The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – D is for DOUBT

November 29, 2011: D is for DOUBT

“Doubt was a bit overprotective, she questioned my every need. She told me things I shouldn’t do or try for fear of where they may lead.” (From New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

In my mid-twenties I once accepted a friend’s dare to perform standup comedy on amateur night at a famous comedy club in Syracuse, New York. Given everyone I knew was constantly telling me I was the funniest woman they knew, I figured, how hard could this be? I tell jokes, funny stories and make people laugh all the time. Plus I always wanted to experience the roaring laughter of an admiring crowd. “This could be my big break to stardom, fame and fortune!” I gleefully imagined.

With great excitement, anticipation and diligence I went about the task of developing my six minute sketch. I had confidently planned, rehearsed and pumped myself up for the big moment. Friends had confirmed my act was funny, that I would do great. My big chance had arrived and less than an hour before I was scheduled to go on stage a barrage of questions filled my head: “Why is the room spinning? Why am I shaking so hard? Where can I throw up? Does anyone have a Depends handy? Where is my mommy? What’s my name? What’s the number for 911?” I was in complete panic! I promise you I had never been so nervous in my entire life. Why had I lost all of my confidence and gumption?

It was the dreadfully loud voice of Doubt! (Insert haunted music and wicked laughter here.) “Oh, the audience is going to laugh alright! They are going to laugh you right off the stage you sorry, corny joke-telling, pathetic excuse for a wannabe standup comedian!” Doubt wasn’t whispering, but rather screaming at unbearable decibels! I felt physically ill and paralyzed. Never before had I experienced such performance fear and panic. Nor have I ever again since.

Just as I was prepared to exit the back door of the comedy club en route to the bus station for a ticket to any place I could buy a backbone, another voice deep inside whispered, “Pray.” I was due on stage in two minutes. So in desperation I prayed – hard! It was the only thing I had left to do. When I opened my eyes I  was miraculously on stage. Hundreds of eyeballs were peering through me, dying to get their $10 and two drink minimum worth of laughter for the night. I mumbled something ridiculous and I heard a sudden burst of loud laughter. I thanked God for the inebriated patrons sitting up front! It didn’t matter whether they were laughing with me or at me. They were laughing and that was the goal, right? That little burst of laughter was enough to get me to stop taking myself so seriously and believe in myself again. I then continued on to deliver one of the funniest performances I could have ever hoped for.

I’ve come to learn a lot about Doubt, that nagging voice of fear, who will use every tactic imaginable to convince you your goals are too risky, too absurd, and too unattainable. Doubt will not only remind you of your previous failure in this area, but everyone else’s too. If it’s something you have never previously attempted Doubt will be relentless in trying to convince you failure is certain. Doubt pretends to protect all the while prohibiting your physical, emotional and spiritual growth. Doubt wastes no time in echoing the dreaded sentiment of “I told you so” every time the slightest task does not work out quite the way you had hoped or planned. Doubt gives me gas.

So why on earth do we spend so much time hanging out with doubt? Too much pride and too little faith is my answer. My amateur night comedy moment taught me that there is nothing that can conquer doubt quite like a little faith, and a whole lot of laughter. In hindsight I’ve learned that Doubt is the true wannabe comedian. When I begin to hear that voice, I’ve learned to laugh at my doubts and trust my faith. You must learn to move your pride aside and accept that you may very well be an amateur, you are not perfect, people may indeed laugh at you or your dreams, and you may even flop a time or two. However, the fact that you took center stage on cue to attempt to bring your dreams into reality means you really haven’t failed at all. You’ve moved one step closer to success by having tried than having not. Faith will always be there applauding and encouraging you to be the star of your own show. Do you really want to be upstaged by Doubt? Trust me, in the end, it will be hard to find any humor in that.

