A Chance Meeting: A Story to Warm the Heart

pexels-photo-688012The cold drove me down the street faster than normal with the hopes of stepping into the next shop for warmth. Handing out promotional rack cards to every business in town was difficult due to the whipping wind. While I loved the freshness of the Chicago breeze during other seasons, winter typically saw the wind chill drop below zero, which was once again the case.

I stepped into a beauty parlor and my eyes locked onto a gorgeous woman who welcomed me to the shop. Her green eyes and reddish hair suggested an Irish heritage, but it was her Celtic Claddagh ring that convinced me of her family line and availability. The ring was on her right hand with the heart facing outward to signal that her heart was open to the right person.

The Irish side of me lit up and I engaged in an enthusiastic conversation. She was funny and generous with sincere compliments, but our time was cut short when her boss called her into the backroom. The moment was awkward at best. I headed to the door hoping to hear her voice one last time. The bell overhead clanged as I opened the door and faced the frigid air.

“I hope you come again!” the woman called out with a cheerful voice. I turned and gave her a smile, then twisted into the wind as I closed the door behind me. My face numbed from the below zero wind chill as my mind raced with warm thoughts from our chance visit. It was a good day.

Sitting by the fireplace in the early evening, I took a sip from my mug of soup and collected my thoughts. I penned a thank you note to the woman that had warmed my soul during the blizzard. I chose my words carefully knowing that she would most likely read the note several times over. Not because I wrote well, but because we seldom receive handwritten correspondence.

The words flowed directly from my heart with a sense of passion that would catch the attention of any healthy woman. Every syllable added to the rhythm in a fashion that, when read out loud, might sound musical to the discerning ear. The melodious words affirmed her hospitality earlier in the day and encouraged her to shine for others entering the shop for days to come.

As I signed the parchment, I reread the inspirational paragraphs to make sure when scrutinized the note reflected nothing more than a platonic thank you. Albeit encouraging beyond what most would attempt in a day of harassment allegations. But I made sure that not a single word suggested anything beyond a wholesome acquaintance.

That’s not to say a woman might not misconstrue certain words to be hints of a future she might long for, or inflate other words to the point where she could dream of a future that I would never accept. But within context and the definition of each word, she should only understand how well she comes across to others and the value she holds within her heart.

As for my heart, it was not ready to consider returning to the salon. My heart was still pounding for a woman from my past that I never had a chance to date. She was a woman of high moral character, though her past suggested a few dusty roads had been traveled in her younger years.

But I enjoyed the refreshing and warming company in those few moments while my toes and fingers warmed. And hopefully, the woman will always appreciate the stranger who entered her life long enough to encourage her with sincere compliments of her hospitality.

The Christmas season seems to have little moments of surprise that gives us that extra push through our hardships in life. It’s a time when all men consider good will to those they meet. And hopefully, it’s a time when simple words of affirmation can be magnified to boost a person’s morale for those who don’t have family around to celebrate.

© 2017 by CJ Powers
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Society’s New Judgment System

pexels-photo-534204Our love affair with social media has forced society into a new form of isolation where “truth” is determined by the number of people we convince to believe our tale, rather than being about proven or substantiated facts. The social platforms have empowered the media to drive crowds in how to think and respond. The users are becoming judge and jury to the detriment of society.

In the past, we waited to learn if something alleged was proven to be true or false. During lengthy trials, people waited with anticipation of the outcome to know how to proceed concerning the circumstances or the person. But today, if you allegedly did something 30 years ago that is now a hot point of discussion, you’re immediately fired and blocked from making any future income.

Our society seems to be fine with this new politically correct judgment system. But not everyone wants to see his or her future disappear based on an allegation that has no merit.

I recently read an article about a woman who accused former President H.W. Bush of assaulting her. The woman posed for pictures with several political figures and was blocking President Bush. He called out to get her attention, but she didn’t respond. He then reached forward from his wheelchair and gave her a little tap. She quickly stepped to the side and all was well.

Several years later, after the reporting of harassment was politically correct and popular in the media, she reported that he assaulted her. She said he touched her backside and told her dirty jokes, which was never substantiated by any of the dozen people at the photo shoot. But the media published the assault story.

Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report” is about a society where empaths have people arrested for thinking about committing a crime, sparing society from the pain caused by an actual crime. People are judged, based not on what they did, but what they allegedly were about to do.

The number of people losing their jobs based not on facts, but allegations is staggering. What’s worse are the number of people losing their jobs because of someone else’s allegations. The Netflix series “House of Cards” was cancelled due to Kevin Spacey’s allegations from decades earlier, putting the 300 cast and crew members out of work.

The number of people leaving social media is also astonishing and telling. When asked, most say they are dropping social media because it’s become the breeding ground of false news. Some mention they want to protect their future by avoiding a misunderstanding in social media that could negatively impact their jobs.

In the past few years, I’ve asked numerous employers if they ever used social media to vet a person before hiring them. Everyone said, “Yes.” One person made sure she didn’t accidentally hire a heavy drinker. Another person avoided extremists like “Christians.” Still another person said, “If I like their social life and they agree with my political views, I’ll hire them.”

Society is no longer growing from people listening to both sides of every issue and thinking through its consequences. Instead, we’ve become a people who gather in groups of like-minded folks that judge others on the number of allegations that they’ve received, rather than on documented facts.

Before we get judged based on a regrettable choice made during our less intelligent years, we might want to drop our opportunity to judge others and instead learn how to give grace. That doesn’t mean we ever condone their unhealthy mistakes, but it does mean we focus on ourself, making sure we live out the best version of our lives.

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers

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NaNoWriMo Turns Crazies into Winners

NaNo-2017-Winner-BadgeNational Novel Writing Month is about a half a million authors writing novels during the month of November worldwide. The organization provided numerous “write-in” locations for the competition. Some provided incentives, while others provided food and caffeine.

To cross the finish line each author had to write 50,000 words in 30 days, which takes a lot of encouragement from others. A little over 4,000 people in my general area attempted the daunting task. In my specific local area 440 writers went after the win. With only a day or so left to go, only 15 writers have crossed the finish line so far with about 20 positioned to do so if all continues as planned.

Right now I have the third highest number of words completed at 56,352 with hopes of crossing the 60,000 mark on Thursday. The first highest has 120,144 words and the second highest has 76,285 words. Or, a better way to view the stats is to consider the number of total words written by local authors in this area, which are 7,846,619 words written so far—The equivalent of 100 novels.

I remember back to November 6th, the day I started. I was six days behind schedule and that white sheet of blank paper was looking up at me wondering if I had enough creativity to toss 50,000 words onto the page in the remaining 24 days. The sensation I felt when I made that mental leap to move forward was intoxicating and a bit foolish.

Once reduced enough ideas to writing and the numbers got up to around 18,000 words, I wanted to quit. There was no reason to continue the exercise since I had no way of finishing, let alone find an audience to buy my finished book. But, I received encouragement from strangers who were also participating. To honor their words of encouragement, I put one foot in front of the other and pushed through.

When I hit around 24,000 words life was pressing against me and everything was falling apart. I had to quit, but my new friends cheered me on and I broke through the 25,000 word barrier. By the time I hit 26,000 words, I found myself captivated by the story and had to continue writing to see what happened next.

I received a winner’s t-shirt after hitting 50,000 words (Yes, I had won!) and found myself compelled to forgo my breaks and keep writing. I had to tweak the words and polish the story. Everything was working in the plot points and the character development was far better than I had expected. The adventure was exciting and the romance … let’s just say women are going to love it.

NaNoWriMoCoverBOOM! The explosion and raging flames licked up toward the crashed Cessna dangling in the tall trees over the level six rapids … A few guys might enjoy the action scenes. Oops, am I saying too much?

Hmm, do I share which of the two men win Brianna’s heart? Nah.

I couldn’t have written an entire novel in one month (first draft only—lots of rewrites ahead) without the encouragement of my new friends. Thank you! And, for those of you who might be interested in reading The Tree Jumper, I’ll have more details in a future post.

In the meantime, if you see an author who wrote a novel in November, do take time to congratulate them on a job well done. It’s an impossible task for normal people, but us crazy creatives are foolish enough to entertain the masses. Oh, and for those of you who think it’s easy, I’ll see you next November.

