Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Becoming Unstoppable!

You’ve heard the old saying “When the going gets tough, the tough getting going.” If you’re trying to get a job in the recovering economy, realize a long-held goal or dream, or simply evolve as a human being, there’s no better advice on persevering—or becoming unstoppable, in the parlance of motivational speaker Cynthia Kersey, president of Unstoppable Enterprises, Inc. ( Although people typically think of unstoppable people as superhuman, Kersey has found through two decades of research that they’re just like everyone else. “They experience disappointment, rejection, and even failure,” she notes, “but they have the courage to take action toward their goal despite their circumstances or situation.”

According to Kersey, the unstoppable spirit—the one that propels us forward toward achieving our goals and forcing through barriers such as self-doubt and negativity—doesn’t need to be inborn. Luckily, this spirit can be cultivated. In fact, she’s identified seven characteristics of unstoppable people that she says anyone who has the will can find the way to develop. “The one common link among all unstoppable people is adversity—they struggled, tripped and stumbled, and had setbacks and failures, but they pulled themselves up and kept on going,” she writes in her book Unstoppable: 45 Powerful Stories of Perseverance and Triumph from People Just Like You (Sourcebooks). “The dream demanded their all and they gave it. With each trial, they emerged stronger, surer and more deserving of the dream itself.”

Here, then, Cynthia Kersey’s keys to becoming unstoppable.
• Devote yourself to your true purpose. Some know their purpose intuitively, while for others it takes some exploration. To discover your purpose in life, which relates to how you can be of service to others, think about how you want to be remembered after you die by your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and even the world. Write out the qualities, deeds, and characteristics that you want to live on as your legacy. This exercise will help you home in on your true values, says Kersey, and how you want to spend your time.
• Follow your heart’s passion. Your purpose will lead you to seek out activities you love—to really experience the pleasure that life has to offer rather than just enduring your time on earth. Kersey, for instance, discovered that her purpose in life was to inspire others. She could have chosen to pursue all sorts of activities that allowed her to realize that purpose—from joining the Peace Corps to becoming a nun, a hospital volunteer, a hot-line counselor, or a teacher. After she assessed her natural strengths, likes, and dislikes, however, she decided the best route to achieving her purpose was to become an author and motivational speaker, a choice she was passionate about and that energized her to the core.
• Believe in yourself and your ideas. “Belief is a prerequisite to becoming unstoppable,” reports Kersey. This requires being able to keep going even when others say it can’t be done, or that you’re being irresponsible or unrealistic. “There are always going to be people who try to protect us from our unrealistic fantasies,” she says. “They’re not trying to be cruel. They just don’t see that possibility for themselves, so they can’t see it for you. But the only opinion about your dream that really counts is yours.”
• Prepare for challenges. Most people don’t have a plan of action for their lives, and end up pursuing things that aren’t in line with their purpose and passion—for instance, a boring but steady job they took just because it was all they thought was available to them. Instead, Kersey advises envisioning what you hope to achieve, determining the skills you’ll need to achieve that goal, and then creating a plan of action to achieve it. “From the greatest achievements to the most personal accomplishments, preparation is essential to success,” she says. As a side benefit, preparation also helps to neutralize fear, which can inhibit you from following your passion and purpose.
• Ask for help and build a support team. “Behind every great achiever is another achiever,” says Kersey, so look for people who can serve as role models, mentors, coaches and cheerleaders. Network for team members at your company, professional associations, nonprofit organizations, clubs, in your neighborhood, and among your family and friends. Hire other team members as necessary. For Sharon, who used Kersey’s unstoppable techniques to lose 40 lbs. and realize her life-long goal of getting to a manageable weight, her team consisted of a personal trainer and professional weight consultant. “The personal trainer helped keep me accountable,” she recalls. “If I didn’t show up for a session, she would call me up and ask why I didn’t make it into the gym that day.”
• Seek creative solutions to problems you encounter. Focus on creating a series of “unstoppable moments,” which taken together will lead to an unstoppable life, according to Kersey. For instance, if you want to lose weight like Sharon, such a moment might be choosing to eat a grapefruit instead of a Twinkie, or figuring out how to fit exercise into every day—perhaps by watching one less television show. Be flexible and take a step-by-step approach to problem-solving. “You start with a small step toward your goal everyday,” says Sharon, “and then you go beyond that”—putting yourself on the path to achievement.
• Persevere, no matter what the challenges. Continuing on with your goal no matter what the roadblocks you encounter is the true key to being unstoppable. Cultivate a long-term mentality toward your goal, accept failures as learning experiences and ultimately, you’ll find that “perseverance rewards,” says Kersey. There can be no better example of this concept than Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who kept writing the first book in the series (long-hand, since she couldn’t afford a typewriter or computer) even though everyone told her that getting a children’s book published was a pipe dream. As a single mother who was grief-stricken over the recent death of her mother and the break-up of her marriage, she could barely make ends meet, but she still spent every spare moment on the project. When the manuscript was finally done, it took her six years and 12 rejections to find a publisher. Today, of course, her stories have captured the imagination of the world and she is the wealthiest and perhaps the most successful author of all time—all because she didn’t let a lack of money, divorce, or the doubts of others get in the way of pursuing her dream. “If you don’t give up, you simply cannot fail,” notes Kersey. In short, you become unstoppable!