Faithfully,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

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  The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – C is for CHARITY (LOVE)

November 23, 2011: C is for CHARITY (LOVE)

“Faith is my name,” she added, “And I’d love to be your friend – someone you can depend on time and time again.” (from New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith, by Vera Jones)

What is Love? That’s got to be the million dollar question, and probably the trillion dollar answer! Love as a noun is one seemingly ginormous, simple to feel but difficult to describe emotion, and yet to me it is something best described and demonstrated as an action verb. I guess if I had one shot to define it I’d say, “Love is CHARITY, the selfless caring and giving of oneself to another person, cause or entity.” Yeah, that’s good, I like that. But then if I were to go with being more spiritually succinct I’d simply say, “God is love.” But for a really good laugh I prefer to refer to a website collection1 of a few whimsical comments from elementary aged children offering their ideas of love:

*”Love is like an avalanche where you have to run for your life.” — John, age 9

*”I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be so painful.” — Manuel, age 8

*”No one is sure why it happens, but I heard it has something to do with how you smell. That’s why perfume and deodorant are so popular.” — Mae, age 9

*”Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.” — Greg, age 8

*”It gives me a headache to think about that stuff. I’m just a kid. I don’t need that kind of trouble.” — Kenny, age 7

*”One of you should know how to write a check. Because, even if you have tons of love, there is still going to be a lot of bills.” — Ava, age 8

*”I’m not rushing into being in love. I’m finding fourth grade hard enough.” — Regina, age 10

*”A man and a woman promise to go through sickness and illness and diseases together.” — Marlon, age 10

*”Love is foolish…but I still might try it sometime.” — Floyd, age 9

*”Love will find you, even if you are trying to hide from it. I been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me.” — Dave, age 8

(If you aren’t at least smiling at some of these, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but something is wrong with you!) The truth is it’s kind of funny that we all know what love is, at least in some measure, but it is so vast, so deep, so multifaceted and grand that it truly is difficult to universally define. I think we all would agree, however, that life void of love is the worst life one can live. When life gets really tough, we sometimes struggle to find faith that love even exists let alone that it will conquer all. In fact we often blame love for our troubles. It is our distorted view of what love is, as well as our distorted view of who we are that causes this blame game.

I am of the opinion that most people struggle with love because they do not view it as charity or giving, but rather focus on that which is received. Therefore, if one does not receive love the way he or she wants or expects it, then love is just plain no good. To have faith in the power of love is to know you are capable of loving even if you don’t feel very loveable. It is also the recognition that you are loved even if you have not been very loving. Love is just amazing and no matter how tough life gets, no matter how we try to hide from the love of ourselves or others, love is dependably everywhere. You need only a smidgen of faith to believe in it, and you need only to give it to actually get it.

I would be remiss not to share how love is defined Biblically in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

This Thanksgiving, I give thanks for love. I wish you the faith to believe in the power of love, real love, true love, God’s love, and I pray you experience it by sharing it in abundance!

Faithfully with LOVE,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

 1 http://www.rinkworks.com/said/kidlove.shtml

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – B is for Believe

New Best Friend

November 22, 2011: B is for BELIEV E

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. – Hebrews 11:1NIV (from New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)
I have a confession. No, this has nothing to do with an illicit affair, sex texting, a secret drug addiction, pedophilia, money laundering or any of the other sinfully exciting, dramatic or traumatic events that lace our news headlines daily. It’s not that kind of party, you thrill-seeker, you! Well, there was this one time when I got drunk in college….

I digress. My confession is that I have not always been of the strongest faith. Granted my name means faith and I have a strong spiritual foundation in Christianity. But despite religious dogma I have not always known what or even how to believe. I think many people struggle with this same experience. Arriving at this place of strong faith I have now took a life threatening and eye-opening experience. Perhaps eye-closing is more accurate.

