Thinking for a CHANGE 2008

December 18
When I sit down to write the last Thinking for a Change of the year, I feel the need to find something profound to share. Thank goodness for Starbuck's cups. Here's Anne Morriss' insightful observation.

"The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life."

I can't think of a better way to start a new year - committed to a new behavior or a new attitude - committed to a change. Between now and the beginning of 2009 I'm going to be thinking about my choice of a commitment for 2009. For some reason a commitment feels better than a resolution. What about you? What will you commit to this New Year?


Thinking for a Change

is officially done for the year - focusing on family, friends, and food. I'll be reading, writing, and tackling the stacks of paper on my desk that I swear reproduces when the office lights go dark! All the best for you and yours. Celebrate with abandon, giggle with a child, get hugged a lot, and your holidays will be close to perfect. See you after the first.

December 11
Do you use spell check? Stupid question, of course you do. You type along, miss-spelling a word here and there, safe in the knowledge you can spell check your document before it goes on its way. The system highlights your questionable words, offers a suggestion, you choose the right spelling and hit CHANGE, and it does it. Oh, if life was like that! I really don't have a quote or a deeper meaning - I just thought it was worth sharing.

December 4
(I decided to ask Miriam to send this edition this week rather than closer to the holidays. After you read it, you'll know why.)

Seems funny to be writing about change during this season of tradition, but here I go. As I pondered this seeming contradiction, it occurred to me that traditions probably started as a change to an even older tradition. (If that's confusing, just sit with it for a few minutes and I think it will become clear.) Rather than share a quote this week, I'm going to issue a holiday challenge. Before you, and your family, go rushing into the end of 2008, take a minute, gather the clan, and ask yourselves:

"Given the current economic circumstances in general and our situation in specific, what could we do differently this year to make our holiday celebration even more meaningful?"

The dialogue that gets you to your family's answer to this question might just be your biggest gift of the 2008 holiday season.

November 26
Former New Yorker editor, Tina Brown said during a recent CBS Sunday morning interview,

"At the end of the day, you're either at your game table or not!"

Great reminder in these uncertain times. Now, more than ever, we all need to be at our game table day in and day out. Challenge yourself, and if you lead others - your team, to understand and act on this philosophy.

No matter what table you sit at tomorrow - we send Thanksgiving greetings to you and yours!

November 20
I would have been interested in the recent elections even if everyone hadn't been claiming change as a major part of their platforms. (I'm one of those who believes that if you ever want to complain about the goings on in Washington DC or the state capital of your choice, you have to participate in the voting.) My favorite part of all the change talk was contained in President-Elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech. He said:

"This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were."

Every leader should listen and think about this quotation carefully. Change isn't the decision to do something different, it is DOING something different. I hope our new President will remember and act on his own words.

November 12
Isn't it funny how words can invoke a feeling - either positive or negative? Fireplace, blanket, and comfortable are all cozy words. I'm always amused when someone finds a way to put a spin on a word - you expect one meaning and get another. When well done, that twist of words always makes you think. Martin Sheen did that for me during a recent CNN interview.

"I'm not comfortable unless I'm uncomfortable."

Music to the ears of a change person like me. How does that quote strike you? Does it make you uncomfortable? More importantly, does it make you think?

November 3
Okay, there's no acceptable excuse. Go Vote! We get the governments we deserve when we all participate! (Can you tell I feel strongly about this?) I guess it's because I'll be glued to the television Tuesday night watching the results come in that I remembered a Robert Kennedy quote.

"One heart with courage is a majority."

Good words to remember right before Election Day.

October 29
When I was little my mother used to get booklets in the mail from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. I would read them because he always started with a story that I enjoyed very much, never realizing that I was learning a lesson. Remembering that experience enhanced my enjoyment when I found this quote from Dr. Peale.

"I'd rather attempt something great and fail than attempt nothing and succeed."

