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Why self-love matters in the end…and how to strengthen it

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

There was a time when I lingered between life and death. Fully aware of both sides. Fully aware of my in-betweenness. One side holds all the complex and painful emotions of humanity. On the other exists only love, pure and simple. It’s virtually indescribable and unforgettable.

Yes, I am talking about a near death experience (NDE). Don’t freak out; it’s a common question I get. Frequently after I deliver a keynote speech, someone will ask if I “saw the light” or had an “out of body experience.” No. Well sort of. It’s difficult and frankly uncomfortable to describe. And not to be rude, but the phenomenological details aren’t important anyway. One thing is undeniably certain to me, we don’t need to suffer near as much as we do.

Yet here I am in all my messy, complex, gloriously faulty humanness — just like everyone else. I suffer all of the same destructive ego-driven emotions and defenses that cause harm to self and others. Except I should know better. Shouldn’t I? I feel like I should. Wait…. Do you hear that? Do you hear all of the “shoulds”? There it is, my humanity showing. Read more

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You don’t mind that we’ve relocated your legs, do you?

mannequin legs hanging from a beam

I’m on a Southwest Airlines flight that has just landed in Sacramento, arriving ten minutes late from Denver. I have a two-and-a-half-hour layover before my last leg home to Seattle. In usual fashion, I’m the last person departing the aircraft because I have to wait for my wheelchair to be brought up from the cargo hold.

I’m waiting…and waiting…and…hmmm….

It seems longer than usual so I ask a flight attendant about my chair. I know it wasn’t left in Denver because from my window seat on the plane I saw them load it into the cargo hold. That’s a little nerve-wracking to watch, by the way.

According to recent data reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines break an average of 25 wheelchairs or motorized scooters per day. Over 700 times per month airline employees damage or misplace someone’s personal and essential form of mobility. Do you think they would be more careful if it belonged to their mother, child, spouse, or friend?

Finally, a gate agent steps aboard the plane and says, “They’ve already taken your wheelchair to your gate. We’ll just take you in one of our chairs.” Ummm, excuse me? What gate?? Remember that part about a two-and-a-half hour layover? My wheelchair with the motor is a $15,000 ride and acts as a stand-in for my legs. I’m not at all comfortable with someone arbitrarily deciding where it goes without me. Besides, I don’t want to go the gate. I want to go the bathroom, take my dog to the relief area, and get some food. In other words, just like anyone else, I have opinions about where I go. Read more

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Have You Heard the News?

squawking chicken

Last week I heard a disturbing piece of news. A deaf couple was mocked by employees at a Kentucky Fried Chicken drive-through window for their inability to hear. At least that is what their daughter tearfully alleged in a Facebook video that went viral. The video about the KFC experience has been viewed 1.4 million times and picked up by Fox, ABC, and NBC affiliates.

The 59-year-old was with her husband when she said a female employee at the window would not help her communicate her order. “She put her hands on her mouth. I said, ‘Ma’am, sorry, I can’t hear. I need to read your lips. Could you please move it?’ She keeps standing there,” described Cole. She said she ordered again and, to her horror, the young lady walked away and began laughing with another male employee.

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Empathy by Design

“I think like a designer,” I commented to a friend recently. “No,” she answered, “you ARE a designer. “ Hmmm….come to think of it…..

For the last two weeks I’ve obsessed over tiny details of the plans for our new house. A tape measure, 1/4” scale ruler, sharp pencil and an eraser have been my best friends. I didn’t create the house plan, but I’m making it work for our family and my accessibility needs because I use a cane, walker or wheelchair at any given time. We love our current custom house, but the lack of universal design creates a lot of challenges.  Read more

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Genuine Stories Create Extraordinary IMPACT

Tell YOUR story

On an ideal day, before starting work I’ll meditate, write in a journal and read a devotional. If feeling really crazy I’ll exercise. It helps to begin the day with solid footing and elevated aspirations.

Yesterday morning I read the Bible verse, “Give your contributions privately. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you.” Matthew‬ ‭6:4‭ Regardless of your beliefs, that wisdom rings especially true in this age of social media and personal branding. Too many people (in my not-so-humble opinion) wear their ‘altruism’ overtly publicly which begs the question: for whom are they doing it? (Someone with proper grammar please tell me if who or whom is correct there.)

Now here I am with a dilemma. Do I keep my experience yesterday private or do I share it publicly because I was profoundly moved? Let’s first go back…. Read more

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A Mother’s Foresight

Mother's Day - Elisa Hays _ Keynote Speaker

 

Emotional intelligence is blah, blah, blah.

Wait, what?

As humans, we are encouraged to be emotionally intelligent; just two weeks ago I brought up the importance of being empathetic and how it can positively enhance a workplace. But too often, we stop there. We sit in our high-backed office chairs and smile to ourselves, reveling in our strong management of emotions and good leadership skills. Go us!

There’s a difference, though, between a good leader and a great one. Good leaders demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence. They show strong empathy, are incredibly self-aware and show a genuine interest in the people they lead. However, GREAT leaders exercise emotional foresight.

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Empathy

Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Not too long ago, one of my employees had to do what every employee dreads most: Call their boss to confess that they did something wrong. Prior to the event, I had told my employee not to do the exact thing that she ended up doing. Sigh.

This is where we as leaders are faced with a decision. Whether it is at home with your children or in the workplace with employees, the immediate reaction can be to pull out the shame card. We want to teach them a lesson and ensure that it never happens again, right?  But this is where I invite you to take a pause.

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The most raw, honest and profound interview.

Friends, this is the most raw, honest and profound interview I’ve ever given.

Please listen and allow it to change how you connect with people everywhere.

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Reaching Through the Pain

photo credit: Render’s Photography

Every day I wake up hurting. I start my day with the eye opening reminder that this is real. It wasn’t a bad dream. I don’t think it’s different than any other kind of pain though. The loss of a loved one or a job or a dream. Pain is all around.

For me, it’s both physical and emotional. And I am so very tired. All the time. Hurting is a lonely feeling. For everyone. We hunker down alone and wait to heal. Then we wonder why we feel so alone even when surrounded by people.

Pain is an egocentric experience. It causes us to focus inward instead of reaching out around us. But I know, the more I reach out to people, even if it’s just a smile, the less lonely I feel in my experience of pain. It isn’t that others understand or that I even expect them to. It’s that I’m simply less egocentric when I reach out.

Rule #1: It’s Not About You. Not even when you’re suffering.

Rule #2: You Have to Actually Care.

I am reminded that I created those rules at a time years ago when I was suffering a different kind of drama. I had to perform shows when all I wanted to do was stay curled up in my trailer crying. But the show must go on, especially when my livelihood depended on getting out of the trailer with a smile. So I wiped my tears, looked in the mirror, and chanted those first two rules. Then I opened the door, faced my audience and boldly embraced the rules. I did that day after day and began to see how consistently I felt better, less in pain, by practicing a compassionate outward directed focus. As a bonus the shows benefitted greatly!

Years later I am still needing constant reminders of this simple lesson. Reaching out with a compassionate heart won’t cure the pain, but it’s the best medicine for the loneliness of suffering.