Sharon Pelham – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Life Lessons From Adults To Children
Today’s Guest – Sharon Pelham

I wish I knew that I am fine just the way that I am and that what I think of myself is far more important than what anyone else thinks. I have large, almond-shaped eyes, and I didn’t start to dislike them until I was in high school when a boy that I had a crush on called me “fish eyes” in front of others.

I remember being stunned and hurt that someone would say something like that, especially about a physical attribute that I couldn’t change. I just stood there before saying something like, ‘I do not!’ while his friends laughed.

It was in that moment that I gave another person the power to influence how I felt about myself. And that is a dangerous thing to do. Every attribute that others admired in me melted away in light of one person’s cruel remark said to get a laugh and boost his ego. I don’t even remember his name, but I won’t forget how those words made me feel and how I began to look at myself differently as a result of them being spoken.

From then on I wanted to, but couldn’t, make my eyes smaller; however, I could look away when someone was speaking directly to me. Why? Because in my mind if the person focused on my eyes, they would see how big they are and how much I looked like a fish, all because someone told me they did. I didn’t have enough self-confidence or self-esteem to know that my eyes were and are just fine the way they are.

It didn’t matter what my parents or friends said, I let what he said mean more than what I thought. Even worse, I internalized it. Some years after the high school incident, during an exam for my first pair of glasses, the simple words of my optometrist made me realize that I should be grateful for my large, almond-shaped eyes. You have wonderful eyes for glasses he said. I mumbled something about them being so large and he said, very quietly, “Do you know what some people would give to be able to have your eyes, to be able to see? “œ In that moment, I realized that I was blessed to have my sight and that I should be thankful for it. And I stopped being defensive about the size of my eyes.

I’d held on to what someone else thought about one of my physical attributes for far too long. What a relief it was to take that power away from someone who had no right to it in the first place. During the years and romantic relationships that followed, I‘ve received compliments on my eyes. I appreciate them, but I don’t take them to heart.

My eyes are beautiful because I believe they are and that is what matters and I tell the children and young adults in my life that all the time. One last thought: Knowing what I do now, if I had an opportunity to go back to that day in high school my response to my ‘crush’ would have gone something like this: Really? Is that lame, stupid remark the best you can do?  I then would have rolled my ‘big eyes’ and walked away.

– Sharon Pelham, Founder, Executive Consultant, Smith Carey Communications

Emily Westerfield – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Life Lessons From Adults To Children
Today’s Guest – Mike Domitrz

1. Your message to kids today that you wish you knew back then what you currently know now. Be specific.

As a professional speaker, Author, owner, and educator of the Date Safe Project. I want to send messages to parents and kids on the importance of safe and healthy dating, making the right choices in relationships, covering topics such as sexual assault, intimacy, and making the right choices. I wish that kids knew how to feel comfortable enough with themselves to stand up and speak out on what they want.

2. How did you learn your lesson or what was your lesson? Did you get hurt, did you upset someone, did you get scared?

My lesson learned was an unfortunate one, and one that i’ll never forget. The life changing event not only happened to my sister, but to our entire family. My sister was raped. I have since then dedicated my life and time to devote my knowledge to teens and parents educating them on how to handle situations like these and hopefully prevent these situations from happening in the future with the right education. I was indeed hurt, upset, scared, and a million other emotions including anger. The most prominent emotion was action. I wanted to take action and help others from going through the same feelings myself and my family had.

3. What you would have done differently back then if you could turn back time.

I don’t know if there is anything I could have done differently regarding this incident. As unfortunate as it is, it’s become my journey and passion to help educate others on this life lesson and learn from the past.

4. Do you convey this message to children in your life today?

I convey this message to each and every child or parent I can.

5. Anything else you`d like to add?

I would like to add that this experience has given me the right perspective to be able to speak knowledgeably about these topics. I think it’s great that more men speak out on these topics. Helping people is my passion, and i’m so lucky I can do this everyday.