The next time you find yourself resisting change, you might want to remember Dr. Peale's words. I know I will.

October 22
Carolyne Wallace, a Thinking for a Change reader, sent me an edition of Today's Turning Point a daily message list she receives. Dr. David Jeremiah quotes Edward Kennedy speaking at his brother's funeral.

"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation."

Perfect reminder for me to take the opportunity to thank each of you who generously donated to the JDRF Walk for the Cure earlier this month. Team Q reached its $10,000.00 goal because of people like you. Individually we can't hope to make a dent in the dollars needed for Diabetes Research, but together a cure is possible. This is a change I hope for every day and I'm thrilled to have you on my team!

October 9

Discouraged? John Wooden said:

"Don't let what you can't do get in the way of what you can do."

Simple sentence; powerful message. We all need to be reminded to focus our attention in the right place and this one does it for me. I hope it works for you, too.

October 2
Death is a difficult change. This week, Paul Newman and my cousin, Scott Taylor, died. Newman will live on in the amazing characters he portrayed on film; Scott in the hearts of his friends and family. People die - it's a fact, but they can live forever based the actions they choose to take in their lives. In The Verdict, Paul Newman played Frank Galvin who said,

"If we are to have faith in justice, we need to believe in ourselves and ACT with justice."

If you want what you believe in to last, you need to ACT within it on a daily basis. Rest in peace to both of these men who touched my life.

P.S. In addition to re-watching The Sting this weekend, our family will be gathering in Stevens Point on Sunday for the 4th Annual Walk for the Cure, raising money for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). Read a story about our family and see Quinn in action here.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you who chose to ACT and donated to Team Q's fundraising efforts after Monday's Special Edition of Thinking for a Change. If you can help us find a cure with a contribution, no matter how small, click here. Together we can make a difference for the millions who have Type 1 Diabetes and Quinn!

September 29
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." said Margaret Mead. I believe that with all my heart and need your help to prove it. As many of you know, my eldest grandson, Quinn, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was 22 months old. It is my dream that a cure for this difficult disease that affects millions of children and adults will be found - soon. The work done by JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) is getting closer to making that happen. But research takes money.

Every week over 8,000 people around the world read these messages about change. Think of the impact we could make if each of you pledged just $5.00. I know times are tough and there are so many places you could spend your money, but think of how you'll feel when they announce a breakthrough and you'll know it was because you cared AND acted.

Our family, as Team Q, joins other committed people in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, for the Walk for a Cure on October 5th. This Sunday morning we'll be walking and hereby invite you to either join us in person or via a donation. Click here to go directly to the JDRF site where you can register or pledge your support. (If the hyperlink doesn't work, cut and paste this into your browser: Once at the Walk Central Page, search for Team Q or Chris Clarke-Epstein. Then choose to donate or register to walk.

You have my eternal gratitude. We can change this part of the world!

September 24
Why is change important? Whitney Young speculated that:

"The truth is that there is nothing noble in being superior to somebody else. The only real nobility is in being superior to your former self."

In order to fulfill this call to nobility, you have to be willing to see yourself as you actually are and then change. Easier said than done, but better done than talked about!

September 17
At last week's Weight Watchers meeting, our leader, Ruth, quoted Marianne Williamson during her closing:

"Playing small doesn't serve the universe."

I love that thought. Change is often tough so we back off and do little things. Playing small doesn't serve you either. What would happen if you dared to be bold? Is this the week that you're willing to up the change-ante in your life?

P.S. A Weight Watcher's Update. I've lost 44.6 lbs and Miriam has hit the 90 lb mark! Way to go Miriam, and thanks to all of you who have asked to be kept up on our progress. Your encouraging emails mean a lot to both of us.

September 10
I meet a woman at a recent program who shared with me that her husband of thirty-eight years had just announced that he was moving out and wanted a divorce. Some change just arrives and smacks you. After we talked, I remembered George Chakiris comment.

