Thinking for a CHANGE 2004

December 29
Six of us were sitting around the table at a Strategic Planning session. Another participant dropped his copy of Peter Senge's newest book, "Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future" on the table. We all reached for it - it is an especially attractive book and it has Senge's name on the cover - and took turns browsing. I found the following quote. "Not all visions are equal - (some are) good ideas that unleash no energy for change. Others transform the world." How about spending 2005 looking for a vision that will give you the energy to transform your world.

December 22
Thinking about and planning for the holiday season can, and often does, take you to remembering holidays past. A good time to recall Will Rogers' reflection, "Never let yesterday use up too much of tomorrow." Don't let past holiday disappointments color this year's activities. On the other hand, feel free to let past year's pleasures flood this year's festivities with joyful anticipation!

December 15
This time of year, more people show up at your doorstep. Depending on the natural state of your house this is either a stressful or a happy happening. If I share with you my favorite quote to mutter as I walk to answer an unexpended doorbell, you'll probably be able to deduce the natural state of my living space. It's from A.A. Milne (author of the Winnie the Pooh books). "One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries."

December 8
My friend and fellow facilitator, Marilynn Semonick, CSP, gave me a wonderful quote when we were together recently. "Technology," she said quoting a speaker she had heard recently, "moves at the speed of thought. People move at the speed of people." You're grinning, right? Sometimes profound truths comes in short sentences and these are two of them!

December 1
My friend and fellow speaker, Mike McKinley, CSP, CPAE, sends a gift every year at Thanksgiving. His card this year included the following line, "Thankful that we have choices, appreciative we can change the choices we make." End of the year means reviewing the choices we've made during the past year. Don't forget you can still change any of those old decisions!

November 17
Co-director of the documentary film, The Corporation, Jennifer Abbott, said "It has remained my intention to make the familiar appear strange, to shift perspectives, to ask more questions than answer." Makes me curious about her movie. A good way to keep yourself creative on an ordinary answers, just questions. Different perspectives. Make the familiar strange. Try it for a day or two and let me know what happens.

November 10
Do you have a cache of greeting cards that you can pull out and use at a moment's notice? I couldn't function without mine. Last week, while looking for an appropriate thank you card, I found one with this message on the front. The most powerful beginning is choice. After putting it back in the basket to continue my quest, I realized the line was echoing in my head. Maybe it will linger in your mind also. This might be a perfect time for a powerful beginning in your life. Make another choice!

November 4
Okay, I admit it - I watch Survivor. No apology, no embarrassment, just fact. On a recent episode, one of the players, Rory got a message from his wife. She reminded him that, "Keep in mind that though you may not be able to change the situation, you still have control over how you will respond." Rory's wife is one smart woman!

October 27
No matter what else you do this coming week, please vote. It would be a wonderful change if we, as a nation, broke all records for voter turnout! An unknown person said, "In times of stress and strain, people will vote." I hope we prove unknown right!

October 20
As we face the time change, I can never figure out whether I'm getting more or less sleep. As long as I'm thinking of sleep, reflecting on dreams follows. That leads me to T. E. Lawrence who said, "All people dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people for they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible." When do you do your dreaming? Can you dare to be dangerous? Maybe today would be a great day to dream about some outrageous possibilities.

October 13
Cleaning my office surfaced an old Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Imagine seeing the two of them sledding down a hill and Calvin says to Hobbes, "Change is invigorating! If you don't accept new challenges, you become complacent and lazy! Your life atrophies! New experiences lead to new questions and new solutions! Change forces us to experiment and adapt! That's how we learn and grow!" In the spirit of full disclosure, they end up crashed in a pile of snow at the end of the strip. Change is like that too!

I realize it's a comic strip, but truth is truth. I miss Calvin's wisdom.

October 6
Given all the political excitement around the Vice Presidential debate last night, it seems only fair to hear from a former Vice President, Hubert Humphrey. "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously." Maybe if we all took a deep breath and changed the way we listen to each other we could have some rational political discussions before we vote next month. No matter what party or candidate you support, this would be a change in behavior, wouldn't it?

September 30
Looking around my office, I'm tempted to share A.A. Milne's quote, "One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries." But in order to tie that to change, I'd have to talk about cleaning things up! <G> Instead, let's ponder the wisdom of Peter Drucker. "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all." It's easy to continue doing things that no longer serve a purpose, but which simply exist as part of a long held pattern. Do any of your activities fit that description? If so, change them!