– Mike Domitrz, Founder of The Date Safe Project

Scott Maloney – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Life Lessons From Adults To Children
Today’s Guest – Scott Maloney

1. Your message to kids today that you wish you knew back then what you currently know now. Be specific.

I now know as an adult what adults try with some success to teach our youths – to abstain from underage drinking and to make responsible decisions when of legal drinking age. No one ever likes to hear “I told you so!” after a decision that we made. It’s my hope that the youths learn from my mistakes and don’t need to experience them on their own.

2. How did you learn your lesson or what was your lesson? Did you get hurt, did you upset someone, did you get scared?

I learned my lesson through as the result of a near fatal decision I made under the influence of alcohol my senior year of college. A decision that nearly ended my life and affected my family forever. No one is invincible, not even a 21 year old in the prime of his life. I hurt myself, my family and I scared everyone I care about.

3. What you would have done differently back then if you could turn back time.

If I could go back and redo my life as a 21 year old I would without any hesitation. If I could go back and not make a silly decision to impress a few lower class-men my life would be a heck-uva lot better than it is today but I don’t deserve to complain because I got lucky!

4. Do you convey this message to children in your life today?

I do convey the message of responsible decision-making to students audiences ranging in size from 25 to 3,500 at a time …

Scott Maloney

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Mary Lee Gannon – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Life Lessons From Adults To Children
Today’s Guest – Mary Lee Gannon

I was asked to present to high school students as part of a program entitled “Pittsburghers That Make a Difference.” My topic was Goal Setting. When first asked to do this all I could think about was how boring a topic this would be to teenagers. It was even boring to me. And then when I found out that one of the other presenters was the veterinarian from the National Aviary who was bringing the Froot Loops bird I knew I was in trouble. So I decided to focus my talk on something kids and many adults tend not to think about – failure.

What happens when you set a goal, are working toward it and realize the goal was a mistake?

Forty-four percent of college graduates change their major between the second semester of their freshman year and graduation day. Eighty-three percent of a recent graduating class of Duke University were working for a different organization within five years of graduation and 43 % had changed careers at least once.

Setting goals and readjusting them is an ongoing part of life.

Remember two things with respect to setting goals:

#1. Begin with the end in mind – Know where you ultimately want to be.

#2. It is important to fail early – Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks.

If you have made a bad career choice, define your transferable skills and start researching other opportunities. Transferable skills are in the following three key areas: 1) Organization of Information, 2) Communication and 3) Fixing and operating equipment and systems. If you are in school and majoring in something you feel will ultimately not make you happy, diversify your course selection and change majors or minor is something new if it is too close to graduation.

Your job, your ongoing education, your relationships, your outside activities – they are like a boat at a dock. You will get one. You will get in it. Your boat will start to pull away from the pier. If you have a set of oars, you will drive the boat. If you don’t the boat will drive you. You probably won’t sink – unless there is a terrible storm where faith and self-worth will come strongly into play. But you will more likely find yourself in the same inlet circling the same waters over and over never being able to pull out of the harbor and into the sea toward a destination.

Think about people whom you have heard repeatedly say, “I hate my job.” “I hate my life.” “If only he would…” They haven’t taken hold of the oars.

Goals are not notions. Goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results Oriented and Timely. “I am trying” is not a goal. It’s a notion.

“I will do it within this amount of time” is a goal.

So ask yourself, if circling the inlet is good enough for you? Who is driving your boat?