Photo copyright of Dreamstime

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Your Creative Bucket List

Did you see the movie “The Bucket List” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman? The movie wasn’t much, but the concept is great: What things do you really, truly want to do before you kick the bucket?

Well, my friend Amy just introduced me to the concept of a quilting bucket list! What are those quilts you absolutely, positively can’t die without doing first!? It’s kind of a wish list, Amy says. “Techniques, styles you've always been meaning to do, or an extra special project. My friends and I bring our list to shows and meetings so we can add to it as we see new things that just need to be on the list. It’s a great way to prioritize all those things we want to do and put some structure around it.” She’s starting a notebook of motivation, containing pictures of quilts and projects she likes. “It’s kind of cool and surprising how things seem when you commit them to writing.”

Makes you think, huh—and dig through your fabric and pattern stash for those lost projects!

If you’re not a quilter, well then broaden the concept to creativity in general. What creative projects do you want to pursue? What pieces of yourself do you want to leave behind…a scrapbook, a collage, a knitted sweater or scarf, an embroidered wall-hanging, a painting, a poem.

Now that we've rounded the corner of a new year (and, woo hoo, a new decade after a lousy, lousy one), what projects are you going to put on the top of your to-do list and resolve to finish this year?!

Cloud photo by Woo Bing Siew, Dreamstime

Friday, January 1, 2010

A sucky decade, but some good movies

The past decade may have sucked, but the movies didn't. My friend Connie challenged me today to make a list of my top 10 movies of the 2000s. Wow! Who can even remember that far back? But I Googled some other lists and films and here are my picks in no particular order. (By the way, if you haven’t seen It’s Complicated, you’ve gotta—especially if you’re middle-aged. It’s HILARIOUS!)

1. Almost Famous. Kate Hudson’s debut in a Cameron Crowe film about rock and roll—the bands, the groupies, the journalists, the fans. It was touching, it was funny, and it was evocative of an earlier, more innocent era.

2. Wonder Boys. Fantastic, funny, inventive adaptation of the equally great Michael Chabon book about a disheveled author, Michael Douglas, with major writer’s block and big life problems.

3. The Bourne Identity. Incredible action and Matt Damon is great as the amnesiac-assassin. In a word: Tense.

4. Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I could watch this one all day. Not only does it have Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie as warring spouses (and they are hot, hot, hot together!), but the action scenes are fantastic (directed by the same guy who did The Bourne Identity) and it’s funny.

5. Lord of the Rings. I have to mention this one for the spectacle and Viggo Mortensen!

6. Lost in Translation. Bill Murray as a disaffected movie star connecting with a young woman, Scarlett Johansen, in Tokyo. Funny, touching, stays with you.

7. The Royal Tannenbaums. Wes Anderson’s quirky comedy about a strange but loving family. This was on TV last night and it’s still fun to watch. The pacing and dialogue are so unique. Angelica Huston, Gene Hackman, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, etc.

8. Wall-E: In a decade filled with great animated films (Ice Age, Bolt, Shrek, Up) this one stood out for me. Maybe it was the tune from Hello Dolly! in the beginning of the film…

9. Little Miss Sunshine. I’m partial to comedies, so I loved this bizarro film about a dysfunctional family that gets behind their little beauty queen. Greg Kinear, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin (who won an Oscar).

10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This film is SO imaginative and engaging, and so are the performances by Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey. Imagine if we really could erase a broken heart…

Honorable Mentions
1. Memento: For the backwards plot.
2. Gladiator: For the spectacle and Joaquin Phoenix's crazy emperor.
3. Pan’s Labryinth: Disturbing, fascinating, fantastical.
4. Traffic: A great ensemble film, serious subject, interesting filmmaking.
5. 21 Grams A trio of performances--by Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro, and Naomi Watts--make this film about a freak accident and intersecting lives a stunner.
6. 500 Days of Summer: A surprising and touching twist on the romantic comedy genre.
7. Up in the Air. My new favorite (I’ve seen it twice already) for George Clooney’s performance as an unattached man who travels over 200 days year firing people. His life gets upended by two women in this dark comedy: One, a fellow traveler who is truly his equal; the other, a young na├»ve woman who thinks she knows his business better than he does.
8. It’s Complicated. My other new favorite with Meryl Streep as a middle-aged divorcee whose ex-husband comes back for me. As I said up top, it’s hilarious!
9. Something’s Gotta Give. Fun, surprising comedy with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, plus a gorgeous Hampton’s home facing the beach.
10. The Hours. Lovely, affecting performances by Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, etc.