What Does It Take to be a True Hero?

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be young or old, black or white, rich or poor. If you look up the word at dictionary.com, you’ll see this is the first definition:

a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.

9/11 afforded many people the opportunity to look within themselves and find the hero within. We all have that quality within us. It’s that drive that enables us to put the needs of others before our own in times of trouble or sadness. That selflessness becomes a mark of maturity, demonstrating that we’ve learned a vital lesson. The world does not revolve around us.

Take a few minutes this day to watch this video, reflect upon it’s message and look within your own heart and mind.

The world needs more heroes. Where can you step up and make a difference in someone’s time of need? Whether it’s volunteering on your kid’s soccer team, mentoring a fatherless child, serving at a local soup kitchen, helping someone out financially, visiting with an elderly neighbor, or something completely different. When average people step up to fill a need, coming together and pulling together, they can accomplish amazing things.

As the narrator, Tom Hanks, shared:

The great boatlift of 9/11 became the largest sea evacuation in history, larger than the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II, where 339,000 British and French soldiers were rescued over the course of nine days. On 9/11, nearly 500,000 civilians were rescued from Manhattan by boat. It took less than nine hours…

Don’t live your life wondering “Should I have?” And don’t wait for tragedy to strike to call up that inner hero. You have the ability to make the world a better place today.

I’d love for each of my readers to share whatever they’d like in the comments below, whether it’s their memories of how 9/11 affected them, or how they are inspired by this post and video to step up and commit letting their own inner hero loose. For those of us who lived through 9/11/2001, the world was forever changed. But we have it within ourselves to continue that change, embracing the spirit of self-sacrifice that made us proud to be Americans, to make a positive difference in our communities today.

Are you going to step up to the challenge?

Every Blogger Wants to be Found, But What Are You Willing to Do?

Hide and SeekIf you’ve been blogging for some time now, you may be struggling to find new and unique ways to extend your influence and grow your audience. As part of my marketing strategy for this year, I decided that I was going to make more of an effort to “be found” by larger blogging sites, like BlogCritics, Social Media Today, AllTop and Technorati.

In late 2011, I added a subset of my blog feed to Social Media Today, so that any posts I wrote that were categorized as “Social Media” would be submitted for their review and possible publication. Unfortunately, none of the last few social media posts have been picked up by them. But I keep hoping! (Wouldn’t it be awesome if they picked up this one?!)

Today, I read a post on how to claim my Technorati blog, and decided to pursue that. Yet, I found the process to be fascinatingly frustrating. To add your blog feed to Technorati, you have to create an account. (Makes sense.) Then, you can update your profile or, at least… That’s the idea. I updated my profile 3 times, and every time I clicked the Update Accountbutton to submit my data, the fields were blanked out and my updates were discarded. A bug? I hope so! But, at the bottom of my profile page was where I stumbled across the field the enables me to claim my blog. I specified the requested information, and submitted it to Technorati for review. Yet to process my claim and verify that I am the author of my blog, Technorati requires me to write a post for my blog that contains my unique claim token, JQTZQEJ6Y7UQ. When that information is published to my blog feed, they can verify that in fact I am the writer of my blog.

What do you think of this idea? It’s ingenious from a marketing sense, because most bloggers won’t simply post a claim token in their blog without giving their readers some kind of explanation as to what it’s all about. Invariably, I’m sure this results in additional links to Technorati’s site. But, as a blogger, I find this requirement frustrating because it demands specific content from my blog. In my case, it’s information that my readers will be interested in anyway. But what if I only wrote about leadership topics? Or I wrote about something all together different, where social media and blogging weren’t relevant to my audience? (I can’t think of a good example right now, but you get the spirit of my question, I hope!)

And what if my editorial calendar is full, and I already have the next few blog posts written and in the queue. Do I post this as a “one-off” post? Shift my whole calendar schedule? Or just add it to the queue and accept a delay in adding my blog to Technorati?

Personally, I think it would be better if they took a similar approach to NetworkedBlogs, where you add code to your site or a widget to your page in order to demonstrate your ownership. But barging into the blog feed just seems wrong to me…

What are your thoughts?

Who Do You Give Back To?

