There’s no easy way to change. In this world of fast, quick, cheap and watered down opportunities, the only way to really make a difference is to commit to the hard work.

The good news is that everyone else is looking for fast, quick, cheap, watered down, and the competition is fierce for everyone else.

But we’re not everyone else. 

If you want to stand out, do the hard work first.

If you’re still convinced there’s an easier way, that shortcut, that quick-fix, that easy button – might be doing you a disservice.

The best way to stand out isn’t to be another cog in the wheel.

The bubble burst years ago.

Grit, perseverance and acknowledgment that the human connection — however slow it might feel — is the best way toward abundance, light, love and the realization that Awesome exists in this world.

So, when you decide to write down your manifesto, make sure to include…

Do the Hard Work First.

I have never seen a honeysuckle tree, and I think the only bonsai tree I have seen was in Karate Kid, but I know they exist. I live in central Florida, so I “know” citrus trees, and yet I also know that there are other fruit trees that produce delicious results.

Hateful words, attitudes and mindsets are jarring to me. When I see things that are foreign to me, I realize that what I “know” is limiting. No matter how open I want to believe I am, I am still in a forest surrounded by trees that are familiar, safe and comfortable.

When you surround yourself with oak trees, you think the entire forest is full of just oaks. (oak trees ARE beautiful… but so are elms, eucalyptus, pine and spruce, and any other tree I don’t know about!)

I have heard the expression: “He can’t see the forest for the trees.” But I believe the bigger problem is when all you see are the same things as you. Disparate voices are important.

In order to embrace diversity, an open mind is essential.

But we also need to remember, that just an open mind isn’t enough. We need to think beyond ourselves. And even further, beyond what we even know.

We need all of the trees, for all of the universe. 

Too many people who think the same way won’t be able to change a whole lot.

Do you know the song Galileo by the Indigo Girls? I never really new much about Galileo, except that he is considered the “father of modern science,” and that the Catholic church banished him for his scientific “theories.”

What I love about music is that it makes me curious, so when I first heard Galileo, sometime in the 90’s I became curious. Why was his head on the block? And why did looking for the truth cause so much controversy?

Galileo’s head was on the block
The crime was looking up for truth
And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode
I try to trace them to my youth

My interpretation is that the leaders of the church were afraid. Their limiting beliefs led them to decide that what Galileo was suggesting as facts were beyond them and the threat of his discoveries about the heavens led them to accuse him of heresy and he was forced to live out the remainder of his life imprisoned.

When he discovered the heavens with his telescope, he knew what he was up against. But he also knew what he had discovered was fact. The world just wasn’t ready for a scientific revolution.

In the stories I have read, Galileo is characterized as a philosopher, filled with awareness, and, while he knew his discoveries were going to shatter the reality of what everyone already believed, he didn’t stop. He didn’t back down from the truth.

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

This is still so true and so relevant today. We’re still asking the same questions. What is beyond our limiting beliefs? And if we discover a truth that is frightening, are we brave enough to acknowledge it, or do we turn it away?

Whenever I think about my own limiting beliefs, I try to give myself grace, but not too much — I believe my responsibility will always be to push myself beyond. More often than not, I fail, but I want to overcome this weakness, and I am ever seeking to look beyond.

As soon as I start believing my mind is open, I hope someone will remind me that the only trees I know are the ones in my forest. And there are millions of miles of trees I may never know.

As leaders, this must always be our quest. To make decisions that acknowledge not just the trees we know and recognize, but also the ones we simply know exist, even if we have never seen them.

It is unimaginable to consider someone running an extra mile after completing a marathon. But could you imagine the news coverage? Even if he didn’t do it for that, it would be worth talking about:

Dave Jones, after completing the NYC Marathon, continues running for an extra mile. When asked why, his response was, ‘I figured I’d be the only one crazy enough to want to keep going. I just wanted to see what if felt like.’

There’s a group of people I am connected to. We are called the ruckus makers. We’re students of Seth Godin’s altMBA and we do crazy things.