"No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible."

I wish I had remembered it while we were talking; I think it would have been meaningful for her. If you find yourself in the middle of a bad time, I bet it will be significant for you. And to the individual who inspired me to remember this important concept - this one's especially for you!

September 3
I spend a lot of time thinking about the power of the Comfort Zone in the lives of people and organizations. The seductive power of the Comfort Zone is one of the biggest barriers to Change. No wonder I fell in love with the greeting card that proclaimed:

"Because her original pattern was so worn the last time she flew apart, she was forced to let the pieces reattach as they pleased. Once the shock wore off, she welcomed the change."

Worn patterns, like Comfort Zones, need to be changed and people need to be supported as they live through the shock. Then they need encouragement to finally see and welcome the benefits of their new reality. Feel like you're flying apart? You're not alone. You're just working to expand your Comfort Zone.

August 28
For those of you who have wondered why these messages have been sporadic the last few weeks…well, computer problems, interesting travel schedules, playing-hooky-on-a-summer-day behavior sort of sums it up. Sebastine Chamfort said,

"The most wasted day of all is that on which we have not laughed."

I'm sure you're pleased to know that we don't waste any days around here. Promise me that you won't either!

August 13
I grabbed an old notebook as I packed for the annual National Speakers Association Convention in New York City. Tucked inside, I found a piece of paper with this Tom (he-continues-to-be-a thinker-I-admire) Peter's quote.

"The only job security you have is to be more talented tomorrow than you are today."

As we all face change driven by economic uncertainty this is a good philosophy to ponder and embrace. If you are a leader, your people would be well served to hear this message from you along with personalized feedback on ways they can improve their skill set. What would happen if you made self-improvement your next change project?

P.S. If you saw the Sex in the City movie and left the theater feeling slightly depressed as I did, (I will leave figuring out why I might have been depressed up to you) make a date to see Momma Mia! I left the movie theater, got in my convertible, turned on the oldies station full blast, and drove home singing all the way. I'll see it again in the theater, have already downloaded the soundtrack, and will buy the DVD the day it's released. Not for the plot, not for the deeper meaning that it reveals, but simply because it made me feel joyous. There's far too little of that going around these days!

July 16
I get a newsletter from the Prouty Project and they always include a guess-the-source-of-this-quote contest. In the most recent issue they reported that Jeanne Kassim knew that Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots said,

"There are a lot of guys who say they want to work harder and be the best, but they never pay the price."

(I'm certain he meant to include women in his comments. You know that I do!) Change is like that too. There are many people who want to change, but most of them don't want to actually do something different! How about becoming one of those people who want things in their life to change and are doing things differently. You can do it; I know you can!

July 9
Dick Clark is quoted on the back of Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.'s new book, My Stroke of Insight, saying about the story,

"None of us needs sympathy; what we need is a helping hand and understanding."

Boy, is that right. Think of the last major change you experienced. There we those who gave you a shoulder to cry on and those who gave you a gentle kick in the pants or a well timed suggestion. Who was of more value? It's easy to fall into a pattern of looking for or giving sympathy when we should be giving recognition - this is tough, I know you/we can do it - and assistance - why don't we try a restaurant that has healthy choices. I'm going to watch my behavior to myself as well as others, what about you?

P.S. Thanks to all of you who sent messages of encouragement to Miriam and I. We continue to work on our healthy habits (catch the restaurant reference? <G>), count points, and go to meetings. We've both set our lifetime goals and will keep you posted. We think Weight Watchers is a wonderful helping hand. Miriam says, "While the encouragement of friends and family is long-term sustenance, the delight of strangers and casual acquaintances to our success provides me with an adrenaline rush that makes the hard days easier. Thanks!"

July 1
Okay, I promised to tell you how Miriam and I have worked to change our stories and by doing so, our lives.

