Tag Archives: truth

The Power of Picking Your Focus

The Power of Picking Your Focus

After nearly five years and more than 250 blog posts, I’ve learned enough to know that inspiration can will strike in the most unexpected places. The inspiration for this week’s particular post came from a stranger in front of me in line at Panera Bread, who likely has no idea her wardrobe choice that day provided quite the colorful thought process over lunch. Her shirt simply read, “What you focus on expands.”

I can’t recall what cause or organization this t-shirt was designed to support; my mind was already wandering off in countless directions as to how this simple statement has proven true in my own life – even just recently.

I have always had an intensely focused mind. I have no trouble immersing myself into a project and blocking out all other distractions. Though very useful for my particular career path, these mental “blinders” I put up can also cause me to misguide my focus toward negative thoughts that are counterproductive…and at times, paralyzing.

I know I can’t be alone; I think most people can relate to the notion of “What you focus on expands.”

The Positive

The good news is that because what we focus on expands, this means that choosing to focus on positive and productive thoughts will lead to more positivity and productivity in our lives.

Have you ever experienced a stretch of a few days, maybe even longer, when things really felt like they were coming together in your life? The good news kept rolling in and you felt like you had a little extra luck leading your way? I know I have. Now reflecting upon these “charmed” moments, I can see that what I considered good luck was actually the result of having my focus in the right place.

Because I was focused on things that were going right, I was more inclined to find and appreciate even the littlest of things that were blessings in my day. I was focused on the positive and the positive continued to expand.

The Negative

Unfortunately there is also a negative side to these words of wisdom. In contrast to those positive moments in life, I know I can also recall moments (even weeks or months) when I felt down on my luck.

What likely began as some bad news, like losing a client, then spiraled into what felt like the opposite of the Midas touch. Everything I encountered seemed to go the opposite way of what I had hoped. It’s no wonder that since I was expecting a negative response, that is what I received. Even little things, like clumsiness or forgetfulness, seemed amplified.

The Power of Picking Your Focus

The reality is that in both the positive and negative scenarios I just shared, my luck was pretty much the same. The major thing that shifted was my focus. When I was focused on positivity, I was more inclined to see all the little positive moments throughout my day and overlook the negative. The opposite applies for when I am feeling overly negative. In a given day, I likely encountered just as many highs and lows, but how I choose to frame them is what determines my mood.

What I challenge you with today is to stop and really examine your focus. Are you feeling positive or negative? You have the power to pick your focus. Regardless of how your morning started or any residual stress left over from the week prior, you can choose to start anew. There will be days when finding the silver lining feels impossible, but really try to avoid taking the easy way out by choosing to be negative. Remember, what you focus on expands.

I’ll leave you with this thought from Regina Brett that has always cheered up even the most dismal of days…

“If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

Are you intentional about your focus? Share your tips or struggles and let’s start a conversation!


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Why Being Positive Makes You a Target for Criticism

target on person

In the midst of so many horrific, unsettling and unnerving events going on worldwide – from Ebola to Isis and many wars and natural disasters in between – it can be hard to maintain a positive outlook on all the good that still exists.

The media has done an excellent job of using all of these stories to sell papers based on shock value. How scary can they make the headline? How much hype can they create within a single article? Unfortunately, the duty then falls upon our shoulders to seek out the truth and to build up our own sense of hope.

Hope – what a powerful word.

Hope, or the lack thereof, can completely change your outlook on life. Even when surrounded by negativity, feeling hopeful can keep that bounce in your step and that smile on your face. However, in thinking late one night before bed as I had just scrolled through some of the latest headlines and was reflecting on some of the conversations I had that day, I came to the conclusion that one unexpected byproduct of having hope is that it can make you a target for criticism.

Anymore, if you don’t give in to fueling the hype machine with your responses to casual conversations about politics, wars, healthcare or the weather, people tend to criticize your motive for doing so. Want to see this point proven first hand? The next time someone asks you “So what do you think about [insert negative topic]?” Respond with, “Oh, I’m really not concerned. The solution is in good hands. And it’s still a beautiful day, right?”

The criticism you’ll receive, either by verbal rebuttal to continue the conversation or by a strange look and an awkward silence to end the conversation, will fall into one of three categories. Let’s take a closer look at what they are.