  • We write blog posts daily.
  • We search for answers to unanswerable questions.
  • We look for ways to make things better.
  • We don’t follow the herd.
  • We dance with fear.
  • We stand up to injustice.
  • We disrupt the marketplace, for the greater good.

We aren’t the only ones doing this, but we’re the ones to took the leap to sign up for 4 weeks of sprinting to dig deeper into our projects and begin shipping better, faster. 

I believe the extra mile isn’t as crazy as it seems. It’s just something most people are not willing to do, because there’s no one leading. People need leaders worth following, and unless there’s someone leading in the extra mile, no one will be going there. There’s no precedence, no reason.

We can all just get along in the world everyone else is living in. And we’ll be just fine.

But for anyone who has ever decided to make a ruckus; anyone who wanted to explore uncharted territory; anyone who believed the status quo wasn’t enough for them, and wanted more.

You know one thing —we won’t likely change anything doing what has always been done and we definitely won’t change anything by standing in the middle of the masses with cattle prods trying to convince them that they are wrong for believing what they believe.

The only way to change the way people think is to go beyond what they believe and show them a different way. Prove that there’s something along the road less travelled. To want change isn’t enough, it’s up to us to illustrate that there’s something better. To do the hard work, the lonely work, the unsupported, difficult work of paving a new way.

And this is exactly why it’s so quiet along the extra mile. The trick is — you’re not alone. The trick is finding the others who want to go the extra mile.

And, when we find enough of us, we’ll change the culture, we’ll make the difference. We’ll stop settling.

Contributed by Mark Parker 
Owner, Bella Visage | Lakeland, FL


It moves the heart and stimulates the brain. It can soothe or frustrate the spirit. It frees the mind and it grabs you! Music is a part of our lives from birth till death.

We listen when we shower, when we eat, when we work, when we are happy and when we are sad. And usually it’s a part of our last celebration on this earth.

I want to tell you a short story about my dad. Yesterday marked the 16th
anniversary of my dads death.

Looking Back

My dad was a social creature and loved people. He was in the air force. He was a pilot (a gifted pilot). His biggest quality was that he was a tinkerer. He tinkered at woodworking. He tinkered at building electronics. We were the only kids I knew that had a home built computer (TRS-80 from Radio Shack). The thing he tinkered at the longest was music. For as long as I can remember my dad always had a guitar.

He would keep it next to his recliner and occasionally practice. The one thing he never really accomplished was being good. Oh, he could play the hell out of the first 14 notes to “Stairway to Heaven”. Or he could play a Spanish ballad at half speed. But not one whole song, ever!

It was after he died that it dawned on me that his comfort or joy (which ever) didn’t come from mastering the song it came from his attempts. For him it was probably the mechanics of the learning more than the perfecting of a melody. The beauty was in the process. For me, the beauty is in the music itself. It inspires me.

I started with guitar lessons. Then in Junior High I started playing tuba. Picked up baritone and Bass trombone along the way. I was influenced by the world renown musicians that resided here. From Robert McDonald to the Adderley brothers. I earned a full Scholarship to college. Played up until my Senior year. By then I had come to the realization that I wasn’t talented enough to make a living at my passion.

Dreaming of One Day

Well, one day a young fella (his words) moved in next door. He was going to FSC as a music major. He is an amusing fella. He grew up in Fort Meade and is an accomplished fiddler. After traveling the country playing his fiddle he said he was “gonna do it right and finish college.” A few short weeks after moving to Lakeland, he ran into another accomplished musician (and FSC grad). Before long they were playing the local music scene.

One night we where enjoying a few adult beverages on the back patio and he mentioned the band had an opportunity to go on tour for about a week here in Florida. After one or two more beverages a deal was struck. I would be the tour bus driver and beverage manager. Two months later my ginger sidekick, Charlie and I loaded up my motor home and hit the road with BSB.

Charlie provided the snuggles and face licks and I drove. I remembered just how much work goes into the production side. Hours of practice! Hours of driving! Cord changes. Last minute changes by a picky customer. Drastic temperature changes, all of it can affect what happens when the curtain goes up.