© 2017 by CJ Powers

NaNoWriMo Spurs On Creativity

Spiderman_NotebookThis month I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo along with over 400,000 other creative people across the world. Within a 10-15 mile radius of where I live 4,068 people are participating in National Novel Writing Month. Each writer is committed to pen a 50,000 word first draft novel by the end of November.

This national event was founded in 1999 and has since gone international. It is a great way to stretch one’s creativity and dream up an adventure that future fans would be interested in reading. My novel is titled: Tree Jumper. It’s a young adult novel that carries a conservative theme about unconditional love.

During the process, numerous area libraries have supported NaNoWriMo with Write-Ins. Last Friday after the library in a nearby town closed for the night, NaNoWriMo authors got to sneak back in and write until we dropped. For me it was about 2,400 words. We had three writing competitions of which I took first place during the last heat. My prize was a Spiderman journal and pen.

We celebrated everyone’s success and the library provided free pizza to keep us fueled for the three-hour evening. We even had virtual authors show up via an Internet connection that allowed us to communicate and track each other’s efforts. The coolest part was supporting each other’s achievements.

Writing a novel is no small task. To hit the first draft writing goal of 50,000 words, we each have to write an average of about 1,700 words a day. That works out to two hours of writing a day for topics familiar to the author. Any research or story structure work requires more hours. Character development is also additional time spent. Not to mention all the rewrites necessary to make a title sales worthy.

The goal for most of us participating is to refine and expand our creativity. In fact, after talking with several of the authors, I felt like my story was the least creative. That’s right, Mr. Creativity was the least creative. But don’t let that idea fool you, as my story will surprise you at least seven or eight times. Being the least creative in the room didn’t stop me from creating a great adventure ride for my readers.

Let me know if anyone is interested in reading my novel once it’s finished. I plan to release it in the beginning of 2018. If there is enough of you that would like a copy, I’ll set up a presale program that will keep you up to date. In the meantime, I’ll accept any encouraging words as I endeavor to meet the monstrous goal of completing my first draft by end of month.

Copyright © 2017 by CJ Powers

#NaNoWriMo

Work Hard, Someone is Watching

Work Hard,Someone isWatching

I climbed the stadium seats at the dolphin aquarium in Baltimore and spotted one of my favorite actors sitting with her three kids and mother. I smiled and walked past, not wanting to interfere with her mom time. Unfortunately, the guy sitting behind her finally figured out where he had seen her and chatted it up. She politely responded and then collected her family and left before the show started.

Her kids were not upset because they left the dolphin show; they were upset because a man tried to pull their mother away from their precious time together. Thankfully she made the right choice and put family before fans. After all, fans come and go, but family is still present in the aftermath of one’s career.

Colin Powell came to mind after the actor left, fully functioning in her mom role. Powell is a man who quickly gains respect from most everyone he meets, not because he’s so awesome, which many would say he is, but because he lives by his own words with integrity.

Had he been present during the decision to work hard in her role as a mom in that moment, he would’ve agreed with her decision. Powell’s great work ethic was not altered by the fans that surrounded him, but by his own focus on life. He owned the moral decisions he made daily and shared his simple viewpoint when he said…

“Always do your very best. Even when no one else is looking, you always are.”
Colin Powell

If You Take the Pay, Earn It

When I was in high school, I spent the early hours on weekends delivering newspapers to fund my art. The team would start at 4:00 a.m. stuffing inserts into the paper, and then stuffing the sections together into a lightweight plastic bag for ease of delivery. I did the prep work quickly because the goal was the delivery process, not the stuffing, as we were paid per paper delivered.

The college drivers got to pick the teen they wanted to ride with. The guys were jealous because the best-looking woman always picked me first—I’ll call her Beth. Some thought it was my charm or the good looks I sported back in the day, but I knew it was about the money.

You see, the teens moaned about stuffing the papers and dawdled in the process. Since the drivers got half the pay, they wanted the teen that worked hard and fast. Beth was smarter than the rest. Her motto was that if you’re going to take the pay, you needed to earn it. So, instead of hassling me like the other drivers did to get their teen helpers in gear, Beth encouraged me to find faster streamlined ways of stuffing the papers. I always ended up with three times more papers for delivery than my peers.