September 23
One of my favorite mystery writers is Peter Bowen. He writes a fairly unknown mystery series set in Montana with a main character - Gabriel Du Pre, a member of the Metis Nation - who drinks a lot, plays the fiddle incredibly, and solves crimes interestingly with an amazing cast of characters. It takes a while to get the rhythm of the dialogue. The Metis (who Bowen describes as "...a great people, a wonderful people, and not many Americans know anything about them") have an interesting cadence to their speech. This line from his most recent book, The Tumbler, jumped out at me. "Kid, old fart I know told me once that in life what you lose on the roller coaster, you make up for on the merry-go-round." I really like that image of what happens during change.

If you're going to read the books, read them in order. The characters build as the series progresses. The first one is Coyote Wind.

P.S. For all of you who took last week's message as a scientific challenge (pointing out, for example, that if you could see it, there were in fact changes going on in the test tubes), thanks for the trip back to my high school science classes. You are right. Something always happens. Sometimes it's just hard to discern it!

September 15
Many of you may know that I do work with and have written about the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. I receive a publication called The Type Reporter and I was looking at some old issues recently and came across this story.

A 10th grade biology teacher put a rack of test tubes in front of a class and said, "In the next hour please note any changes in the test tube." When the bell rang he asked if anyone had noted any changes. Someone said there had been no changes and the teacher said, "Exactly! Because I didn't do anything. If you want change, you have to do something to make it happen."

Excellent story!

September 8
On Friday, August 27th, my husband Frank handed me the Sports section of USA Today and said, "I thought you'd want to see this." The cover story of the day was, "10 things to absolutely, positively, change right now." For the next issues of the paper they discussed parts of different sports rules and behaviors they felt needed to be different. Interesting reading. (To see the list go to: - the countdown continues.) They included several change quotes in a side bar that I thought you'd enjoy, and hey, its not often I get to use the sports section as a great reference!

September 1
Did the summer rush by for you? My mother is a great fan of Will Rogers. One of the brilliant, witty things he said is, "Half of life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through trying to save." This weekend make sure you do something you promised yourself, your family, or the universe you would do this summer! As Quinn - my 4 year old grandson - would say, "and I'm not kidding."

August 25
Have you watched the USA Network's original show Monk? I think Tony Shalhoub is terrific. (If you haven't seen my favorite of his movies, Big Night, put it on your DVDs-to-rent list ASAP.) In last Friday's season finale there was a touching scene between Monk and his therapist, where Monk said, "I'm afraid of change and I'm afraid of not changing." Seemed like this simple sentence framed a common problem. Depending on which fear is stronger for you, I bet I can predict your next move. I bet you can, too. Sometimes TV isn't a vast wasteland.

August 19
Note: This issue's a little longer than usual. Don't worry, we'll be back to short next week.

I really try to practice what I preach. And what I preach about mostly is change. (You knew that, right?) We've been doing this Change message for nearly four years now. Miriam figured out how to create and run a system - that from your point of view I'm certain looks pretty seamless. Doesn't work that way from our point of view. Her computer thinks our lists are too long, our server thinks we're sending SPAM, your server thinks our server is sending SPAM - you get the picture. Along came our favorite tech guy, Rick, who said, "I can make this simpler for you." He sent us samples, we said they were too fancy - all that html changes the feel. He sent Miriam the specs for list management, too impersonal we said. He sent us a different format, too hard to migrate the list we said. Catching a pattern?

Rick really knows his business, not to mention us. He persisted and he and Miriam figured out how to overcome all our objections to the change. Last week Miriam got the list all ready to export to Rick and this is the first message being sent with the new system. (That's why you didn't hear from us last week, and why we're a day late this week. Did you miss us?) Change, even when it helps you in the long run, is tough in the short run. And you can quote me on that!

So, as long as we're changing we thought we'd throw in a new name for these weekly messages. Drum roll please. You are now reading the very first Thinking for a Change from Chris Clarke-Epstein.

Like all change, one person's change causes change for someone else. If you use a filter to file these message, you're going to have to change your filter settings. It's the change ripple effect. I change so you have to, too. But then I really do try to practice what I preach!

August 4
For 7 days in July I was in Phoenix, AZ for the Annual Convention of the National Speakers Association. (Okay, I can hear the jokes, lots of hot air in a place so hot, no one would notice.) During his outstanding keynote address, Joe Calloway, CSP, CPAE said, "When change hits, you can perceive it any way you want." Sometimes it's hard to remember that even if the change itself is forced, we still get to pick our reactions to the change. If someone you know has been having an attitude problem lately, you might want to share Joe's perspective. Of course if you're the one with the attitude problem...

July 28
Who loves you without the possibility of change? Even me, the change guru as one of you labeled me recently, knows that there are some things that shouldn't change and unconditional love is one of those things. Margaret Mead said, "Having someone wonder where you are when you don't come home at night is a very old human need."