Fast forward 3 years. The band is no longer together. Two members are continuing their dream in Nashville and Jason is finishing up his senior year.

What does this have to do with me?

Recently, Jason asked me why I sponsor the events at LKLDLive. I think he already knew the answer but he is sly like that. I thought about that for a minute and said, because music is what helped me become who I am. While I had long ago made the decision that I wasn’t good enough to make a living at it, I am qualified to clap. I am completely qualified to clap. And that is what I’m doing when I carry the equipment.

When I unload the instruments. I can run cables and hang lights. And when needed, I can write a check. In realizing that, I found myself!

Chrissanne recently said “When you find someone else finding themselves, it’s almost as exciting as when you find yourself”! It’s because you know the struggle, the effort that was put in. The sacrifices that where made. It is exciting to watch.

My wife and I are blessed to be able to give back. I will never again blow a horn or sing, but I can encourage those who can or who want to learn. I can support their efforts. I can drive them (and their 4 friends and 400 instruments) on tour. I can enjoy the process of watching them grow and mature musically. I can help them reach a bigger audience by spreading the word.

And most importantly, I can clap.

Each day we are all given opportunities to support someone or some cause. I ask that each of you find something that grabs you. And clap.

Please help me welcome to the stage…

“A rising tide lifts all ships.”

I hear this statement often, and I tend to agree, it’s a good message for what happens when the economy is improving around us, the benefits for all are great. So, we cheer for economic development, because it will help us all rise!

Recently, I have started to see this a little differently, and quite frankly, I wonder if the prediction a friend of mine made several years ago — that I would eventually become cynical like him — is actually happening. I am hoping that’s not the case, but… this shift in thinking is somewhat foreign to me.

After all, I am an idealist, so this is something I worry about happening. Am I being worn down by the cynics?

I really hope not!

Today, when someone chirped the very familiar “tide” aphorism, which I discovered while writing this post, was popularized by president John F. Kennedy, and borrowed—interestingly enough—by Kennedy’s speechwriter, from the slogan of the New England Council  ( the area’s chamber of commerce), I saw a fallacy to the statement that I had never noticed before.

I wondered why we don’t talk about where the tides come from?

While we’re all in this together, there are also some responsibilities we have — to ourselves and to those we serve, and it’s in this space that I am most focused today.

We can pray all we want for the tide to rise, but what are we doing in the meantime? Just waiting? How can we be bettering ourselves?

Not just the obvious — a leaky boat, or worse, being tied to the dock, and finding ourselves underwater when the tide actually does rise, because we’re so attached to the moorings that we forget to loosen the ropes!

So, today, as I explored this idea a little further, I started to ask, “Where can we start using our own internal “water sources” to assist the process?” Is it always an outside source that is responsible for lifting our boats?

Have I been cheering for the wrong things, focusing on the external forces that are not within my control? What energy, attention and work can I add to the cause that will allow us, even ever-so-slightly, begin to contribute to raising the level of our community?

I heard someone say today that small businesses —  the organizations that we credit as being the backbone of our community —  “are not-for-profits whether they mean to be or not!

Wait? Really? This might be the problem! We have to become better than that. Individually, we have to begin to understand that we are not a charity, and we do not need people to make donations to our businesses.

We must begin to look at the marketplace differently.

Because it’s not someone else’s job to ensure you succeed. And, the tide may not be rising, unless we, as leaders, community-minded people who believe in a better future, start to assess what we’re doing to raise the bar.

Christopher Gardner, (who wrote Pursuit of Happyness, but also Start Where You Are: Life Lessons in Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be — another book that was integral in my personal growth journey, reminded me, at just the right time:

“Only by acknowledging, ‘Hey, here is where I am, and I’m here because I steered my horse here,’ can I make the next choice to ride on out to the sunset where I’d really like to be… The cavalry ain’t coming. You’ve got to do this yourself.”

I share honestly. Transparently. And it feels incredibly liberating. Except when it doesn’t. Because, I too live in the real world.