Last October, Miriam quietly announced that she was going to join a Weight Watchers at Work program. I could, she said, go with her. Are you nuts, I thought. By January, 2008 she had lost over 50 lbs. I no longer thought she or Weight Watchers was nuts. I joined her group, learned some new healthful habits, listened to amazing stories of effort, persistence, and success and started working the Weight Watchers system.

Here we are, 6 months later, and Miriam is 80 plus pounds lighter and I'm 30 plus pounds lighter than my former self. We've changed our story and have new results! Stayed tuned, we're not done yet. This is change we will cheerfully continue.

June 25
For the second week in a row, I need to thank a Thinking for a Change reader for inspiration. From Northwestern Mutual, Jo Maze shared a quote from a Crucial Conversations class she attended.

"First you control your story. Then your story controls you. If you want to change your results, change your story."

What a perfect assignment for a few, quiet summer moments. (Maybe if you're lucky you can do it while on vacation - sitting on a lake shore or next to a resort pool.) How could you change your story? Next week I'll tell you how my daughter, Miriam, and I have done just that!

June 18
Clarence Miller from Cuna Mutual sent me a quote for Leaders. Gerard Seijts from the University of Western Ontario said,

"Changing the culture of a company can be a daunting prospect, but the outcome of not trying is much worse."

Now, you might not be in charge of changing a company's culture, but the same sentiment applies to changing with your team or working to change yourself. Be honest, what is it that you are reluctant to change but know in your heart is going to be an issue if you don't?

Thanks for sharing, Clarence. Great food for thought for us all.

June 11
In Northern Wisconsin, this was the year that Mother Nature decided to keep us hanging. Would summer ever arrive? Finally the weather has taken a turn for thoughts of outdoor activity to be more than wishful thinking! People who like sailing will appreciate Bob Herbert's comment.

"Winds change. If you're sailing against the wind today, it may be different tomorrow."

Maybe you're feeling like you're sailing against the wind in your personal or professional life. Think of Bob's hope for tomorrow - winds shift!

June 4
Did you know that Chris has been writing these messages for 7 years?

Who are you spending your time with? Elizabeth Willitt said, "the key is to keep company with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best." Spending time with others who share your excitement, enthusiasm, and joy for life increases your excitement, enthusiasm, and joy for life. (You can complete the opposite cause and effect yourself!) I guess our moms were right...choosing the right people to hang around with really matters.

May 28
Ever lose sight of what's important? A Starbuck's cup quote got me to thinking about how easy it is for that to happen. Film and television producer, Bernie Brillstein said:

"In a world where celebrity equals talent, and where make-believe is called reality, it is most important to have real love, truth, and stability in your life."

Make time today to take stock. What's the real love in your life? What do you hold to be true? What creates stability? Now give thanks for each of these treasures.

(Editor's note: Don't worry, you didn't miss last week's issue. We had some technical difficulties that prevented me from sending Change. All seems to be back to normal and I apologize for last week!)

May 14
I have long been a fan of Joseph Campbell's work. Earlier today I ran across one of the wonderful quotes he is famous for.

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."

I remembered the quote - generally, but was taken aback by the words get rid of. I didn't recall the force of Campbell's conviction that change should be an action taken rather than a reaction to outside events. Have you been thinking about change this way? What could you get rid of? And then what could you find waiting?

May 8
It probably won't surprise those of you who have been reading these messages for awhile - I love spending time in card shops. Recently Ifound one with this on the cover:

"She packed up her potential and all she had learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes and headed out to change a few things."

What would you pack if you set out to change a few things? Let me know. I may send the card to the best answer.

May 1
Every once and a while I encounter a quote that doesn't need much commentary. This one from H. Jackson Browne falls into that category.

Never underestimate your power to change yourself; never overestimate your power to change others.

Most people get it backwards!

April 24
Speaking to a group of Petroleum Marketers today, I got to thinking about change as a function of perspective. That reminded me of a passage from Nora Ephron's book, I Feel Bad About My Neck. (Great book.) Nora writes...

