If you think hard skills are the key to success – think again

The other day I was speaking to a colleague from my Stroke Survivors group. I mentioned that I was developing a web-based business in basic compter and soft skills training. I noted that I am focusing on soft skills or people skills, since these are generally the most important aspect of getting and keeping a job. He said he didn’t need any training. He is a highly skilled computer programming professional. However, he is having problems getting a job becauseof his Aphasia, which blurs and slows down his speech; and he believes employers perceive him to be less capable as a result.

Could brushing up on people skills such as confidence building, relationship building, and communications help my colleague? I think so. He can prove he is brilliant at his trade. Now, perhaps he should work on proving that despite his disability, he is brilliant with people.

I learned how important this was years ago,when I worked as a senior training officer in Ottawa. One of my responsibilities was hiring. On one particular occasion, a colleague and I were conducting an  interview for 2 new training officers. After going through a whole bunch of candidates, we settled on 2 people, a young man in his 20’s and a lady in her 30’s. The young man was barely out of school, and had less than one year experience in training. But he won us over with his personality. He listened with interest, he was great at problem solving, he was excellent at engaging us in dialogue, and he had a keen interest in learning. The lady had more experience than I had. She passed every technical test we gave her. Yet, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I didn’t want to hire her. She was not at all engaging and did not seem to offer more than her technical abilities. Not having any concrete information to put my finger on, I allowed myself to be over-ruled, and she was hired.

The young man became a flourishing part of our team for several years. The lady barely lasted a month. she was brilliant but her personality stunk. She was horrible at:

  • interpersonal communication
  • engaging in dialogue with her colleague and seminar participants
  • building relationships with others in the workplace
  • dealing with conflict (if things went wrong, she went crazy)

As is the Canadian way, everyone was nice to her, but no one seemed to enjoy being around her. If I knew then what I know now, I would advise her to get some training in conflict management and relationship building, or just work on these people skills in some way.

To my colleague, I say, yes employers discriminate against the disabled. You can fight this or you can help change it. If you really want to be hired, plan on blowing employers away with your people skills. You don’t have to attend classroom training, or live web-based training, such as the ones I will be offering. There are plenty of other options. The one I would suggest for now is BNET, discussed on the Top Talent page. Sign up and access their library. Such a move could change your life.

Stop Stopping yourself – Get into Action

 I was talking to a friend the other day, and she complained for the millionth time about her need to get a better paying, less-demanding job. She said her greatest passion was to develop her own business. I asked her, what have you done about it? She had more excuses than Tiger Woods had indiscretions.

 Many of us can’t seem to get into the action needed to achieve our desires. We claim we are praying to God, waiting for him to perform some miracle and take us out of our misery. I don’t think God works that way. He didn’t work that way for me. As per the popular saying ‘God helps those who help themselves’, we must learn to do for ourselves. Once we get into action, the universe moves with us, and make something happen.

 When I was hospitalized, I was not given much hope that I would be able to survive without a wheelchair or be able to work again. To me, that didn’t seem what the universe wanted for me. I know that God can make things happen if we believe. I therefore choose to get past the sometimes discouraging thoughts in my mind, and commit myself to doing whatever I could to improve my mobility and my health. With determination, I made myself walk, and keep-walking, with my quad-cane. With each passing month, I learned to walk a little better and a little further. Now I have accomplished my dream of picking my little girl up from school once again, with just the help of a regular cane.  And I won’t stop there. I wrote a proposal for starting my own business. I did not meet some of the qualifications, yet miraculously, it was accepted and I am at work once again. I got into action, and miracles came.

 Whether it is getting a new job, starting our own business or losing weight, we have got to do something to show commitment, sincerity, and passion. God can make us lift 100 pounds, when we normally can only lift 1 pound. But we have got to lift something. And we have got to lift consistently, knowing God is working with us, until we see results. It is all about producing divine energy for what we want.

My recommendation to my friend and all those who keep stopping themselves through inaction, check out the resource profiled each week on Choose To Be More’s Top Talent page, or another resource focused on your development. Just do something at least 5 days a week towards finding the information, knowledge and motivation needed to get in action. Make yourself a top talent, who can be counted on to achieve your goals with excellence. Do the work!

4 Strategies to Keep the Pounds From Piling On

Our body is like our automobile. It looks and performs like a Mercedes, if we take care of it (see Healthy Bodies). Or it can be more like a huge, sluggish old truck, if we don’t give it the maintenance it needs.