I have been following writers for as long as I can remember. I loved to read as a little girl. Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Harriet the Spy, Trixie Belden, and a Tree Grows in Brooklyn. And, as I grew up, I continued to passionately pursue reading as a hobby.

And secretly I dreamed, someday, that I might be a writer.

I shared both the passion of reading (and the desire to write) with my mother, who introduced me to authors that challenged me and inspired me. We would share our favorites, and sometimes, we’d argue about the philosophies shared by the writers.

Mostly, I just borrowed her books and never returned them. (Sorry, Ma!)

One of our common favorites was Pat Conroy. I found The Water is Wide first, and then moved on to The Prince of Tides, Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, Beach Music, My Losing Season, South of Broad, and his memoir, The Death of Santini.

What always fascinated me about his writing, and what I believe I connected to the most, was his raw vulnerability. The more I read about him, the more I learned and realized that much of his personal life was reflected in his stories. I discovered that The Great Santini caused friction in the family, because it reportedly revealed family secrets. His father, after reading, was initially angered, and then eventually set about to prove himself to be a better man than he read in the pages of that novel.

The power of words, written, can truly change the course of a person’s life.

While I don’t have family secrets, I do have a past, and there has been pain and failure and shame (I hear that I not alone in that fact). And, yet, it is my pain, failure and shame that have shaped me and given me the strength, insight and desire to make it all worth something. If I can take my fears, doubts and mistakes and somehow inspire someone else, it will be worth every tear I cried while trying to find my way to the light.

Recently, when someone commented on the transparency in my writing, I was reminded of Conroy, and the inspiration he had on my early life. His pioneering way to writing, personally, passionately and clearly, without losing his power, he was a true professional. Turning Pro, as I have written in a previous post, is not easy, but I do believe, at least for myself, it is necessary.

I found this quote shared by Conroy toward the end of a forward in Writing South Carolina: Selections from the First High School Writing Contest — a publication for high school students in Beaufort, SC in 2015.

“To write is a form of nakedness that all of you are going to learn about when this book is published. It is an act of courage to write anything, but it is an act approaching madness to want to do this for a living.

Go deeper. That is my advice to all writers. Then go deeper again. When I look at myself in the mirror, I’ve no clear idea of who that guy is looking back. For fifty years I’ve been trying to learn the essential truth of that one man. I’m not sure I’ve scratched the surface of that unending mystery. There are enigmas buried inside you in the deepest waters. Whether they be angels or moray eels, whether they be godlike or demonic, it is your job to discover them for yourself and no one else. You write for yourself. You write for no one else. It is your art that you are seeking, and if you are very lucky, it is your art that is desperately trying to make its own voice heard to you. Listen. Pray it is calling your name.”

I write from the heart, and if it’s worth reading, I can only say, it is calling my name, and I believe it is my duty to respond. We’re all called to something, some time. I pray you are brave enough to answer.

Not the cute “Hair Up” “Dance Dance Dance” variety. The Internet variety.

I have learned a lot about trolls over the past several years. Ever since I have been encouraging conversations about the local economy and small businesses in an online forum, I have been dealing with the most interesting people.

When one troll didn’t like the fact that there were rules in our forum, and he didn’t agree with them, he created his own forum, named it the same thing, just changed one word. And told everyone that his was a FREE forum, where everyone could post whatever they wanted.

At the time, this stole my joy. I was hurt, frustrated, angry. I wanted to know how to “fix” it and figure out what I had done to deserve such “cruelty.” To make matters worse, one of the members of this new group took a screen shot of a photo I had shared of myself and Craig at a Spring Training game, on the berm, with a subtitle — “This must be where the money is going!” Yep, the $12 ticket to the “cheap seats!” 🙂

I can remember how frustrated I was, but the key is, today, I can look back on them and recognize that they have made me better. I didn’t let the trolls stop me. But they did effect me. And, over time, I have learned how to deal with them. I found a way to accomplish what I feel I was put on this earth to accomplish — in spite of the haters.

