make this one a big success.

“Thank you,” he said, as we hugged before parting.

“Clearly it’s not the suits,” I thought as Morgan, my physical therapist, tortured me with a new needling technique that’s supposed to aid in rapid healing.  “It’s not people, it’s not suits, and it’s not people in suits that are stopping me from doing this work. So, what is it?”

Two recent events flooded my mind as I thought about the recent wave of emotions I’d experienced after Korin’s performance.  The first was about a speech I gave to NASA, and the other was a conversation I had with a new friend.

NASA, Twitter, Shit!

I was invited to give a speech about generational differences at NASA’S first information technology summit.  Determined to make my mark and set myself up for a lifetime of guaranteed success, I abandoned my normal speech preparations, hired a speechwriter, an expert in PowerPoint®, and proceeded to memorize a forty-minute speech.

Forcing myself into my basement for two hours every day, locking in the speech word-for-word was exhausting, but necessary. No way was I going to take a chance on this audience. This was NASA—it had to be perfect.

You know how the story ends already, right?

All my hard work pays off, and I get a standing ovation.

Heeellllloooo ego!

Alas, I had no time to contemplate the role of my ego in this speech.

“Focus, Misti,” I repeated to myself in that basement, as my mind wandered and a giant force inside of me just wanted to go outside and play.

I stayed. I focused. I memorized. Every day for six months.

One might think that such persistence would aid in confidence and calmness in the days and nights leading up to the speech.

Nada. It didn’t help at all. Zilch!

Xanax, or some stronger equivalent, please?

The morning of my speech I was in a haze as I made my way into the auditorium where I was set to speak in just a couple of hours. I sat on the stage, visualizing my applause.

That’s what you’re supposed to do right—see the ball going into the hoop?

In truth, all I saw was gray. But, to the event planners such preparations looked good, right? They could see how much effort I was putting into this speech, right?

Mostly, I wanted Linda Cureton, the chief information officer of NASA, a woman I respected greatly, to be impressed. I wasn’t a well-established or polished keynote speaker, and I knew she was taking a risk on me. She believed in me, and I needed to wow her.

When the time came, I stepped onto the stage, had a good opening line, and then completely forgot my speech. Gone. The words I’d spent hours storing in my memory were inaccessible, and I could see the discomfort rising on their faces as I struggled.

It wasn’t pretty, but I found my way through that speech—much the same as Korin made her way through that song. After I came off the stage, Linda looked at me and quietly asked, “What happened?” Embarrassed, all I could muster was, “I don’t know.”

Unfortunately, my failure wasn’t over when I walked off the stage.  As it turned out, I was the lucky one to speak right before Vince Cerf, widely known as “The founder of the Internet,” and one heck of a speaker. The event was webcast live, and so you can imagine the number of people getting through me in order to listen to Vince speak.

I don’t know the exact number, but it was a LOT… of important people. In suits. Watching me fail, miserably. And then tweeting about it.  I wish I could tell you that I read the tweets about my speech, but honestly I couldn’t bear to think about how awful they probably were.  But I did hear about them from other sources.

“Never again!” I thought to myself. “Clearly, they can see that I’m clueless and have nothing of value to add anyway, so why bother?”  For the psychologists out there, yes, I internalized the experience—was a failure. I didn’t just have a failure. I was the failure.

That day, I made a decision—I will never let that happen to me again.

I needed training, and so I invested—heavily. I spent hours, days, and months writing and re-writing stories, exhausted and annoyed at my inability to get it perfect.   Of course, the stories could have been perfect had I actually used them in a speech. But what speech? My phone wasn’t ringing, and I couldn’t get myself to drum up opportunities. Networking events further exhausted me.

I cringed when people asked, “What do you do?”

“I sit at home, looking busy, wishing someone would show up, sprinkle magic fairy dust on me, and tell me exactly how to… be Elizabeth Gilbert, Simon Sinek, or Daniel Pink,” was the truth I was unwilling to share.

They were perfect. Their messages resonated with my passion. Can’t I just be one of them?  Of course not—the job is taken!  So, I went back to work on perfecting my stories, just like I’d learned in that training.

How does anyone continue to do their work when they fail so publicly?  I haven’t figured it out yet, but I did get a glimpse into the real reason for my failure, and it wasn’t at all what I thought it was. It wasn’t about being smart enough, polished enough, or even a good speaker.