You don’t care enough

Myth: If you’re hopeful that things are okay or will all work out on their own, you simply must not care enough. Not true. You care, you care a lot. This is why you’ve taken on the challenge of cultivating a positive outlook at a time when it is the default and the easy way out to be negative. Regurgitating the mass media’s opinion takes little care whatsoever. It’s the positive people that truly do care about the greater good by maintaining hope.

You are naïve

Myth: If you’re not worrying, it’s only because you are too naïve to understand the gravity of what’s really going on. Not true. If anything you have a better understanding of the topic than most people which is exactly why you’re choosing not to worry. Either you know it’s something not worth worrying about or you know that worrying does absolutely nothing to solve a problem, even if it is of concern.

You are not doing everything you can to help

Myth: If you’re holding on to hope that the solution is already in good hands, you aren’t doing everything you can to personally help the situation. Not true. Pertaining to 99 percent of the world’s topics of concern, you personally can’t do much more to help than to remain calm and positive. By not contributing to the hysteria or spreading around exaggerated facts to scare people further, you’re doing one of the most important things you can be doing – spreading peace and hope.

It’s a tough topic, but one that I think is very important for us to give some thought to. Are we the hopeful ones being criticized into today’s frenzy of negativity and fear or are we the ones fueling it? Don’t let the risk of criticism stop you from cultivating hope in your own life!

In what ways have you experienced criticism for being positive? Share your own stories by commenting below!

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Posted by on October 27, 2014 in Life


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The Things I Would Never Know Without Facebook

facebook loginFacebook – what was life ever like before this social networking phenomenon? Old flames and friendships have been rekindled, businesses have taken off and tanked and jobs have been found and lost all as a result of our publicly displayed interactions on this single web site. With more than 750,000,000 unique visitors estimated each month, you’re in the minority (at least within modern society) if you’ve chosen to stand strong and quit or resist the temptation of joining Facebook. Because of the nature of my business and my own curiosity with other people’s lives, I don’t think I’ll ever join the ranks of Facebook protestors, just as I don’t anticipate becoming Mennonite anytime soon. However, just entertaining this idea did lead me to ponder what would I be missing if I deleted Facebook and disconnected from the world of “likes” and “status updates.” What would I never know if it wasn’t for Facebook? So here is my comical, but insightful list of the knowledge and resources I’d lack without my daily logins to the world’s most popular social networking site:

Last Names

Without Facebook I’m fairly certain I would know as many of my acquaintances’ last names as I would their phone numbers without my cell phone contact list. Which means I would basically only know the last names of my family members…maybe. Facebook has become my flash card memory game for learning people’s full names and placing them with a face. I’m always proud when I can reference someone by their full name without stuttering or second guessing. What I don’t also reveal is that in addition to knowing their last name, I also likely know what they ate for lunch and the name of their family dog…


What better way to make someone feel special than to remember them on their birthday? Facebook has made this nearly fool proof so long as everyone chooses to list their birthday on their profile. I’m not a supporter of the cheesy and impersonal birthday wishes on someone’s Facebook wall (in fact, I think it’s been years since I’ve done this for anyone), but Facebook does help to prompt me to send them a more personal message or mention it in conversation if I see them that day or week. Is this a cheap shortcut to actually committing birthdays to memory? Absolutely. But I know I always appreciate a birthday wish and rarely accuse someone of only knowing this because of Facebook – particularly if the wish is accompanied by cake or an alcoholic beverage. I’ll take it!

Life Milestones

Even more useful than a birthday reminder is being cued in to the major life milestones of my contacts. Without Facebook I would have to rely on second-hand information or class reunions to tell me about my acquaintances marriages, children, new jobs and even the less happy parts of life. This instant news feed of pictures and posts allows me to stay in the know and offer support or congratulations where warranted. It’s safe to assume that with the volume of “friends” most of us have on Facebook, most people look, but don’t comment on such milestones. However, the pride and excitement we experience from announcing our news to the masses is well worth the couple of haters that might come along with it.