The cool part is, at this point, all these years later, there seem to be fewer trolls lying in wait, ready to pounce. Maybe mom was right, if you ignore them, they will eventually find someone else to pick on. Sadly, there are people who find satisfaction in the anonymity that being a troll provides them. But you cannot let them win. Someday, I hope we as a society work to solve this problem, but in the meantime,

You cannot let them steal your joy, or keep you from your purpose.

So, whenever I deal with a troll today, I consider several things before I respond (if I respond at all).

First, what do I know about them? For me, personifying the troll, helps me try to see things from their perspective. If I can’t figure out what their angle is, I create a story for them in my head — Most of the time, it goes like this: “Wow, this person must be hurting. I wonder if she had a crummy childhood, or maybe he found out his mother is sick, or her husband is cheating on her.

This helps me put the situation into a little bit of perspective — even if it’s not really true, I need to realize that there is probably something underlying, and it’s not me. 

There have been cases when it has been me. Not necessarily something I am proud of, but when you’re dealing with real people — people you know and think you can trust in the community, the emotions become a little more personal.

There is one time, early on in the development of the community, that I allowed my emotions to get the better of me and I engaged. I reacted to the situation, and then, I immediately regretted it. I then publicly apologized — I did not delete anything, and I swore that I would never do that again.

So, what I do now, is consider the words I want to say — I might type them as if I am going to comment, or send them to myself in a text (I do this a lot!) But I do not engage publicly in a negative, argumentative way. I read their comment, and generally find a way to tell them that I hear them, but that it’s not something I agree with, and we can agree to disagree.

If it seems there’s no way to resolve the situation, I will let it go, without comment. Sometimes, this is not possible, because the troll is waiting for you. And, they might escalate it to call you out and ask why you haven’t responded. In these cases, I normally, send them a private message, and comment (for the sake of the peanut-troll gallery) that I have done so.

You might be asking why I care, why I engage, why these people matter.

The answer is, they might not matter to the end result, but the path toward connection and transparency requires that we acknowledge that there are those who will disagree with us. They have the right to their own opinion. And, by refusing to lose our cool, or worse, shut it down, delete the account, and let them feel the satisfaction of “winning,” we are sending the message, that what we are doing, what we’re working to do is bigger than them, and, over time, this message will be what people remember. And the trolls will eventually grow tired. As long as we don’t give them what they want — which is usually the satisfaction that they brought you down to their level.

Taking the high road, and yet, allowing yourself to stay connected and accessible, is the hardest choice — but in the end, I believe it is the best choice we can make — if we’re doing work that matters.

It’s easy to point the finger. But what makes us stronger is taking responsibility for our role in success (or lack thereof).

If we’re stuck, how did we get here? And what is it going to take to get unstuck?

Chances are, we didn’t get here overnight, and we won’t get there overnight either.

The pivotal moment comes not just when we’re able to take an honest look at ourselves, but when we’re truly willing to take that step away from what is comfortable.

It’s going to be hard. The labor is going to be painful, uncomfortable, challenging.

Especially when we’re still holding on to the history, the good old days, the golden years. What got us here won’t get us there.

When we get to the point that we realize that there’s some undoing that needs to be done, some bridges that need to be built and some forgiveness that needs to take place — that’s when the real work begins.

What do we want, going forward? And, if we want to get there, what are we going to need to do?

“Whatever it takes” isn’t a popular idea. But it might be the only way we turn the corner and change the trend away from the negativity toward a brighter, happier, more profitable future.

On my 30th birthday, I was still shadow-boxing, battling to discover the answer to the question, “Why am I here?” I thought I was born to be a mother, and yet that had yet to happen. I write about that in another post. I can recall the day of my birthday very clearly. It was very uneventful.

That’s what makes it stand out in my mind. I was angry. Bitter and frustrated that nothing seemed to be going the way I wanted it to go. But it wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t what I wanted. It was empty — and I abhorred that emptiness.