Things change in New York; things change all the time. You don't mind this when you live here; when you live here, it's part of the caffeinated romance of this city that never sleeps. But when you move away, you experience change as a betrayal....You turned your back for only a moment, and suddenly everything's different.

Change your perspective and change your feelings about change. Next time you're unhappy about a change, try looking at it from a different angle. Who knows, it may feel completely different.

April 16
Last week jazz, this week classical. The legendary pianist and conductor, Daniel Barenboim said

"The best thing about being a musician? Every time I play, I learn something new."

What about your relationship with your work? Does it challenge you to learn? If not, what could you do to rekindle the learning spirit in your life?

April 10
During an interview on CBS Sunday Morning, jazz musician Herbie Hancock said that his connection with Buddhism was important because "It's refreshing." His comment got me thinking that we all need something refreshing in our lives. Spring, music, good friends, good wine, good food, good fiction, well written prose... My list is endless. My concern is for the days when I don't pay attention to the fact that there are things during my day that ARE refreshing. Think I'll work to change that. I believe that Herbie, and the Buddha, would approve.

April 2
My friend and Master Facilitator, Kristin Arnold, CSP, sent me this thought-provoking Wayne Dyer quote.

"When you change the way you think about things, the things you look at change."

What could you look at differently? If you looked differently, would you be better off? Worth a try, don't you think?

March 26
Roger Bannister, the famous runner, has always intrigued me. He had to overcome an embedded mindset - humans can't run a mile in under four minutes - in order to change the sport of track. Listen to one of the reasons he was successful.

"The man who can drive himself farther once the effort gets painful is the man who will win."

Every change has some element or time of pain in it. It is the ability to work through the painful piece that always allows you to get to the next step. It may not be the equivalent of a four minute mile, but I bet there's some change in your future that will test your resolve. Remember, Bannister did what everyone thought was impossible - you could too!

March 19
Lots of people have advice about how to change. William James has a good, short take on the subject.

"To change one's life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions."

My favorite part, as you might guess, is Do it flamboyantly! (I added the exclamation point - I couldn't help myself. It felt flamboyant in a keyboard kind of way.) Sometimes I think we're so frightened of doing change wrong that we forget that you're ALWAYS going to do things wrong during change. There's no way not to make mistakes when you're trying new things. So, at least do them with flair!

March 13
Most organizations these days talk about wanting their people to work in teams. Many organizations don't clearly understand what it takes to build a team - in training, time, and resources. The great basketball player, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, has the expertise to comment.

"One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man can't make a team"

Allow me to paraphrase into a change perspective. One person can be a crucial ingredient to a change, but one person can't make a change. The next time you're faced with a change, think of the team you could assemble and go for it!

March 5
Hey, how are things going for you? In Northern Wisconsin we're in the worst part of winter. Isn't this ever going to be over?! Sometimes it's hard to keep your spirits up when there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. The playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wants us to remember that.

"Oh, we all get run over once in our lives. But one must pick oneself up again and behave as if it were nothing."

That will be much easier when the mountains of snow in our driveway start to shrink, but in the meantime, I'll do my best - if you will, too.

February 28
Ever been in a meeting or with a group of co-workers or friends when the conversation turned negative about an upcoming change? You may not have been thrilled about the change yourself, but you didn't hate it either. As you listened to the unhappiness of the others, you decided to keep your more positive opinions to yourself. No big deal, right? Martin Luther King, Jr. might disagree with your lack of action.

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Deciding to support complaints with the agreement of silence is, as my mother would say, naughty.

February 20
I'm reading a charming book discovered after hearing an author interview on NPR. Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish, tells her story - growing up on an Iowa farm during the depression. In a section describing her grandmother, she says,

"Hers was a no-nonsense, pull-up-your-socks approach to life, and it was her happy pragmatism that has stayed with me throughout the years. It was she who would say to us...'If you're looking for a helping hand you'll find one at the end of your arm.'"