When I graduated from high school I went off to college in Michigan where I majored in an allied health profession and took a job in the Houston Medical Center upon graduation. In my first month living in Texas I knew I had made a mistake. Houston, though lovely, was not where I wanted to live the rest of my life, but I could gain valuable work experience there that I couldn’t get in any other part of the world. I hadn’t anticipated how much I would miss my family and the familiarity of a town I loved. I really didn’t want to fall in love and marry someone and have to live away from things that m nattered to me the rest of my life so I set a goal – I would work in Houston for two years (personal goal with a time-frame) and then move to a place where my professional experience would stand out (professional goal with the end in mind). Two years to the day I moved back to Pittsburgh. Sure while in Houston I had to focus on smaller goals like where I wanted to live, what kind of furniture I’d buy, how long I wanted my commute to work to be. But the ultimate place I wanted to be was back in Pittsburgh with great work experience behind me.

homeThen I got back to Pittsburgh and set another goal. In two years I would buy a house. Well I hadn’t figured on falling in love so that goal got tossed out the window when I married and bought a house with my husband. We had four children. I continued to work in my profession before my first child was born but I was beginning to see
that while I was very fulfilled in an allied health profession at 25, there really wasn’t a lot of room for advancement and I couldn’t imagine doing this work at 45 or even 26 for that matter. I have an entrepreneurial spirit and that personality type breeds restlessness and achievement.

I was at a crossroads: I could continue doing allied health work forever. (Remember the people that say they hate their job?) Or I could work at something new – which was risky. I decided to fail early at my first career choice and regroup.

So I started building a corporate gift business and an antiques business on the side while I was working in a large physician’s office so that when we started a family in two years, I’d have something in place for home. (Calculated risk with a time frame that gave me the luxury of a paying job while building a business on the side.) I had always loved writing and after my first child was born I began writing on a volunteer basis for organizations for which I was volunteering.

What happened was that the corporate gift business and antique business were getting too large to manage from home and I did not want to work outside of the home while my children were young so one day I saw an ad that said the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was looking for freelance writers and I sent clips of my writing in to the PG for consideration. (The goal of staying at home with my children was ‘keeping the end in mind’ and being a reporter held a calculate risk of rejection.) I didn’t have a degree in journalism but that didn’t stop me. I’ll never forget what the PG editor said when he hired me. “Mary Lee, you can write like you are having a conversation around the dining room table. We can’t always find that.” So by now I had pretty much realized that I was not going back to the profession in which I had a degree. I was writing five stories a week for the PG. I had picked up a lot of freelance work such as being the public relations director of a public school district, the executive director of a trade association, freelance business writing and graphic design and more – all work I
did from home.

WriterI taught myself to write grant proposals when the public school district asked me to help them secure a grant for a summer program for special needs children. This work was not in my contract but that didn’t matter to me. I saw this as an opportunity to learn a new skill for which there was a need in society. I went to the Foundation Center of the Carnegie Library and looked up everything I could on grant proposals and then started calling funders all over the city to see if they would read my proposal. We succeed and the district was awarded $68,000 for the program. Next we pursued a grant to put AstroTurf on the athletic field. I then started to see that raising money was not just about the written proposal but more about the relationships between those asking for money and those giving away the money. I mentored under a keen school board member and we secured that grant as well – $450,000. I never got paid for working on that grant either. And I wouldn’t be where I am today without having volunteered to learn how to do this work.

The school district awarded me a citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for my efforts in securing these grants. Shortly after this and when my youngest child was in school full time I took that citation on an interview which resulted in me being offered a full time executive director position at a hospital foundation in charge of all of the hospital’s fundraising. Now remember, I had never worked as a professional fundraiser. They were not offering me the job of major gifts officer, event planner, vice president of operations or any of the other myriad of jobs in the fundraising profession. They were offering me the lead job because of measurably what I had accomplished in a short period of time – $518,000 in grants on my first two attempts to fund raise.

I was with that hospital for less than two years and was then offered the position at a much larger hospital as president of their foundation where our capital campaign goal was $5 million over two years and we raised more than $10 million. That led to a bigger position at a hospital foundation where I was just recently recruited.

“I will do it by taking these steps it in this amount of time” is a goal.

Again: If you only remember two things about goals remember this:

#1. Begin with the end in mind

#2. It is important to fail early – don’t be afraid to take calculated risks
and adjust your goals.