I started following Dan Rockwell (@leadershipfreak) on April 30, 2010. I saw his Twitter ID listed among friends of mine from the Lead Change Group in a #ff tweet. After taking a look at his content, I knew he was someone I wanted to follow and learn from, and that others needed to hear what he had to share as well. So, I tweeted:

Leadershipfreak_tweet

Within the hour, Dan thanked me and let me know he was following me back. And so our conversation began…

That’s one thing that I love about using Twitter. Friendships develop, conversations ensue, and sometimes, just sometimes, our lives are touched.

When I first entered the Twitterverse, I did so on a whim with no real idea of what I was going to do with it. (This was during Ashton Kutcher’s competition with CNN Breaking News to see who could reach 1 million followers first, back in April 2009.) As a result, after creating my Twitter account, I didn’t do much of anything other than lurk and retweet. Then, as I was traveling to Tanzania as a missionary in June 2009, I thought it would be a great way of sharing my experiences while I was gone. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, that wasn’t possible.

It wasn’t until I returned home, and decided to spend some time figuring out the platform that I began making real connections on Twitter. First, there was Steve Keating (@leadtoday), whom I started following in January 2010. I was impressed with his bio, which said (and still does) that he’s not selling a thing on Twitter, only giving back. Then there were many others who followed. I found myself seeking out people who were positive, inspiring, uplifting, and had an “other” focus. We all need more givers than takers in our lives.

When I came across Dan, I recognized him as one of those people I wanted to surround myself with. But he opened my eyes to other possibilities for Twitter, which has since become my favorite social network, thanks to people like him.

Soon after we started following one another, he DM’d (direct messaged) me to say that he made a point of talking offline with the people he was meeting online, and would I be interested in talking by phone sometime? The online world of social media was still new to me, even though I was an eager student. But this was the first time I’d been part of what seems second nature now; taking an online connection and building an offline relationship.

While I was, at first, a little nervous during our phone call, it quickly became something easy and comfortable. I enjoyed learning about him, and sharing about myself. It was completely non-threatening and engaging, and I became fascinated with the potential of meeting new people who interested me. I live in a rural area of the country. As a single parent, I don’t get out much. So, being able to connect with people who share like beliefs, have similar interests and dreams, and who support and encourage one another is so very compelling to me.

Now, it’s my turn to give back to someone I care about, to support and encourage him where I can. Many of you may know that Dan was in a terrible car accident on November 20th. While it’s incredible that he survived it, what’s even more amazing is the grace, perseverance, gratitude and outward-focus he’s displayed this whole time. How many of us, at a time like this, would be tempted to slip into self-pity? Yet, Dan’s focus isn’t on himself, but on those he loves. He is a source of encouragement and inspiration to me, always.

One of the reasons I’m sharing about Dan today is because a source of anxiety for him is the medical bills that are anticipated to run around $30K in out-of-pocket expenses. This isn’t money he has just lying around. His work in the ministry and raising up leaders has been the treasure he’s stored up. To show our love and support for Dan, the Lead Change Group has been rallying around him to help raise funds to cover his expenses. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation, even if it’s only a few dollars. In 9 days, we’ve raised over $8,000 towards our goal, but there’s still a long way to go!

Take a minute, just one, and think about someone who inspires and encourages you. What lengths would you go to in order to help them? After you’ve done that, click on the image below, and give as generously as you feel led.

Time to Give Back to Dan


 

Book Review: Cracks in the Sidewalk

While most of my book reviews are relevant to social media, business, job seeking, technology or leadership, I recently was offered the chance to read some lighter fare; a book by Bette L. Crosby called “Cracks in the Sidewalk,” which is an award-winning novel about a grandmother’s 20-year search for her missing grandchildren. Since I knew I needed a break from what I had been reading and the holiday season is upon us, I thought perhaps you might enjoy something different as well.

I first met the author, Bette, on LinkedIn, where we both participate in the Book Reviewers group. She shared an excerpt of “Cracks in the Sidewalk,” and I got hooked on the story right away. Bette creates characters that are believable and who struggle with the events of their lives. Some of the characters accept that life is not always a bed of roses. Others play the Blame Game, and do all they can to avoid responsibility for their own problems. As I read the excerpt online, I found myself wanting to learn more. Read the opening lines yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.

“I’m an old woman now. Some might say too old to dream, too old to still believe in miracles. But a dream your heart has held onto for the better part of a lifetime doesn’t disappear easily, it tucks itself behind the everyday worries that pick at you and waits—waits until theday you can again feel your heartbeat and know that hope is stirring insideyour soul.”