My son Andrew, now almost 14 years old was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 12. After undergoing a traumatic surgery, weeks in intensive care and witnessing his once fairly attractive mother turn into an unsightly gargoyle of stress almost overnight, Andrew’s small body was left with numerous life-threatening hormonal complications and a loss of 75% of his visual field. He awoke from surgery totally blind in his right eye and the outer peripheral of his left. Andrew sees life now through a very small tunnel, much like looking through a straw. Naturally, this was as emotionally and psychologically challenging for him as it was physically debilitating. But during this phase of our lives, a time we felt was our darkest and most helpless moment, we both gained a new best friend named Faith. She was once a casual acquaintance. Now we don’t go anywhere without each other! Both Andrew’s life and mine have improved dramatically for one reason. We never stopped believing things would get better. There is not enough room in this blog, or even a novel to tell you how much they have!

One day, soon after surgery, Andrew was agonizing over his unwanted visual condition, and spending a lot of time focusing on the things he could no longer do like play sports, or things he would never be able to do like drive a car. “It’s not about what you can’t see, it’s about who you are meant to be,” I told my son. I admit I was pretty proud of myself upon hearing such profound advice come out of my own mouth. But I couldn’t take credit. It was Faith who whispered this in my ear. Faith has shown me that we as humans, a relatively intelligent species (void our penchant for illicit affairs, sex texting, drug addictions, pedophilia, money laundering, etc…) live life committed to “seeing is believing.” What you see is basically what you get. To live a faith-filled life, however, we must change this paradigm and accept that “Believing is Seeing.”

There is a vision, a dream placed in each of us – an urging to do something great, something creative, something noble, or something that we personally have never done before. It tells us despite whatever adversity we face we will overcome if we just believe, and then take action upon this belief, bringing our belief into reality. The challenge lies in being able to listen to the voice of faith which tells us God, our ultimate Creator, has a plan for ultimate good, and you and whatever adversity you currently face is part of that plan. Hearing this voice and believing it is difficult because there are equally strong voices of worry or doubt that say, “Yo Dude, this situation looks pretty bleak. There is no way this is going to turn out good. Give up.” It is also difficult because we expect immediacy. We must learn that patience and faith are like Siamese twins. They rarely operate independently.

All great accomplishment begins with what we choose to believe. The key word is choice. You have a choice every moment of the day to believe the voice of faith or the voices of worry and doubt. Achieving greatness on any level in life is not about what you can or cannot currently see. It is only about who you are meant to be. Believe you are meant for good, that’s what you will eventually see. The best thing about finding Faith as my New Best Friend is that she keeps things simple. Faith already knows I have much to learn from trials and tribulations, so she does not ask me to ignore my dark or painful past… She only tells me to BELIEVE in a bright future. Ask her to be your New Best Friend, and I believe she will tell you the same, over and over again, until you finally live a life where believing becomes seeing, not so much the other way around. Thanks for letting me confess.

Faithfully,

Vera

Get your autographed copy of New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith today at http://www.verasvoiceworks.com/products.html. Be sure to purchase one for a friend, or anyone in need of a little Faith!

The ABC’s of Finding a New Best Friend – A is for AUTHENTIC

November 21, 2011: A is for AUTHENTIC

“I stared into the mirror, long and hard into my own eyes. Right then is when it hit me, I began to realize…” (from New Best Friend – A Little Book of Faith by Vera Jones)

I never was fond of my own eyes. I always thought they were too small, too dark and my eyelashes were a complete disaster, sharing no semblance of unity or uniformity. In my mid-twenties I decided I should do something to spruce things up a little. Upon a trip to the optometrist, I decided to get a pair of hazel-colored contact lenses. Surely this would make my otherwise dull and boring eyes pop, glisten and garner compliments galore! Mission accomplished. Almost everywhere I went, people would stop and say, “Wow, your eyes are so pretty!” or “Excuse me, Miss, but your eyes are simply gorgeous!” Oh I ate up those compliments like hot and fresh movie theatre popcorn. Having felt like a relatively unattractive tomboy most of my childhood life, suddenly hearing people using words like pretty, beautiful and of all things, “GORGEOUS,” about me was music to my ears!