Insignificant and Trivial Facts

Life milestones are one thing – they’re newsworthy, interesting and I’m happy to be kept informed of them. On the flip side, there are far more insignificant and trivial items that are also shared on Facebook that I could manage without ever knowing. When I spend more than 5 minutes of my day reading about someone’s rant over a ref’s bad call, cliché quotes or a self-photo shoot taken in someone’s bathroom mirror – I know that is 5 minutes of my life I will never get back and I need to remove myself from my computer immediately. There’s no denying that Facebook can be a huge time waster, so we have to keep in check what type of information we’re consuming and know when to step away.

How to Reach Someone Without an Email

Back to the more useful elements of Facebook, I’ve found it to be an extremely reliable resource of reaching people who I don’t have an email for. Mostly these are friends or distant relatives, but in some cases Facebook has also helped me to connect with someone regarding something business related. They had a bad email address or were unresponsive, yet answered my Facebook message within minutes. It’s amazing! Without Facebook, my “Plan B” for reaching someone aside from email or phone would be reduced to smoke signals or a carrier pigeon. While both are creative, they yield far less reliable results.

My Husband

I could say I saved this as the last item on my list because it’s my most exciting and most life-changing thing I gained from Facebook, but in reality it’s because I really didn’t appreciate how impactful Facebook has been on my life until I started thinking a bit deeper. It wasn’t quite as awkward or painful as an online dating experience, but the story of how we met is a pretty entertaining one that you can read more about here. My husband Scott and I first connected on Facebook after being introduced by mutual friends. Without a platform for social networking, I’m not sure how we would have followed-up and communicated further since no numbers were initially exchanged. Chances are good that the excitement to see each other again would have faded and that little spark fizzled out. But thanks to Facebook, that wasn’t the case! Our story is far from unique and the accurate number of couples who have connected and ultimately married as a result of Facebook would be hard to quantify.

To wrap up with just a brief moment of shameless self-promotion – for those of you who are among the 750,000,000 monthly visitors to Facebook, you should also connect with Bennis Inc here: I would love to soon have our number of “likes” reflect the number or loyal readers and followers of the Bennis Inc Blog. Don’t have Facebook? I still want you to connect! Instead, comment below and tell us why you made this choice.


Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Life, Social Media, Technology


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Technology & Honesty: Hiding Behind A Mask?

prom masquerade social media maskOscar Wilde was once quoted as saying, “Man is least himself when he walks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.” It seems that even back when “text” was what made up a novel and a “tweet” was the sound of a bird; we have always felt most comfortable fully expressing ourselves, truthfully and confidently, behind a mask. The masks we have to choose from today are aplenty. Some of us find masks to wear for only a few hours a day, for others its part of our job, but with the ever increasing use of technology and social media—the most interesting masks are the ones in which people choose to wear every time they communicate with the online world.

More and more I prefer email communication over any other. I like the shield it creates between direct communication like a phone call or a face-to-face meeting where immediate responses are expected. Email provides me with the luxury of answering requests at my own pace and on my own time. It also gives me a paper trail of conversations that is much easier to search and recall than anything merely spoken. I don’t argue that there are times where a quick phone call can clear up what would have become a lengthy email chain of confusion or that a sit-down meeting can easily knock off a laundry list of tasks in record time. But aside from these particular circumstances, email is my mask – and I feel most confident, professional and organized when working behind this visage.

Email is only the first of many technological masks we can choose to communicate from behind every day. Can you identify yours? Think how much easier it is to write out a difficult conversation over an email than to do it by phone or in person. I admit I still create an outline of a “script” when I have to communicate some difficult news that I know will upset the other person – even when I do it by phone. This mask allows me to say everything I want in the best way possible without forgetting or stumbling. I don’t do it with the intent to be insincere; I do it with the intent to minimize negative feelings and to organize my thoughts.

But what about the most fascinating mask of all – social media? This is where communicating with friends, acquaintances, members of your extended family – and even exes and enemies – is made a lot easier than doing so in “real life.” With this mask we tend to share overly personal information, comment or message people we’d never pick up the phone to call and even develop what can feel like a personal relationship with someone we’ve never met in person. If you don’t believe me, just wait until your next high school reunion where someone you haven’t spoken to in years will come up to you and somehow know your job title, marital status and the last thing you ate. Social media is a masquerade ball after all. Just because you’re wearing a mask, doesn’t mean you’re the only one. People are also sharing more information with you on social media than they might ever feel comfortable repeating to you again in person.