Dread Locks, Mocha Skin, and 2Pac

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brene Brown

The truth came to me through a story my friend Aisha shared as we sat in an Indian restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland.  Heralding from Queens, New York, and also a veteran, Aisha recounted her experience of the first time she felt the suffocating impact of having mocha skin and dreadlocks.

As one of few black women stationed in Kentucky, Aisha had no idea how to fit in. Fitting in meant she’d need to actually enjoycountry music. Desperate to figure it out, she started watching a fellow mocha-skinned officer who was well respected despite the fact that he drove around base in his Lexus, with spinning rims, and blaring 2Pac.

“How do I do this?” Aisha asked him.

“You’re the one making a big deal of your skin—they don’t care. Tell your jokes, just like you’d tell them to me,” he said.

“They did laugh, Misti,” Aisha told me, “and I realized that all I needed to do was be me.”

That’s it, I realized on my drive home.

The day I accepted the opportunity to speak for NASA, I abandoned myself. Much the same as Aisha, I didn’t believe this audience would ever want to hear from a woman who spent seventh and eighth grade in special education class.

Why would such a prestigious group of professionals care to learn from a woman who barely graduated from high school, and was incredibly lucky to get her education from a university few have heard of?  They wouldn’t, which is exactly why I had a very smart woman write and perfect my speech, and another one design and perfect my slides.

Then I remembered what Linda said to me in the hallway moments after I delivered that terrible speech.

“Misti, you have a story, and you need to tell it,” she said, quite publicly, and continued on with the conversations she was having about the upcoming sessions.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that it’s not so much about sharing my story as it is about trusting in my story. Just as it’s difficult to hear the voice of a singer riddled with self-doubt, it’s nearly impossible to connect with an audience I never showed up for.

So, how do I do it? How do I risk the possibility of failure every day as I share the gifts God has given me with the people in the suits?

Do I find a way to crush my amygdala, the part of my brain that quietly—without my permission—tells my whole body that I’m about to die when all I’m doing is standing on a stage sharing stories?

Do I stay in hiding, praying that one day I’ll have the perfect story (history), and then I can share? As if changing my background were even possible, or desirable.

Or, do I recognize my intense fear as a gift from God, reminding me that all I need to do is breathe—slowly and deeply—and be me.

I wonder what would happen if I started rewarding, as Rich so eloquently taught me, showing up, trusting in my instincts, and sharing what I have to offer.  What would it mean to reward total transparency, trust, and truth? What would happen if I could find a way to reward the kind of risk-taking Aisha took?

What would my body feel like if I rewarded authenticity, instead of trying to control the actions and thoughts of others—a game I can never win anyway—and started showing up, offering, and watching God work her magic.

My guess is—I’ll have the same experience of pure bliss I had at the Starbucks that day with the entrepreneur in the fancy suit, who, turns out, helped me remember that all I need to do is share my story, my results, my process, and my passion. The right people (and audiences) will come at the right time to help us share our gifts—if we will only trust in our own stories.

Imagine if they had a Powerball that resulted in such trust. Would you play? I will!

Misti Burmeister writes about leadership, motivation, and provoking greatness. She started life challenging the status quo, and shifted into Provoking Greatness. She’s an executive coach and the author of “From Boomers To Bloggers” and “Provoking Greatness.” She is also the host of Provoking Your Greatness Podcast. 

Trends for Less!

By Greta Davies

FullSizeRender 2Fringe has been named a huge trend for the Fall and Winter. When it comes to all these trends, I don’t like to spend money. What’s the point!? You’ll only want to use it for awhile, then move on to something else.

When looking through fashion magazines and I see a trend I like, I immediately look online and in stores like H&M, Zara, Topshop, Asos, Nastygal, Forever21 and Uniqlo to find a less expensive version. More often than not, they come through with a great option.

I have 2 bags pictured here. The one I bought on the left is a cross body bag from H&M for $24.99. Well made and luxe, I have gotten more compliments on this bag than any I can remember in recent past. The other is a gorgeous Prorsum suede Burberry found at Neiman Marcus. It is spectacular, but it is $2,795!

