Why not? Motivation for the Faint of Heart

Spinning discs at WJMU circa 1984-85

Spinning discs at WJMU circa 1984-85

I’ve always identified with the Cowardly Lion. Courage does not come naturally to me. I cannot recall a time when I was truly fearless. Everything from meeting someone for the first time to standing on a ladder can send me into a nervous refrain, “I can’t do this. Something horrible will happen. I will make a fool of myself.”

In high school I had a teacher write me a note and tell me that he thought my naturally sweet disposition was keeping me from achieving my goals. Not exactly, Teach. Anyone who knows me, knows I can be just as *itchy as the best of them. No, there’s only one thing that keeps me from my goals:


Sometimes, it’s paralyzing.

Those meet-n-greet dinners at the beginning of a conference? I avoid them at all costs, and when I can’t, I spend an inordinate amount of time in the restroom and leave completely exhausted. It’s taken me three days to work up the nerve to call HughesNet to advocate for a bill reduction. Even at the-job-that-pays, getting up in front of a classroom of college students on the first day of a semester is both exhilarating and terrifying.

Introversion, social anxiety, timidness, it’s probably a mix of the three. So how have I managed to accomplish anything without an arsenal of pharmaceutical assistance? Strong friendships with courageous people have certainly helped. Turning off my people-pleasing instincts and smothering the associated guilt works to some extent. Easing back on perfectionism, check. Routines, meditation, visualization help too. However, in college I hit upon one question that propels me forward:

If I do XYZ “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and its follow-up question, “Can I live with that?”

It’s worked something like this…Freshman year in college, I hear my Resident Assistant on the college radio station and I think to myself, that sounds like a lot of fun. I would like to do that too. Then the anxious voice takes over and says, what are you kidding? You will be horrible, people won’t listen, you will lose listeners and embarrass yourself and the station. But after thinking about it for a while, I realize is embarrassment the worst thing that could happen? And if it is, can I live with that?

Yes, I can live with that.

So I took the broadcaster course and passed my FCC test and got my broadcasting license. After a semester on the air I was running the morning drive program. After two semesters I was helping to run the station in the summer. After a year I received the station’s best new DJ award.

And yes, I embarrassed myself.

But this new mantra helps me move forward. Sometimes it’s all that gets me out of the house. It’s what keeps me employed. It’s what keeps me writing and submitting and self-publishing. It’s what I tell my students to do when they’re considering a life change.  It’s what I tell my children when they want to try something new.

Millikin University Homecoming Court 1986. Me, first row, far left, maiden name, big hair. It was the 80s, what can I say? Absolutely terrified but so glad I did this for myself.

Millikin University Homecoming Court 1986. Me, first row, far left, maiden name, big hair. It was the 80s, what can I say? Absolutely terrified but so glad I did this for myself.

My mantra has motivated me all the way to Russia, Singapore, and Finland. It’s given me the guts to put myself out there singing, speaking, and writing. It’s not easy yet, and it probably never will be, but it’s working for me.

Millikin University graduating class of 1987. Uh oh, now you can figure out how old I am...

Millikin University graduating class of 1987. Uh oh, now you can figure out how old I am…

How about you? What gives you courage?

Why I Get Nothing Done During Spring Break


North Myrtle Beach, S. Carolina

I actually do take a stack of grading to the beach with me. I pull out a report. Start reading.

Is that a dolphin? Oooo it’s two.

Look down and try to find where I left off. Jot down a comment.

Oh look. A gull landed so close I can touch him. “Hey guy. How you doing?”

Look down again. Read the same paragraph.

This would be so much better if I took my shoes off, and you know, squish my toes in the sand.

Set report aside. Take off shoes and socks. Dig feet into sand. Dig for a long while. Pull out report. Read the same paragraph.

Oh the heck with it. I’ll grade on the plane.

Delinquent Blog Writer Turns In Self

dreamstime_xs_40481396blogEver notice when you pick up a bad habit it’s easier to keep it than shed it? Yeah, my bad habit is ignoring my blog. This time, for a couple months. I know. I give no warning. Disappear. Then try to pick up the pieces of a blog that’s feeling the pangs of rejection from it’s very own mama.

Here I offer up my top 5 excuses; or as I like to say to that sweet police office writing me a speeding ticket, my “Mitigating Circumstances.”

1. That cough-up-a-lung illness that was going around. I am a germ-magnet. Not only did I catch it, but it decided we needed to have a “relationship” that lasted 5 weeks.

2. Normally, I teach 2-4 independent studies in the Spring Semester on top of my regular credit hour load. This Spring I did 9. *Thumps Head*

3. Three kids. The oldest is a senior in highschool, the middle one runs on Energizer rabbit batteries, and the youngest is currently channeling Cersei Lannister (the attitude, not the extracurricular activities). I know, it could be worse. Could be Joffrey. Or that Ramsay guy.

4. I started a children’s publishing company with my parents, because you know, I don’t have enough stuff crammed into my life. Then I wrote 2-1/3 books for the publishing company to publish. Yeah, that 1/3 is a WIP I’m still working on.

5. When faced with the choice of writing for the blog or taking a nap, I’ve napped. Because, well, see excuses 1-4.

So why are things different now? Well, my semester is over. My oldest is poised to get his drivers license and his HS diploma. *Fist Pump* My other two kids can play outside all day because the temperature in Rockford is finally above freezing. With a renewed respect for germs, I’m starting to rub elbows instead of shaking hands. And that little publishing company is in its third trimester, ready to birth some books into the world.


Picture © Iqoncept