Find that person and say thanks - today.

July 21
The doctor and poet, William Carlos Williams, wrote "In summer, the song sings itself." When was the last time you went outside - to a summer place - and listened? Take this as an assignment. See what music you can hear.

July 14
Wake up cheerful most days? Any days? Listen to Sarah Orne Jewett, "Tain't worthwhile to wear a day all out before it comes." Not I realize tain't isn't a word you run across often these days, but the message is relevant. Think of your self talk on your way into work. Are you wearing out your day before it begins? Shame on you! Change that behavior right now. You can - I know it and you know it!

July 7
How were your fireworks? 4th of July is such a great holiday. (Did you know that you can have your ashes packed into a fireworks display and go off in a final blaze of light and sound? I've given my kids instructions that that's how I want to have my end celebrated, but I digress.) In the spirit of Independence Day, listen to Tony Randall, "There's only one thing worse than a man with strong likes and dislikes and that's a man who has strong likes and dislikes without the courage to voice them." I'm sure he meant women, too.

June 30
Last night's episode of The Division on Lifetime had a wedding and the wedding had a toast. So, just in case any of you need a brief toast for a wedding this summer (or any event that calls for a toast) consider this a public service announcement. My friends. Here's to change. Here's to the things that stay the same. Here's to the future.

Simple sentences. Simple words. Thoughtful combination. Keep it handy. You can impress people in a minute.

June 23
Talking to my friend and speaking colleague Rebecca Morgan this morning, she quoted herself. (We speakers actually do things like that! Scary, isn't it?) "You must let go of the comfortable current trapeze and leap into the air, even when you don't see the next trapeze on the horizon. Looking back, you'll notice the old trapeze is burning."

I thought it was a perfect reminder that all status quo has an element of risk. Often we get caught in the frightening emotion of a possible change and miss the fact that what we're letting go of wasn't perfect. Thanks Rebecca!

June 16
Tuesday's USA Today had several articles about the new Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg movie, The Terminal, which opens on Friday. (Frank and I intend to see it this weekend.) In a side-bar article about his process, Spielberg said, "A movie often turns around and looks at you and says, 'Here is what I am, and that's maybe not how you see me, but that's who I've become.' And maybe you've got to be open enough to go with that."

Re-read Spielberg's sentence out loud. I mean it - out loud, and substitute something in place of the words a movie.Try a life, a job, or a person. This line of Spielberg's reminded me of the necessity of recognizing when something external to me changes. I have to decide how I will let that influence my actions. I hope the movie is as meaningful as the quote.

June 9
Diane Swonk, director of economics and senior vice president of Bank One Corp., was profiled in Monday's Chicago Tribune Business section. When asked if she had any advice for people looking for her kind of job, she answered, "Pursue your passion...if you're just working for money it's easy to burn out." Reminded me of one of my favorite sayings, "If you want to claim burn out, you must have been on fire at one time." What about you? Do you have passion for what you do? Did you at one time? What do you need to do to get the fire going again? This is an area of change where you can either instigate it yourself or wait until someone else does it for you. Ouch!

P.S. Lately you've all been generous with your comments. Thank you very much. I love hearing from you. If you have a few's a challenge. I'm working on a new book that will explore some of the cliches we all learned as children that may interfere with our success today. For example: Wipe that smile off your face. What's actually wrong with being happy? If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. What about feedback? I'd love to hear the ones that occur to you. And I'll keep you posted on the book project.

June 2
This weekend I read a wonderful book, Writing About Your Life. (You don't have to be a writer to learn from it. I highly recommend it for everyone who cares about stories, reading, and the wonder of words.) In it, the author, William Zinsser, quotes Maya Lin, the designer of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, after asking her how the idea of the memorial occurred to her. "For several months, she told him, no ideas came at all. 'The discipline is to not jump too fast.'"

In the midst of change it's scary when the ideas don't come fast enough and it's hard not to jump so everyone will think you know what you're doing. Maybe you, your team, or your organization could benefit from understanding Maya Lin's discipline.

May 26
My friend Kathy Dempsey and I were in Chicago waiting to cross the street. Kathy was searching the pole for the button to push so we'd get the walk signal. A woman who was watching Kathy's behavior announced, "It's okay lady, it will change by itself." Quite frankly, life doesn't usually work that way. You can't depend on things changing by themselves and, if you do, you will always be at the mercy of other people's ideas of change. Why not continue to search for the button and be proactive about the change that will get you to the side of the street you want to be on?

P.S. Kathy and I missed the light change because we stood on the corner arguing over which of us would get to use this story in our email newsletters. As you can tell, I won. :) You might want to check out her 60 Seconds of Shedding with Lenny the Lizard at

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