The style differences are minimal but the price difference is astronomical. Any person, any age can shop trends and look great. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to be stylish. Save your money for classic pieces that won’t go out of style!

Next week: The white shearling coat…

Greta DaviesGreta Davies is a mother of 3 amazing kids, navigating divorce and still learning about life. She is a tennis obsessed, beach loving, alcohol enjoying fashion freak that has taken her love of writing and started a lifestyle blog called, My41. Here, relishing in the ins, outs, ups and downs of all our lives, she explores her passions about family, fashion, fitness, food and general life fuck-ups. She believes age 40 is just the beginning of this amazing life and wants not only for you to learn from her, but to also learn from you. Join her on her crazy journey. Facebook: My41 Twitter @blogmy41

Loving in the Dark

By Davine Ker

Sometimes, the best kind of love happens in complete darkness…

The way your love is smiling at you, in the dark, when you thought he or she was asleep. When we close our eyes to stop time and savor a kiss, or when it’s late and dark at night, and your mother’s hand is reaching for yours to cross the street.

1825_10151327551492312_900981795_nWhen I was a kid, my parents stacked up some beer cases for me to stand on to guard the cash register at their convenience store while they were busy working in the back, doing inventory or preparing orders. Whenever a customer entered, they would see a little six year old girl screaming like a store’s human alarm system and shout “Maman, un client!!!!”, meaning “Mom! A customer!” in French. I grew up in the French speaking side of Canada, in Montreal. When I became old enough to be trusted with our family’s business, I got promoted to working at the store every Saturdays and during the Holidays. I would open the store early in the morning and close at 11 pm at night.

These were long days where I felt mostly lonely, but proud that I was helping my parents out.

I comforted myself that at least I could interact with boys and maybe meet someone interesting there, since my parents sent me to an all girl Catholic school and I wasn’t normally allowed to speak to any boys at all.

I barely ever saw my parents.

601475_10151326624927312_1445948429_nAt night, when my parents got back home from the store, I would hear them open my bedroom door for a little peak and watch me sleep.

In complete darkness, I felt their love.

We didn’t celebrate Christmas. We celebrated more sales at the store. They did not want to close during the Holidays, a night where cold and hot beverages were flowing like faucets. I was selling happiness to our customers, without a taste of any of it. Selling all these happy potions, while I was locked in my parental cell, serving my time as a devoted daughter.

I met many drunk characters, angry ones who helped build my own character.

I fearfully enjoyed taming all the ex cons, and loopy brutes who greedily threatened to steal bottles without paying. Their loud voices contrasting with the corny radio station that was playing in the background. Some nicer customers would pull a chair and sit with me for a while, to keep me company. Sometimes we would stare at the scrambled tv channels together, hoping to catch some bits of a good classic Christmas movie.

I used to be sad, not being able to see my parents much. Even though they were my parents, we never truly spent much time together, or bond together. For as long as I remembered, they had to sacrifice all their time and devotion to their work. While my friends were complaining about having parents that were too involved in their daily lives, I wished I spent more time with mine. And during that Christmas, that year when I turned 17, I wished for the gift of time. Their time. I wished they would pick quality time over monetary profits. I wish they picked me.

A few weeks later, my wish was granted. On January 4, 1998, in Montreal, we were hit by the greatest natural disaster in Canadian history. The entire city was frozen, immobilized by three successive ice storms. All the power lines and telephone cables became useless. A complete power outage disrupting everyone’s daily lives…forcing 100,000 people to seek refuge in hotels, private homes or hastily assembled shelters.

Without power, we had power. We cooked in the fireplace. My grandmother kept us warm and fed us with her timeless cooking skills. My father and I kept everyone entertained while playing the piano, the accordion and violin. We shared stories, we laughed, we bonded. My true Christmas wish finally came true. I felt a sense of connection and community with the rest of the community. We all stuck together and helped each other out.

January 4th should become an official Holiday. While other cultures celebrate light, it would be nice to also celebrate darkness because sometimes, the best kind of love happens in complete darkness.

Having received the life time achievement award for snappy shoes and dress styles from PC world magazine, Comedian Davine Ker is leading the anti-vaccine movement against computer viruses. Davine makes a point of swimming the Potomac river every morning before performing on stage so her jokes are always clean.  Her motto is “Give a kid spaghetti dinner for breakfast and he’ll never cry at lunchtime.” Be sure to like her Facebook page by clicking here.