With those first few words, I knew I wanted to learn more about what was going on, and the rest of the story didn’t disappoint me. I walked alongside Charlie and Claire as they wrestled with the terminal illness of their daughter, Elizabeth, and the inconceivable response of her husband, Jeffrey. I was there as they made every effort to be a part of their grandchildren’s lives, even while mourning the loss of their daughter and fighting against the manipulative resistance of their son-in-law.

Each chapter is told from a differing viewpoint, so you are granted glimpses into the minds and hearts of the four main characters and those whose lives they affect. Perhaps we aren’t given as much insight as we, the reader, might like, but to do so would have made the book intolerably long. As it was, the story kept a brisk pace with lots to keep my attention.

If there were any significant disappointments at all, it wasn’t in the story or character development, but in the fact that the book could have used a thorough editing. There were many missing quotation marks, and repeated or misspelled words, which I personally find distracting and frustrating. But they did not detract from the quality of the story or the fact that I grew to dislike the antagonist more with every page turned, and that I admired the way the protagonist handled all that she went through.

Oftentimes, we can look at our lives and wonder why things happen the way that they do. We can even be tempted to feel cheated or gypped out of what’s rightfully ours. We can let bitterness rule our hearts, as Jeffrey does, or let acceptance and forgiveness rule, like Elizabeth. In the end, we may even be granted a second-chance we never thought possible, as Claire receives.

Those Left Behind

Iwo 9-11As many of you may already know, my sister was deployed to Kuwait last year. She had originally signed up for military service after 9/11.  Living in a bedroom community of NYC, my family and I still clearly remember that day in 2001 and how helpless we all felt watching the same horrific images over and over again on the TV.

Not long after, my sister found her way of addressing that sense of helplessness and became the official property of the U.S. government.  With three years of active service behind her, she was ready to get back to her own life.  A couple of years later, the government had second thoughts.  They informed her days just before Christmas in 2008 that her services were required once more.  So, back into action she went; putting her life, career and future plans on hold so that you and I could appreciate the freedoms we each have and often risk taking for granted.

Just days after 9/11, we saw communities band together, strangers helping one another without fear or expectation of reward.  A Romanian reporter, Mr. Cornel Nistorescu, said it best in his “Ode to America:”

What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic Power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases with the risk of sounding commonplace.

I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion…

Only freedom can work such miracles.

True leadership means stepping up and doing what needs to be done when no one else is willing or able to do so.  It means focusing on the greater good, and sometimes taking on onerous tasks we would much rather avoid.  It means sacrificing our time, our talents and, sometimes, our lives.  When people are running out of burning building, true leaders run inside of it to bring out the last man.  If you are content with the “status quo,” don’t aspire to be a leader.  Leaders bring change and they make a difference.  There’s no room for the “status quo” there.

Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and ages.  Having seen an unmet need, the Bangor Troop Greeters, Bill Knight, Joan Gaudet, and Jerry Mundy transform their lives and the lives of others by greeting U.S. troops at a tiny airport in Maine.  On call 24/7 for the past 6 years, this group of senior citizens is showing true leadership by ensuring that every troop passing through the Bangor airport en route overseas or returning home receives a personal greeting, no matter what time of the day or night they are passing through.  To date, they have spoken with nearly one million soldiers, helping them along their way.  Just this past week, my sister had the pleasure of being greeted by Jerry as she returned home from overseas.  As with so many others, he gave her a friendly welcome, offered her a cell phone to call loved ones, and let her know how much her service was valued.  (For more information about the Bangor Troop Greeters, I highly recommend watching a documentary called “The Way We Get By.”)

A full year after she left to report for duty, my sister is home again.  We are delighted to have her back in our midst, and thankful for her time of service.  As Memorial Day approaches, take some time to think of the freedoms you enjoy here as an American citizen.  Whether you agree with the War on Terror or not, think of the sacrifices being made on your behalf so that you can have your own opinion and voice it freely.  Those sacrifices are being made by soldiers, their families, their friends, and their employers.  And those same sacrifices have been made time and time again throughout American history to ensure that we retain the freedoms we now have.  Rather than standing around the water cooler, complaining about the way things are in this country, these leaders have generously paid the way for us.  So, be sure to take a few minutes out to thank them.  Our soldiers and veterans deserve it!