Beth also stepped away from the other jeering drivers and quietly stuffed additional papers herself. Due to her speed and the slowness of most teens, she typically stuffed an equal amount. Our truck was always packed with four times more papers than any other truck, which gave us four times more pay.

Always do Your Best

Not only was the stuffing process important in providing our potential pay, but also how we delivered the papers was important in determining which drivers got extra pick up routes at a bonus pay rate. To gain more opportunities, Beth memorized the entire map and knew where every street address was located in relationship to our current location.

If we were within a half-mile, she’d send me out of the truck with enough papers to walk 5-10 houses, while she drove off to cover the customer service issue. Beth’s timing always amazed me. Every time I’d get to the last house, I’d see her pulling up along side of me.

We had polished our process to the point of excellence. Beth had even determined my jogging speed and matched it, so I could jump in and out of the truck while it continued moving down the street. I’d basically jog a “V” pattern. On our approach to a given house, I’d grab the paper and jump off the truck jogging on an angle to their front door and return on an angle to be picked up a little past the house.

This allowed me to place the paper on every front stoop, giving the customer a great experience. Most of my peers tossed the papers from the truck, which scattered many sections across several lawns.

Don’t Disappoint Yourself

The process that Beth and I worked out allowed us to achieve our financial goals. She loved the opportunity of making extra cash and was disappointed when someone else got to pick a rider first, as it meant that our team would be broken up and our pay would drop to a fourth of our goal.

Regardless of how much our peers struggled to understand our drive, we never eased up. We were in it to achieve our goals and we didn’t want to ever let ourselves down. We were successful because we worked hard.

Beth always said that if she were too often stuck with an uncaring teen, she’d quit and find a new job. She was in it to accomplish her goals and made sure that she did her part in adding to the team’s success.

As for me, I never wanted to fall short of my goals or disappoint my partner. I had no problem hustling in order to achieve what we deemed as success. But boy, the disappointment that came from working with a lazy driver felt almost as bad as getting handed a measly check on an earlier lackadaisical day of work before meeting Beth.

Copyright 2017 by CJ Powers

 

The “It” Factor

The

Casting is critical to the success of a film. Each story requires just the right combination of talent and chemistry, plus the lead star must have the “It” factor. Without it, the film cannot be anything more than a nice story. But with it, the film can rise to become a box office sensation or a classic that endures the test of time.

To stay fresh with my ability to spot the “It” factor in performers, I decided to follow last season’s America’s Got Talent. I watched the first episode that each artist appeared in and determined my picks for the top five acts. I then watched each corresponding middle episode to determine who would win by the end of the season. And then, I watched the finale.

The “It” factor influenced America’s voting and matched my top five picks. And yes, I guessed winner Darci Lynne after watching her second performance.

So, what is this illusive “It” factor?

Paul Strikwerda, voice actor and author of Nethervoice refers to it as charisma when he wrote, “Originally, the word charisma meant “grace” or “talent from God.” Later on it became the “gift of leadership, power of authority, or charm that can inspire, influence, and motivate others.”

However, the factor to which I refer is much more than charisma, although charisma plays a very important role. Other noted elements that make up the “It” factor include:

Confidence Built from Passion.

The person who is fascinated by some element of life and pursues it with gusto gains a great deal of insight and a certain level of expertise in that area. This gives him the ability to draw from a depth of knowledge and from his own subconscious when placed in a performance arena. The wealth instilled in his heart and mind boosts his confidence beyond the average person who works within any given field.

Ability to Connect with the Audience.

The vulnerable talent draws others to his performance through an emotional connection that few people are able to make with strangers. The connection comes from the performer’s perception that he is just like the people in the audience and he has something important or of value that he wants to generously give the audience. The desire to connect with the audience is always more powerful than the performer’s fear of failure.

Great Observation Skills.

The performer is able to constantly take in information about the audience through watching body movement or listening to their reactions. He then quickly makes slight modifications to the presentation on the fly so the audience can capture every nuance of the performance.

Purpose Driven Performances.