It was the words happy pragmatism that stopped me as I was reading. Seems like that's a perfect attitude to have during change! (Discovering that helping hand wouldn't hurt either.) Let's make Millie's grandmother proud by taking her advice.

February 6
J. A. Jance has published at least 35 books; I've read them all. (If you like mysteries, you'll like her books. Start with the J. P. Beaumont series first - in order.) While reading her latest, Hand of Evil, I found the following paragraph.

"Don't," Deb Springer advised. "Nobody ever accomplished anything worthwhile by staying out of trouble. You need to decide what it is you want to do and then set about doing it."

This is the key to proactive change. Figure out what needs to be done, screw up your courage, and get to work. You'll be amazed how much energy you'll get out of this process!

January 31
This week marks the passing of Margaret Truman Daniel, daughter of a President, mother of 4 boys, singer, and writer of books. She lived a long and interesting life and leaves a legacy through both her children and her writing. Although she lived a privileged life, she never forgot her early life in Missouri and the values she learned there. It isn't surprising that she said this about the value of hard work and persevering.

"I do not believe that hard work goes astray, and I know that I had worked. I was willing to go on working."

Sometimes we think (fantasize is really a better word) that once we set out on a path of change, everything will fall into place and be easy. What Margaret reminds us of is the imperative to do the work necessary to accomplish what needs to be done. There will be a time during a change when you'll need to say, "I am willing to keep on working!"

January 24
As a person who didn't plan the end of the year very well - deductibles, you know - I've spent considerable time this week working on some not critical, but important, health issues. Every time I visit, my health care clinic provides me with a sheet of helpful information about my latest issue, with both my name and age printed boldly across the top of the page. These reminders of my age AND my latest evidence of physical deterioration made for a melancholy week. Until, that is, I received an email from my friend Rick Jakle with the following reminder:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOW, what a ride'!

Much better perspective, don't you think?

P.S. Many thanks to all of you who responded to my inquiry about changing Change. (I was tickled that everyone got the irony of asking about changing the notes about change. Nice to see that we're starting 2008 with a working sense of humor!) The overwhelming consensus was to keep it as is. Weekly, short, and to the point. Thanks especially to Greg O'Hearn who suggested the slight formatting change you see in this issue. Greg thought this would make it more user friendly, especially if printed out. We agree. Keep the feedback coming, any time. We love it!

January 16
How has the new year started for you? CNN announced that the stock market has gotten off to its worst beginning-of-the-year start ever! Depressing. An emotion that reminded me of Colin Rose's comments. "You are not stuck with your feelings. You can choose to change them." Or just turn CNN off for a while. <G>

P.S. Thanks for your comments and suggestions. Keep them coming. In case you missed it, last week I asked you, "Should I change anything?" If you have any ideas about changing Change, let me know. Send me an email with your ideas at I'll be tickled to hear from you!

January 9
Thinking for a Change reader, Marti Cargile sent me a link to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article describing the swearing-in ceremony of Milwaukee's new Chief of Police, Edward Flynn. Listen to a part of his remarks. "In my experience, being in favor of change is a little like being in favor of gravity. Change will come, whether or not you favor it. ...Although law enforcement's challenges change, our fundamental responsibilities do not." There's a lot of change truth in that statement. Thinking of gravity as a metaphor for change is a wonderful perspective, isn't it? I can't wait to see what Chief Flynn accomplishes with this attitude about change. I'll keep you posted.

P.S. Hey, it's a new year! I've been doing these messages just about every week for 7 years. (Hard to believe, isn't it?) Pretty much the same format - quote or situation I've run across and what it made me think about. It occurred to me that it was time for me to ask you, "Should I change anything?" If you have any ideas about changing Change, let me know. Send me an email (Chris@Change101. com) with your ideas. I'll be tickled to hear from you!

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