Over a decade of colored-contact eyeball charades had passed when I began dating a man I knew had a strong attraction to my Acuvue hazel- browns. Thus, I dreaded the possibility that one day I would be exposed for the plain truth that my eyes were not very pretty at all. “Heaven’s no!” I thought. “This man must never see my eyes for what they really are!” One night I fell asleep while watching movies with Mr. Wonderful. My contacts had dried out during my slumber. I woke up rubbing my irritated eyes, unknowingly causing one of my contacts to fall out. Just before sharing a goodnight kiss, there I stood gazing at him with one hazel contact gone AWOL and both eyes looking bloodshot and homely. “Hey!” he said, “What’s wrong with your eyes? They’re different colors. Do you wear contacts? I thought those pretty hazel eyes were real!”

My heart stopped! “The gig is up!” my soul cried out as I stood before him with a mop for a hairdo, not- so- fresh-breath and a discolored cockeyed stare. I felt so ashamed. I felt like I had lied to this man who I really liked. But the true journey of self- discovery began when I realized for years I had been lying to myself, someone I don’t think I liked very much at all. I was a woman desperate to feel beautiful and thought the missing link was prettier eyes. I took great strides (and expense) to sow for prettier eyes, and I subsequently reaped many compliments for them. But I realized I wasn’t hearing the word beautiful as a descriptor of me as a whole person, but rather just about my cosmetically enhanced eyes. When true ludicrousness set in, I was actually angry with the people extending the compliments for being so superficial and shallow. How dare they not recognize I was a beautiful woman all over, not just a great set of fake eyes! What was this world coming to?

Because I am now comfortably Authentic, I welcome you to laugh at me. Lord knows how much I’ve come to laugh at mysel!. But I invite you to check your own mirror now. We all have great need for love and acceptance. But we often fail to realize true love and acceptance begins with loving and accepting ourselves, complete with all of our physical and psychological quirks and peculiarities. We lack faith that God created us in good measure the way he saw beautiful and fit, for purposes he sees just and necessary. We sometimes also lack faith that our inner beauty is true beauty and that in the long run, it is what truly matters. If we spend a little more time being authentic with our inner-selves, sprucing up those qualities accordingly, we might find it easier to accept our outer-selves. We soon find others will too. Think about your closest friends or family members. Do you love them most because they have great eyes, perfect teeth, beautiful hair, or model-like figures? Or do you love them most because you trust in each other; they laugh with you, cry with you, encourage you, and generally share an empathic heart? Faith is the friend who will help you see how you genuinely treat others is where your beauty lies. Faith will help you see you are good, your life has meaning and purpose, and ultimately, as a child of God, you are beautiful. This is true no matter what your eyes, nose, lips, stomach, buttocks, breasts, or any other physical qualities look like. It is also true no matter what others say, do or look like.

We’ve heard the adage many times, “To thine own self be true.” While I admit, in a superficial world this is not always easy, it is indeed most rewarding. I write this today, color-contact lens free, with eyes that can now clearly see how just having faith in and acceptance of my own authenticity makes me far more gorgeous than a pair of hazel colored eyes. If you stare into that mirror and find the courage to be authentic, at all times with all people, you will not see just a beautiful you, but a much more beautiful world of truth and acceptance. If you still decide you want something cosmetic to brighten your smile, your eyes, or any other portion of your body, that’s your prerogative. Just make sure the changes you make to your life help you enhance your authentic self, not escape from it.

Faithfully,

Vera
http://www.verasvoiceworks.com

Effectively Coaching & Communicating with Generation – “Y Should I Trust You?”

“These players just don’t want to work hard or pay their dues like we did! They act like they’re so entitled! They think they already know everything!”

How many coaches have found themselves repeating these or similar thoughts over the past few years? It’s far more common to have these sentiments than not. After all, it’s a fact these players do have different ideas about hard work, paying their dues and entitlement. And thanks to the technological explosion of this new millennium, they have matured into an age where they have easier and faster access to knowing a lot more than previous generations.