So what’s the incentive to be so confident and honest behind this front? What are we hiding from? The answer to this might be as unique as the person who’s being asked. Introspectively I believe I’m hiding from the fear of appearing disorganized, unprofessional or misinformed. When I can write it out and proof read it before I click send, it gives me time to think through what I’m saying and revise it if I so wish. Real-life, instantaneous responses do not afford me this same luxury. For social media, I think it’s the fear of having to witness a reaction we didn’t expect or having someone reply negatively. We’re not as afraid to be honest because we never have to witness an immediate response. We can say something and walk away and not have to hope that someone laughs at our joke or supports our rant about a bad day at work.

What do these technological masks mean for the welfare of face-to-face communication? I don’t think anything can replace the meaning of a conversation held in person. For the most sensitive topics – whether negative or positive – the ability to look someone in the eye and take in the expression in their eyes, smile and body language is crucial. And while technology can make a person sitting across the world feel like they’re sitting right across the table, it has yet to recreate this important aspect of “real” communication. While Oscar Wilde’s quote rings so very true, I hope that during the key moments in life in which we need to, we can be so bold as to remove our mask and be just as honest walking in our own person.


Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Technology


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The Yes List: Finding Meaning in the “To Do” List (Guest Blog by Amy Gaines)

The following blog post is part of the Bennis Blogger Battle. Support Amy by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment and sharing it on your social media! The blog with the most hits, wins.


to-do-listIn a recent battle with the ever-growing To Do List, the relationship between completing TDL tasks and building a personal brand developed new meaning: that of being a concrete, comprehensive, collected list of commitments.

Commitments are just that – something we have committed to complete by saying “Yes.” When we complete these tasks, our integrity, trustworthiness, and personal marketability increases because our word turned into our action.

And yet, maintaining the perspective that every item on that list is an opportunity to grow and improve our personal brand takes work. It takes work to guard the items to which we commit, work to keep track of those commitments, work to follow through on those commitments, and work to give 100% of our effort to those commitments. And in the midst of all that work, the tie between our word and our action is easily buried.

However, investing in the effort needed to maintain that perspective reaps significant benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the work involved in building your personal brand by making your word equal your action.

Guarding the TDL

If we are quick to say yes to everything, our commitments become unruly. Even high performers that churn through tasks quickly will eventually be overrun by an unkempt TDL. Learning to say “no” to certain commitments creates an opportunity to limit what goes on your TDL and allows you to focus on specific tasks. Good guidelines for identifying what goes on the TDL include: basic job responsibilities, direct requests from managers, [your] special interest projects, and personal favors.

Organizing the TDL

Many, many resources exist for taking and maintaining stock of commitments on the TDL. A personal favorite is the “Getting Things Done” series by David Allen. Regardless of the method, keeping track of the madness is mandatory.

Acting on the TDL

Break your commitments into actions and act. Keep stock of the resources you need to act on your commitments. Analyze the time a commitment will require before adding it to your TDL to ensure you have the time to complete the actions needed to follow through with the commitment. Above all else, learn to take your word (your commitments) and turn it into action.

Shifting our perspective to recognize the direct connection between our word/our actions and our personal brand is crucial to both success and sanity [especially in the professional world]. Recognizing this connection reminds us of the meaning and importance of each and every task on our TDL because that task is ultimately linked to a commitment. Completing our commitments sets a foundation of integrity for our personal brand that gives us added encouragement and footing to move forward successfully.


Amy GainesAmy Gaines is a functional software consultant in the higher education industry. Her specialties include recruiting, admissions, and enrollment management. She loves to travel, read and write, and chase a thought to completion. Helping customers improve their processes, efficiency and reporting gives her the most satisfaction. Please support Amy by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment below and visiting her personal blog “This Imperfect Life” at


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One Cell, One Lesson (Guest Blog by A Dear Friend)

The following blog post is part of the Bennis Blogger Battle. Support the author by “Liking” this post, leaving a comment and sharing it on your social media! The blog with the most hits, wins.