I was angry at my ex-husband for not realizing that my 30th birthday was supposed to be a special day. I expected him to do something, and he didn’t. And it hurt me so much that I spent the day pretending to be happy, while inside I was anything but.

It’s ridiculous that we can get so angry at others for not meeting our expectations — even when we’ve never even shared that we have these certain desires.

So, I took control. A day before my birthday, when it occurred to me that nothing was going to happen on my birthday unless I did something, I started to call all of my friends, and family and planned my own party. It came together beautifully. Everyone was there to celebrate with me, and to love me. But it wasn’t enough. Because it wasn’t what I wanted. What I wanted was a surprise party. But the truth is, that would have been impossible – because I also wanted to control it all! 🙂

When I look back at that time of my life, I realize that what made me the most angry was that I had no control.

All I wanted was what I wanted. I thought I knew what my life should be. I was bitter that things weren’t going the way I had planned.

And the more I tried to control everything, the more out of control my life became.

Eventually, the bottom fell out. Except it didn’t happen all at once. My bitterness made it a slow, painful process. My anger was my cross to bear, and I played the victim like a champ, so the bottom didn’t come quickly. It came ever-so-slowly, like a gigantic bandaid being ripped off one day after another.

Until I was numb to the pain, and just going through the motions — pretending to be alive.

I am so grateful for that painful journey.

Because, today, because of that painful journey, I know that I am not in control. I still struggle with this (every day). I still want to be in control. I want to be able to skip to the last page of the book, so that I can make certain I will like how the story ends.

But, I realize today, that I am not driving.

I am in control of only two things — my thoughts, and how I react to those thoughts. How things turn out, is not within my control. And when I finally came to accept this, it allowed me to truly begin to enjoy the journey.

I just know that my job is to show up, do my best, give my love, and know that I have done my part. The rest, is not up for me to decide. And, that’s ok, because I finally know why I am here: to help others find their purpose, by helping them see the goodness — no the GREATNESS that exists in the world when we realize we’re really not driving. 

Why Emotional Labor isn’t Optional

We like the sidelines. The gray area. The safe zone. The periphery. I used to like all of those things too. But there was something about those places that kept me feeling empty. Maybe even a little bit isolated from everything that seemed important. Life, however was relatively “easy.” I didn’t have to think too much. Because, I wasn’t invested in much — which, in the end, left me feeling unfulfilled, and in some cases, uninvited.

I looked on with detachment at the “movers and shakers,” wondering how I might be invited to their game. I really thought it required some kind of invitation. And, since I wasn’t invited, I didn’t think there was any way I could make a difference. Apathetic, disengaged, lacking purpose, and for the most part, going through the motions. And, wondering if this was all there was to life.

But, then I discovered my voice. And, I took a few risks. To my surprise, there wasn’t an echo. Someone listened. And I realized I wasn’t alone.

I soon began to learn that it’s not being invited that makes things happen — at least not anymore. Today, everyone is invited — as long as you’re willing to put in the emotional labor of caring about the people in the ring.

The first step is to invite yourself.

I can say that now, that I have spent some time doing the emotional labor, because I realize how incredible the reward of doing work that matters is. I didn’t set out to be here, writing, sharing, guiding and coaching. But I learned by doing, and inviting myself — something I wish was easier, so that more people might join the good fight.

But, then again, if it was easy… everyone would be doing it — and that would… make it challenging, harder… ?

Wait. What’s wrong with that?

A world filled with people who take it upon themselves to lean in, make a difference, care? Wow, I think that would be wonderful. And yet, you’ll hear things that make it sound like that wouldn’t be such a great thing.

Nice guys finish last. Why bother? Who cares? The ends justify the means, right? It’s quantity, not quality.


What if all of that is a fallacy? What if we bought that from someone who didn’t really know what it took to live life in pursuit of purpose?

This goes with anything, and the question I am emboldened to ask now, more than ever is: Where do you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years?

Sure, you can choose not to do the emotional labor. You can take the easy way.

But at what point will taking the easy way get you where you want to be? At what point do you decide to pursue your purpose?

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