Welcome to the world of Generation-Y (born circa 1982-1995), complete with iPods, iPhones, and iKnow-it-alls! Deep down inside these youngsters realize they don’t know it all, and they really do want to learn from your sage basketball experiences. However, if you fail to communicate and relate to them on a level which they are most comfortable and receptive, there are going to be some serious communication “fouls” youvera-coach1’ll have to learn to play through. Many coaches have already discovered dealing with these fouls are frustrating, time consuming and counterproductive to the overall growth and cohesiveness of the team.

It all boils down to basic communication. I define basic as being open, honest and clear. Basic, however isn’t necessarily simple. Given the needs of this Generation-Y, coaches are finding they have to balance a coaching demeanor they once believed called for a disciplined, tough edge with a lot more sensitivity in order to be successful.

About that Entitlement Issue
During last year’s WBCA Convention in St. Louis, I had the opportunity to personally speak with well over 100 coaches who shared with me their concerns regarding the state of coaching in this new generation. My favorite story was one that came from a Division I coach who told me one of her players actually sent her a disgruntled text message soon after a game inquiring as to why the coach didn’t play her more. Respectfully requesting to speak with the coach in her office was old school. “Yo Coach! Why didn’t I get more PT today? Textback!” no doubt was the player’s idea of effectively initiating a critical conversation.

My most memorable personal story is one where as an assistant coach at the University of Dayton, I accompanied our head coach on a recruiting trip to a player’s high school to make a scholarship offer. There she sat comfortably cocked back in her chair in front of us laughing and talking to one of her girlfriends on her cell phone. Her mother sat in the office with us and not once even hinted to her daughter to get off the phone. With lips tight and nostrils flared (fully realizing at this moment I had become my mother) I finally bellowed her name and demanded she put her cell phone away immediately. Then I shot a look of disbelief at her mother who hunched her shoulders as if to say, “What do you expect me to do? She’s talking to her BFF!”

I often found myself asking, “Don’t these kids know better?” I finally realized they truly don’t. We grew up in a generation void of cell phone distractions. We were raised to understand it was absolutely unacceptable to speak when an elder was addressing us, (particularly if they were about to make an offer to pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover our college education, for Heaven’s sake!)

These players have been born into the instant gratification culture of technology and gadgets. A set of etiquette rules do not accompany these potentially distracting toys. Coddling parents of the late 80’s and 90’s wanted only the “best” for their children. “Experts” said “best” meant placing misbehaving children in “Time Out” rather than administering an old-fashioned spanking. Disobedient children were to be spoken to in a stern tone, but should never hear you raise your voice. It may discourage their expressiveness or creativity. Many of the Gen-Y kids thus grew up with “discussions” for discipline over their naughty behavior. (I grew up with a haunting parental stare-down which was my sole warning that a quick backhand pop or backside lashing was expeditiously forthcoming if I didn’t straighten up!)

As it pertained to sport, recreational leagues developed insisting that all kids should play an equal amount of time, regardless of their work ethic or ability, and they should all receive trophies regardless of whether they win or lose. Some leagues decided teams shouldn’t keep score. “No losers” means everyone’s self esteem will shoot straight to the moon! Do we actually believe entitlement is Gen-Y’s fault?

Buying In or Window Shopping?
“Back in the day” (It scares me that I regularly use this expression) all a coach had to do was raise his or her voice and instantly we trembled in fear. Many of us had learned condescension, fear tactics and psychodrama was all part of the coaching modus operandi. If a coach screamed, “Jump!” We said, “How High?” Today, coaches scream “Jump,” and players look around as if to ask, “Why? According to a study I Googled last week, excessive jumping isn’t always healthy.”

The way coaches are perceived by their players is detrimental to success. This isn’t a new phenomenon. However, some of the relational challenges and barriers to communication indeed have a few new hitches. Understanding generational differences and learning to adapt to these changes as effective communicators is a game winning strategy we all should employ.