The talent draws motivation from deep within, which is so highly treasured that he’s willing to make a complete fool of himself in order to give the audience his precious message. He becomes relentless in making sure he is understood and the audience receives the benefit he set out to gift them. His purpose far exceeds the talent’s own personal value, giving him an ability to lay down his future for the sake of the audience he blesses in the moment.

Integrity of Mind, Body and Spirit.

The physicality of his facial expressions, his shared words, and the content of his message quickly flow together in unison with little thought. The talent is so consumed with understanding his piece and perfecting it so he can consistently present it live at every performance in the exact same way as if it were being performed fresh for the first time. And, when necessary, can completely change it on the fly based on any given audience’s circumstances, while maintaining its meaning and quality.

These above skills are intuitive to the talent. Many performers learn these skills in order to survive negative circumstances in their childhood. They chose to look at life positively in spite of their suffering and learn how to connect and communicate to improve life for all around. This subconscious “It” factor becomes the powerful tool that can make or break an entertainers career, as those with the “It” factor will always out perform and out last the highly skilled that lack it.

Copyright 2017 by CJ Powers

Networking for the Future

pexels-photo-70292

Networking is a term that many fear and avoid yet it’s essential for business growth. The negative connotations rise from the riff raff who prey on people during professional networking sessions. They are in it for themselves and have no comprehension of how powerful maintaining a network of courageous professional relationships are to their future.

Others become disenchanted by the process due to those who immediately escape a conversation the moment they determine you aren’t a potential customer. They are short sighted, not realizing you may know a dozen perfect customers in your circle of influence that will add to their business growth.

After participating in numerous networking events, I’ve learned that there are three things all business people can use from the experience to grow their business.

Great Courage

It takes a lot of gumption to enter a room of strangers. The initial atmosphere causes many to connect with those they already know rather than exploring the unknown. No matter how skilled the person is they find themselves digging deeper into their soul for the strength to put themselves into the vulnerable realm of possibilities.

Courage is not about being comfortable, but about the choice of facing fear head on. We tend to forget that the courageous around us feel just as vulnerable as we do, but they’ve taken the further step of pressing through the fear courageously. It is merely a choice to take action, while feeling exposed.

This ability to choose courage over fear is a tool that will always force a business to land upright regardless of any temporary setback it might endure. It’s also the formula used by most businesses to grow. We know that businesses are either shrinking based on ignorance and fear, or they are growing because someone was courageous enough to take a risk.

Listening Skills

No one cares if you have a solution for their business unless they first learn that you care about them. Taking time to meet someone in a networking environment requires huge listening skills, especially in the din of most rooms designed for socialization.

Selective listening isn’t considered listening at networking events. The person only listening for a potential buying signal is shortchanging their future. Listening is a tool to learn about the person first and their needs second. Anyone who doesn’t take time to first learn about the person will never care about his or her customer.

The old saying about having two ears and one mouth gives us the perspective of talking a little and listening twice as hard, which actually helps at networking events. It’s also an asset for the person that wants to grow their business. A customer that feels like the vendor understands their need will always be a happy customer.

Clarifying Pitches

Noisy rooms force a person making a pitch at an event to be concise and understood at the audience’s level. Using jargon and rambling on about what you do is a sign that you may not know your core business or what value your current customers see in you.

By sharing your core competencies you avoid using stereotypical phrases, which stops the person listening from lumping you into a group of all others that do the same thing. Your razor sharp focus helps the person understand what differentiates you from the others who carry a similar title.

Setting yourself apart from the stampede of cookie cutter functions is critical to be noticed over the marketing noise that permeates the Internet, business market and event space. A quality pitch is one that is all about the uniqueness that makes you who you are, which can’t be replicated by any competitor.

Having the guts to meet new people, taking time to really hear about who they are and what they are trying to accomplish, and fine tuning your presentation so its easy to distinguish you from others, helps develop long term relationships that will eventually pay off.

Networking is about surrounding yourself with quality people and developing those relationships so you can help them when needed and they can reciprocate when you’re in need. These lifelong skills always drive business growth and force us to continually better ourselves for the next great adventure we face.

© 2017 by CJ Powers