So ask yourself, “Who is driving your boat?” Do you want to get out of the inlet to a destination or is circling the same waters OK with you?

What are the steps to get there?

It was Christopher Columbus who said, “You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Pick up your oars and start now!

Mary Lee Gannon, CAE, President, StartingOverNow.com / Gannon Group

Vannessa Wade – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Life Lessons From Adults To Children
Today’s Guest – Vannessa Wade

As children we are taught to wish. We wish upon a start. We send Birthday Wishes. We wish for opportunities. However, life requires more than wishes. It requires action. Inside of wishing learn how to set goals and go for it. Create the opportunities you seek. Instead of saying I wish I could lose weight. I did and it has been nearly four years and 30 pounds ago.

We can wish for a lifetime, but to see favorable results we have to stop wishing and start doing. We can longer wish for good health or grades, we have to actively pursue it. The best time to discover that you can do anything and have a healthy life is now! Your world as a child is open. Walk though the doors and make positive changes in your health and community. Don’t wish or wait for someone to help the community, be the person that does!

Vannessa Wade, Connect The Dots PR

Tim Hutchinson – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Life Lessons From Adults To Children
Today’s Guest – Tim Hutchinson

My name is Tim Hutchinson, and I was bullied as a teen. It got to the point where I decided to gain revenge, and ultimately was stopped just blocks from my high school with an assault rifle and explosives. Had I made it that last block and a half, I would have become the biggest mass murderer in U.S. history. My life lesson is this; If I could go back in time I would have found a mentor much sooner than I did – someone who I could trust enough share my story with, and seek their advice.

It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I found a mentor, named Lustig, who fit those qualifications. (Interestingly enough, it turned out to be an older man who at one time lived with Adolph Hitler, and was put into a concentration camp for speaking out against Hitler.) He survived and moved to America to rebuild his life where he mentored one person; myself.

Lustig’s early lessons taught me that, in order to change my life, there had to come a time when changing myself was less painful than remaining in the life I had. At that time in my life, I was buried in an emotional hell. He said that simply telling myself to hold on was useless self-talk. Hold on to what? Hold on for what? These were all meaningless phrases that offered no real hope or help. When a person is in the darkest corners of hell, typically they just want to die. What was there to hold onto? Nothing. The same goes for the phrase hang in there. I told Lustig that the only hanging I wanted to do was at the end of a rope with a noose tied tightly around my neck. Those types of phrases would do nothing for me, and whoever came up with that garbage obviously had never personally been emotionally bankrupt. I, like most who experience troubled times, desperately wanted to escape the bondage of an emotional prison.

Lustig then introduced me to the concept of what he called the tunnel. During the darkest of times, it’s like being in a dark tunnel, cut off from everyone and everything in the world. It feels as though no one else could ever possibly know what it’s like to be trapped inside like that-like being in hell itself. What keeps someone going is to remind themselves that they won’t be in the tunnel forever. Every passing minute was one less minute they had to spend there. Every moment was one moment closer to a better, more peaceful, less stressful, and stable life-if they believe that it awaited them and they prepared for it. I listened intently to Lustig’s words and took it all in. I was in that tunnel, trapped and alone. To get out, I had to focus on the changes needed to ensure I never had to go through the tunnel again. I had to prepare myself to live the life I truly wanted to live. I had to believe it was possible and take the steps necessary to make it a reality. The first step to emotional freedom was forgiving those who had wronged me. This ultimately proved to be more of an ongoing journey than a single event and overall was no easy task. But nonetheless it was a critical step in recovering from the emotional scars of the hurt and resentment I had carried with me for decades. Letting go of the pain caused by all my negative experiences was probably the hardest thing that I had ever done in my life. I was made to feel like a worthless outsider in society, an unredeemable soul who didn’t deserve better than he got. I was the eternal outcast. Lustig made me see that carrying around all that pain did nothing to help me. It offered no benefit in my life whatsoever and was actually destroying me.

meangirlsFor example, every fiber of my being hated that bastard who horribly violated me. But I learned from my mentor that harboring unforgiveness in my heart didn’t hurt that person, it only prevented my healing process from beginning. The moment I was so violated could never be erased or forgotten. The perpetrator would never be held accountable. Holding onto hatred for that man only affected one person. Me. While I was physically in the present, my emotions were trapped in the past. Forgiving him would sever the tether that had firmly strapped me to the moment I was abused.