The human body has many diverse mechanisms to maintain high quality cell reproduction. Mutation 1.
The human body has a cell, sometimes, that does not duplicate itself correctly. Mutation 2.
The human body has other cells which can, most often, detect that something is wrong. Mutation 3.
The human body has cells whose sole responsibility is to annihilate a rogue cell. Mutation 4.
The human body has a beautiful system that prioritizes the division of resources to cells. Mutation 5.
The human body has positive and negative feedback loops to maintain perfect equilibrium. Mutation 6.
The human body has safeguards to detect if a cell is using more resources than is fair. Mutation 7.
The human body has 7 distinct defenses to destroy a rogue cell before it becomes cancer. Mutation 8.

It is not mine. It is someone I love. She is my mother.

My world has suddenly become small. My priorities have been simplified. We humans sometimes forget
how good it is until it is not. We never revel in the ability to turn our heads to the left until we wake up with a crick in our neck. We forgot our pride in our country until the towers came down. Often we need a reminder to remember what should be cherished. I will always regret the missed opportunities of the
past; however, I will not let it devour me. I do not believe in the credo that one should live life
without regret. There is no shame in regret, yet there is much shame in not learning from it.

I never truly knew hope. Hope was always bitterly paired with unrequited love. I never truly knew joy. Joy was always a heady, impetuous night of revelry. I never truly knew love. Love was always an ethereal concept with no tangible proof.

I am learning Hope through the optimism of my father. I am learning Joy through incremental improvements in my mother. I am learning Love through the earnest support of my family and friends.

My time with my mother may be short. It may not be. We just don’t know. That is out of my hands and I am learning to accept that. It is not easy to know that I can only control that which is within my own power.

I do not pretend to have any profound message for you, nor do I have any good suggestions on how to live life. Still, if I may offer the one insight that I have gleaned through all of this:

Never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them. Every day.

The author of this blog post is a personal friend and has chosen to remain anonymous, but still wishes to express some of the personal truths that he has stumbled upon (He is also really hoping to win that free cup of coffee). If this message has touched you, please share it, Like it or comment on it. We’re never alone…and we are ALL loved.


Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Guest Blogger, Life


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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: It’s almost never about WHAT you know

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

Lesson four: It’s almost never about WHAT you know

I wish my professors would have just been honest with us. How successful you are (basically) boils down to two things—who you know and how well you sell yourself. Especially for all the readers out there with a degree in Public Relations, Communications or the similar, you know what I’m talking about. Our communication skills, social competence and depth and breadth of our relationships are directly related to our success.

Throughout my years spent at Penn State, my classrooms were filled with hoards of Advertising and Public Relations students all training to be “master communicators.” Some students aced every test and could recite any answer a teacher asked of them, but they often blended into the background as soon as they put their hand down. The students who did make the biggest impression weren’t the ones breaking the curve, necessarily. They were the ones who could pull together an impromptu presentation with ease and confidence and could make a classroom of 500+ students laugh and feel as if they knew them personally.

This ties-in closely with Lesson three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer. I’m not talking about the students too lazy to open a book or the ones aiming for a career as a professional “bull shitter.” I’m talking about the students who did more than write the concept on a note card and memorize it; instead, they absorbed the concept and immediately applied it to their communications strategy of selling themselves. I’m sure everyone has a few of these friends in their lives. They catch on quick, have an impeccable ability to read a situation and make lasting impressions that build their networks almost effortlessly.

So maybe this isn’t something that can be entirely taught in a classroom, but these are skills we all possess to some degree. I wish my professors would have worked to help us refine these skills through “social challenges” such as walking into a business and asking for an impromptu meeting with the owner/marketing director to pitch an idea or even attend a party where you enter as a complete stranger and leave with at least 3 acquaintances—these type of challenges would have tested our core social abilities and helped to build skills we would have used immediately in any career.

I knew people who, even as 20-something year old college students, were too timid or insecure to call a restaurant for their business hours or walk into a party if they didn’t know at least 5 people. Anyone, no matter their field of study, could have benefited from at least one course emphasizing social intelligence to supplement the “what you know” with the “how well you can sell it.”

Even if you’re at the top of your class, you’ll be that much more valuable to a future employer if you have the social and communication skills to convey this knowledge.

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

Lesson Two: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

Lesson Three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.


Posted by on September 3, 2011 in Wisdom


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