Wars in our World

By: Amanda Sullivan-Samuel

Peace for ParisOn most normal weeks, I write the column “Around the Table.” My subject is always food, what I’m serving, what’s going on in my life and finally ends with a recipe. This week I feel different. This week I am saddened by the recent events that have happened in Paris. If you want to tie in food, then grab a Café au Lait and an éclair while you read this article.

Paris has been attacked. The terrorists have done it again. They have instilled fear in all of us, mostly likely sadness and I’m sure plenty of anger as well. I know I’m all of the above. I’m also confused. I can’t understand this world we are living in, the world that our children and our grandchildren will inherit from us. We are all heartbroken at the events that have taken place with one of our closest allies. They didn’t deserve this. They didn’t deserve to be brought to their knees, weeping and crying for the loved ones they lost or the sense of security that’s been ripped from their hands. Of course, ISIS took responsibility, something I don’t think anyone was shocked to hear. We knew it was them the moment we heard the first news report of what was happening to our friends.

However, I sit here, typing this article, not sure it’s going to be published, but feeling like I need to say something because I have been given a chance to express my views and speak my mind freely by this publication and without fear of persecution, thanks to our freedom of speech. My heart is heavy for Paris but how can we shake our fists, sharpen our pitchforks and flame up our torches at ISIS when right here in this country we have such horrible and debilitating hatred for our fellow Americans. When these terrorist attacks happen, and it seems to happening more often, it stirs up emotions and thoughts inside of you that you never knew you had. I feel selfish even thinking of our country when I see such destruction to Paris but how is a military wife supposed to feel? My husband could be sent off to war at any moment but yet our war continues right here in our backyard.

Baltimore just surpassed a statistic they never wanted to even have to begin with. They just reached 300 homicides for the year 2015. Let that number sink in. And that’s just for ONE city in this country. Do you not see this as a form of terrorism within our own land? We are so quick to want to destroy ISIS for their beliefs and their lack of compassion for another life yet do you not see the same thing here?  Murdering a fellow human being because of a drug deal gone bad, because someone wanted this person’s wallet, because bullies run rampant in our schools, because an ex-husband wouldn’t dare let his ex-wife be with another man.

Now, I won’t make this a gun debate, because that isn’t what this is about. This isn’t a debate, this is a plea to my fellow Americans to pray for Paris, pray for ourselves, pray for this world. But don’t stop there. Do something. Teach your children the meaning of life, learn the meaning of life yourselves, understand that we can hate the bad guys all we want but the bad guys are also right here. Maybe try to love a little more. I don’t know. Does that sound like a quote from a bleeding heart liberal or someone whose heart is just bleeding because it’s broken at the senseless killings constantly displayed in the media? Who is going to finally do something? Who is going to finally stand up and say that this has gone completely out of control? We inherited this earth from whatever higher being you believe in and we treat the ones that inhibit it as some disposable piece of garbage, all in the name of what YOU believe in. Who is right here? Who wins when it’s all said and done? This isn’t a black and white issue, this isn’t a gun control issue, this isn’t a war on religion. This is a war on mankind and every single one of us is fighting the battle.

So go into your kitchen, make a cup of tea, have a cookie or two, and reflect on your life and decide what kind of planet earth you want to leave your children. Will you be a part of the solution? If you figure it all out, let us in on it. The key is somewhere. Let’s go and find it.

Amanda Sullivan-Samuel is a rare native to Loudoun County, born and raised in Sterling Park, VA and currently resides in Leesburg, VA. She comes from a family of blue collar workers along with four older brothers, three of which are Loudoun County firefighters. She started off in the medical field as a massage therapist when she was 20 years old and continued for 13 years. She now works part time for a Physical Therapist as the Marketing Director while also raising two amazing children, Derik—born in 2007 and Delila—born in 2012. She was married in 2007, then divorced and has since remarried in 2012 to her husband, Benjamin who is currently active duty Navy.

Amanda’s hobbies include cooking, dancing, exercising, spending time with her family at the beach and doing mud runs throughout the area. Her husband is also a triathlete, competing in various Ironman triathlons around the country as she accompanies him as his “support crew!”