Lustig continued his teaching by saying that forgiveness also meant that I had to live with the consequences of that man’s actions. To let go of all of the pain in my past, I had to walk away knowing that not every injustice in the world would be punished, at least not in this lifetime. Sometimes when a person is forgiven, the greatest benefit goes to the one who is doing the forgiving. Lustig said I must forgive my attacker, not for his sake, but for my own. After harboring my feelings of hatred and revenge for all these years, forgiveness seemed unfathomable. Yet, Lustig’s words rang true. I was hurting no one but myself by carrying around such anger for my rapist and all of those who I felt had wronged me. They weren’t ruining my life, I was. They weren’t shaping my future, I was. I chose to forgive-and it was liberating. Through his mentoring I became a good citizen who now believes that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. I did not want to be among those who do nothing. I started speaking with teens at high schools about bullying, violence, and making better choices.

It’s that important. Who better to hear it from than someone who had been in their shoes and knows what it feels like to be hurt and want to hurt back? In 2004 I started a writing campaign about bullying and the need to help our kids rise above the pain they suffer in their lives. I hand wrote and mailed three letters a day, seven days a week for six years. I sent them to anyone and everyone who would listen and had influence-from politicians to teachers to educational organization leaders and city officials. I once thought that attacking my high school would have been the greatest day in my life, however, I now realize how wrong I was. It would have only destroyed many lives and prevented me from realizing a truly wonderful life; one filled with real hope, peace and joy that I now share with others.

– Tim Hutchinson, The Bully Doctor

Terry Walters – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

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Life Lessons From Adults To Children
Today’s Guest – Terry Walters

1. Your message to kids today that you wish you knew back then what you currently know now. Be specific.

Eating the colors of the rainbow is a great way to maintain balance year-round – as long as the colors are from nature and not artificially made (in other words, Fruit Loops don’t count)! The goal is to eat foods that naturally represent all of the colors of the rainbow, and foods that come from a plant (the green kind, not the manufacturing kind). Encouraging kids to be more adventurous eaters can be a struggle, particularly when it comes to eating vegetables. As soon as children realize you have an agenda, they’ll be on to you! So forget about the end result, and focus on making it fun and educational each day.

2. How did you learn your lesson or what was your lesson? Did you get hurt, did you upset someone, did you get scared?

When I was 25 years old my doctor told me I had high blood pressure, and it was mainly due to my poor diet. That’s when I changed my lifestyle and evolved myself in the clean eating and living movement.

3. What you would have done differently back then if you could turn back time.

I would be more cautious about what I was putting in my body. I would focus more on bringing home healthy food and leaving the indulgences behind. Make the hard choices once at the grocery store so that I wouldn’t be faced with making them every time I opened the cupboard. I would also Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Purchasing a share of a local farm’s harvest is a great way to discover new foods, enjoy seasonal fresh produce that’s fresh and delicious, connect with the source of our food, and support our local farmer.

4. Do you convey this message to children in your life today?

Yes, I convey this message daily to my daughters, so that they’re learning about good nutrition and are empowered to make healthy choices.

In the end, children will learn much more about healthy eating from what we do than what we say. Model the choices you’d like them to make, keep an abundance of healthy food in your refrigerator and pantry so there are not a lot of unhealthy traps and temptations, and enjoy sharing your meals and mealtime. Keep it fun, honor their likes and dislikes.

– Best-selling author, Terry Walters, a well-known holistic health counselor, food educator, and motivational speaker