My last vehicle was a  2001 KIA Sportage.  The dealer closed. Without reminders, I never took it in for regular oil changes and maintenance. I don’t know how long I waited, but I do know that the engine light often came on, and I was regularly taking it to the mechanic for one problem or another.

Having too much weight on our bodies can cause the engine light to go on in our brain. For many of us, as we grow older, we become less active.  We continue eating the same amount of food, more than needed by our less active bodies. As a result, the weight piles, which may cause the engine light to go on.

The inevitable question therefore becomes, how do we train our bodies to eat less? When I was discharged from the hospital 2 years ago, I didn’t want to grow wider, like so many home-bound folks. I was doing less, so my body needed less.

Below are 4 strategies that have kept me growing in health and 15+ lbs lighter than my pre-stroke weight.

  1. I eat small portions of heavier foods, such as complex carbohydrates and protein. I never eat 2 eggs anymore and I always only eat 1 slice of bread with my breakfast. But I am sure to eat when I feel hungry, so my body gets what it needs.
  2. I focus on eating plenty of delicious vegetables with my meals. This is crucial. Before, I would sometimes be too lazy to ensure there is a vegetable or salad dish with every meal. Now I often make it the major part of my meal. But I don’t want my food to taste, look and feel like I am on a diet. So I have to make scrumptious veggie dishes, such as those accessed on the site profiled on the Healthy Bodies page.
  3. I avoid negativity like the plague. I let other people’s opinion and ways, be their way of being. I can comment on what they say and think. But, for the most part, I don’t get mad when we don’t agree. When I do blow my top, my anger passes quickly like a fast and gentle hurricane.
  4. I try always to be with what is. My stroke happened. I accept what I cannot change, open my eyes to see the opportunities that life presents, and find my happiness.

Emotions are often an important aspect of how much we eat.  Many of us try to satisfy whatever emptiness we feel with food. As a result, we eat like a horse and risk growing huge like an elephant.

Faced with the tragic circumstances of my life, it was my choice not to let my body grow less healthy, without proper care and maintenance. I chose to treat it like a cherished vehicle, giving it the best care it needs to ward off that awful “check engine” light. As we grow older, we all should consider that choice.

Building A Successful Business

Yesterday we had Thanksgiving dinner at my home. I spent a good part of the evening in an interesting conversation with my cousin’s husband, George. He is a brilliant computer programmer.

A few years ago George got a big buyout from a top corporation. Finally, in his early fifties, he didn’t have to work for anyone. He felt he was finally able to live the life he wanted.

He had a great idea for an e-commerce business. With his programming expertise, he started to build his e-commerce website. He tried to negotiate a deal with a website host, who had the large server capacity he needed. However, the potential host thought the idea was so good, he asked for a large percentage of the business. George was so put off by this request, he stopped building his site. I listened to what seemed like a million and one reasons why he has not completed and pursued his business idea.

It was fascinating and frustrating to listen to George. He often used the statement “let me bore you a little,” almost apologizing as he went into his fervent discourse about his business idea. He said “it would have worked.” Interestingly, he never said “it will work”.  I pictured him sitting under a tree reminiscing about the brilliance of what he sees, and why this would have been his most lucrative accomplishments.

I kept trying to bring him into the present, showing that all that he sees is not somewhere back there. It is still here. I had to say this a few times. He got it. However, trying to keep him in the present seemed almost like trying to out-talk a politician.

In my sweet chastising way, I finally said to him “the only thing that bores me, is when people talk endlessly about great ideas and never act on them.” He got the message.

The conversation seemed to leave George in an excited mood, ready to act on his idea. He made a commitment to complete his web-commerce site by the end of the month. The date doesn’t matter much to me. What is most important is that he continues to be excited and makes serious progress towards his business launch.

We (and I say we because this is not just about George) must be aware that most small businesses fail. I believe the main reason is our inability to believe in our success, and vigilantly move forward on every aspect of our business (planning, marketing, managing, laws, staff, etc.). Therefore, this week I am going to focus on highlighting reputable sites, which promote small business success.

For George, me, and others like us who envision entry into the internet business, I recommend perusing the resources at the Industry Canada’s web page ebiz.enable. The site covers various subjects, such as competitive intelligence, e-payments and selling on-line, and sales and marketing. A site like this is a definite must, if we are really serious about being all we can be in the internet market place.

It is one thing to say that we are not George. It is another thing to show that we are not George.

Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Multiple Sclerosis: a Healing for Jane

On Saturday, I went to the gym for my usual morning workout. I started out walking around the track with my third leg (my cane) by my side. Suddenly a young lady came up on my left. She was walking in a zig-zag, unsteady motion. She was Asian, slim, short and looked like a teenage girl. She was pretty, not only because of her physical features, but because her spirit exuded beauty.

We said hello. She said her name is Jane and told me all about herself. She is 26 years old and suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS). 

She shared that she has problems balancing and feels disconnected from her brain. She asked a lot about me, including how often I came to the gym and what I did. I was glad to share.

“It is nice to talk to someone”, she said with a heart-warming smile. I believe, she meant it was good to speak to someone who could relate to her physical challenge, and her need for hope and inspiration. I need that too.

It was a bit difficult walking beside her. Her zig-zag motion made it difficult for me to walk straight and keep my own balance. I believe my own slow movement and my limping, made her even more unsteady. After a few minutes, she walked ahead, and got off the track.

I did another lap around the track, got off, and met Jane again. She said I gave her hope.  How could I give her hope? MS is a disease that keeps getting worse and worse. There is no cure. I was overwhelmed with compassion. What could I do? Who must I be? What can I say to God?

Perhaps there is nothing to say, just believe with her, hope with her, persevere with her, and love her. Moreover, together we must know there is cause for hope. New medicines can slow down the progression of MS. In addition, scientists are working on breakthrough treatments at this very moment.

God’s will is God’s will. Still we can choose to see our misfortune as a gift that enables our spirits to show our greatest selves. Jane and I can choose to let God show the world his power through our connection, inspiration and perseverance. We are mirrors of each other.

I pray for more miracles and continued hope to keep Jane and me believing in some sort of healing or new treatment. Yet perhaps the greatest miracle is in who we choose to be. This morning, we chose to be love, and I can feel that love even now.

Jane uplifted me with her hope and her willingness to show herself to me. She reminded me that life is what we make it. We can lift ourselves up, by choosing to connect with and touch each other.

Jane approached me. God made her the source of her own hope and inspiration. She inspires my choice to keep pushing for my own continued healing, for her healing, and the healing of us all.

 Thank you, Jane.

According to the National MS Society, “Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.” See the You Tube Video below for further information.

Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Losing Maria and Finding Success

I fit at least one stereotype about black people; I can dance. I especially love to twist my hips, move my legs, and shake my shoulders to the tantalizing beat of Reggae, R&B, Latin, Pop, Gospel, and all kinds of music. I dance at home, in church, in the mall, at the gym, on the sidewalk, and just about everywhere.

When I saw the HBO documentary “El Espirtu De La Salsa” (The Spirit of Salsa), I was drawn to the gyrating music and moves of Salsa. However, I would never have expected that I would gain the dance lesson of my life.

El Espirtu De La Salsa brought people from all over New York City to Spanish Harlem, to upgrade their Salsa. Classes were lead by Latin Dance instructor, Thomas Guerrero, who prepared participants for an upcoming community performance. 

The show was particularly interesting as it went beyond dancing to showcase the individual lives and characters of the participants. As a healthy single woman, my eyes feasted on the police officer, for no other reason other than the fact that he was pretty good to look at. But it was the single mother (for anonymity I will call her Maria), who grabbed my attention.

In one rehearsal, Maria seemed to be having fun showing off her Salsa moves. The problem was that her moves were completely out of sync with her partner, and the rest of the class. With the performance fast approaching, Guerrero expressed frustration with her for not practicing the group steps. Like a bull dog, she barked, in her defence. She said ‘she practiced, she was good, and she was not the problem!’

After some argumentative ranting, Maria apologized to Thomas, and appeared to calm down. I don’t know if the impetus for her apology was the blinding lights of the TV cameras, or the realization that she may be embarrassing herself on national TV.  But I hope it may have been because she saw what she world saw. She was self-centred, hard-of-hearing, and a ‘my way’ kind of lady!

As I watched Maria’s story, I saw an answer to one of my greatest problem. I have never been able to follow a guy in a slow or Latin dance. He just couldn’t get on to my sensual moves, I thought!  The idea of me letting go of me, and following his lead, was not a consideration. Like Maria, I could be a bull-dog, ready to rip apart anyone who tried to push me on that point.

But this day was different. As I listened to Thomas, I saw myself in a Salsa dance, totally glued to my partner, knowing and meticulously following his every move. I saw that dancing with a partner was not about how I moved, or how good I looked. It was about my ability to lose myself in his arms, forget my mind, and trust the leadership of my partner. It was about my ability to follow and trust the leadership of my partners in life. It was about losing Maria!