Studies have shown this generation requires far more empathic communication. I’ve heard argument that coaches shouldn’t have to change their values just to babysit teenage feelings. I rebut that empathy is not about changing your values. It’s about listening, caring and being accountable to evaluating and perhaps changing the way you communicate those values. In the wise words of Author Stephen Covey, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Coaches have to ask themselves, “Are my players buying in because they purely understand me or are they merely window shopping because they refuse to buy anything until they are sure I understand them?

The blank stares, the apparent lack of motivation, the underachievement and the bucking of your system often stems from central needs of your Gen-Y players that are not being fulfilled. I define them as the 4S’s: Security, Significance, Structure and Solutions. In this article, I invite coaches to begin with evaluating their coaching provisions of security. In short, do your players ultimately trust you to lead them? Of all your worldly knowledge of Xs and Os and your evident passion for winning, what’s most important to this generation is that you communicate in word and deed, “You can trust me. I care and I’ve got your back.”

Culture of Brokenness
One response that stuck with me from a survey of student athletes I conducted a year ago stated, “I never felt like my coach thought of me as anything more than wins and losses. She never once sincerely asked me anything about my life.” We don’t know which of our Gen-Y players are part of the sad 1-in-4 statistic of women who are sexually abused before the age of 18. We don’t realize which one of our players is experiencing the emotional, familial hardships of this generation’s 50% divorce rate or historic economic recession. We fail to realize for all that technology has done to advance their world, a void of brokenness and insecurity has caused it in many ways to spin backwards.

So yes, there is this trust thing you may have to overcome first before you scream, “Jump!” You may even have to actually text it first. Maybe then she can begin to trust that you are as willing to understand her as you demand she should understand you. Perhaps it isn’t always as much a need for entitlement as it is a need for empathy – something every generation could use a bit more of.

Social Media has exploded

As an author, it matters that people will want to read what I write. But are people really reading anymore? Our brains and the way we seek to receive, process and retain information is changing. Innovation Facilitator Stefan Lindegaard posted this great question (on LinkedIn):

The attention span declines. Many have stopped reading books, longer blog posts don’t get much traffic while Twitter-traffic has exploded. What is your view on this?

My comment:
The information, technology and social media explosion of the millennium has lead us to rely a lot less on our memories. It is true that there is a generational divide in terms of the Old School regimen of “read and research to absorb as much information as you can to be knowledgeable” vs. the New Age “Click this link or Google that word to have hundreds of sources instantly available anytime you want it.” I no longer have more than two or three phone numbers pinned to memory in my head. I definitely no longer own an Encyclopedia Britannica Collection.

We are a culture of instant gratification on virtually every level. Due to our environment, our memories and our attention spans have definitely…uh, have definitely….uh, what was I talking about?? ;-)

Vera-isms (Quotable Quotes to help Play Through the Foul)

“The closer you get to the goal, the harder the foul…so Play Through the Foul.™”

“The purpose of pursuing your passion is to put passion back into your purpose.”

“Adversity is not only inevitable but essential; for how else do we measure our growth, our faith, or our ultimate desire to win?”

“Before you dive into the ocean of possibilities, you must at the very least consider there may be sharks nearby!”

“WORKING UP the ladder of success requires WORKING OUT to sustain the climb!”

“The goal should never be as much to be approved as it is to be IMPROVED!”

“Much like a basketball, human beings are resiliently equipped to bounce back, as long as we keep giving ourselves a little push.”

“A true teammate doesn’t have to be the shooter to feel good about the team’s goal being scored.”

“Why host a pity party when a pretty party is so much more fun?”

“Aim and shoot for the goal like it’s your last shot; but if you miss, rebound like you’ve been rewarded just enough time for one more!”

“Even a mother hen knows all is not lost when her life lays a big, fat egg; so she sits on it, passionately waiting until it’s time to hatch a new life!”

“It’s not always about the position you are in; it’s about demonstrating the passionate player within!”

“Sometimes we fail because we allow our focus for what we can get be greater than our appreciation for what we’ve already got!”

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