When I had the Stroke, I lost the Maria in me.   I lost my ability to argue or talk-back to anyone. I lost the ability to run my own life. I lost the ability to say, “I am right.”

My heart filled with happiness, and I seemed to be always smiling. It was a joy to listen to God, my inner-voice, my family, my friends, my doctors, my physiotherapists, and just about everyone. I lost my hunger for perfection in me. I saw perfection in the dance I was doing with the people in my life.

Today, the Maria in me is not gone. However, she is like a visible red stop sign. So when I see her, I can choose to stop my single, know it all dance.  I can choose to be more. I can choose to surrender and dance with the partners around me. In that space, I find knowledge, peace, joy, love and the answer to being all that I can be.

Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Going For Gold

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I watched South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius (above, left), a double leg amputee, barrel his way down the track in the 100 metre sprint, to a triumphant last place finish. Equally victorious was South Africa’s Natalie Du Troit (above, middle), a leg amputee, who qualified for the 10K swim. Likewise, Poland’s Natalia Partyka (above, right), born without a right hand and forearm, qualified for women’s table tennis. They clearly established themselves as Olympic athletes, thereby the best in the world. The fact that they didn’t take home any medals didn’t matter. More importantly, they represented a huge victory for those of us who need to see that there are no barriers to achieving our goals.

In 2007, I had a no-cause stroke which damaged the muscles and nerves on the right side of my body. It also diminished the functioning of my brain. After a year, I was labelled permanently disabled and unable to work. I had passed the point where most stroke survivors retrieve the vast majority of whatever functioning that will come back. My dreams of being a great business woman seemed impossible. My hope to marry again was dwindling into hopelessness. Who would want me for anything?

I saw Pistorius and I was reminded that God had a great purpose for us all. I knew that I couldn’t give up on my dreams of being an accomplished woman, who achieved great success by helping others be the best of themselves.  I just needed to make a shift. So I did what I always do, I searched for my answer.

In my quest, I saw that disability highlighted the greatness of Olympic stars like Pistorius, Du Troit and Partyka.  It was the heart of people like Michael J. Fox, Christopher Reeves, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Helen Keller, all of whom followed their true paths and catapulted to greatness.  These were ordinary people who achieved extraordinary things through belief, hard work, and an in-conquerable will to achieve.

Self-defeating thoughts didn’t suffocate these role models, and they certainly were not going to take over my life.  I knew deep inside that if God left me here on this earth, he wanted me to be the awesome person I always felt was inside. My stroke was a call to open my eyes and see the world in a different way. Like many, I needed to change my perspective so that I could see my God-given beauty, strength and brilliance, so that I could be what I was meant to be.

Before that point I was trying to be everything. I focused on being a manager, a trainer, an activist for the disadvantaged, and a writer, to name a few. Trying to move forward was like moving through quick sand. For example, working toward being a corporate manager was like banging my head against a solid brick wall. I clashed with my boss’s nasty personality, though I am clear I was also seeing reflections of my own nastiness. I felt no joy, no exhilarated fulfilment in my life.

Since having my stroke, I have been dramatically slowed down and even immobile for a while. I could barely speak for some time, and when I did it was at times hardly intelligible. Through my stillness, I saw my life clearly pulling me down a specific path. People came to me for information about and help with technology, writing, research, leadership, positive thinking and more. I was effortlessly doing what I claimed as my life mission years ago “helping the right people, find the right information, at the right time.” Interestingly enough, I have a graduate degree as an information specialist!

Some say God knocks you down so you can look up at him and see the truth. I looked up and saw my truth. There are no barriers to achieving my goals, but my self-defeating thoughts. When I face my fears and listen to the internal voice which guides me, I stick to my path, and I find my way. It is only then that I see the countless opportunities to make my best contribution to this world.

Choosing to live my life without barriers, without my self-defeating thoughts, I am unstoppable. Months after my stroke I was confined to a wheelchair. One year later, above-left, I was struggling to move around with a quad cane, a brace on my right leg, and a brace on my right arm. Now three year later, above-right, I move fairly well without braces and with the aid of a regular cane; most importantly, I am living my purpose of helping people, find the right information, at the right time.

I am a part of an unstoppable world of people, all going for gold, all nullifying barriers. This blog is about sharing those amazing stories.

Copyright © 2010 M. Dawn Armstrong. All rights reserved.

Soaring for Mental Health & Spiritual Well-Being