Posts Tagged ‘true stories’

Do what makes you happy

Seek Happiness

The Cherry Sisters—19th-century Iowa farm girls—yearned to visit the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. So in what would later become the tradition of many a B-musical, they chimed: “Let’s put on a show!”

Effie, Addie, Ella, and Jessie came up with the idea of staging a vaudeville act to pay their way to the fair. Their inexperience, corny material, and all-around lack of talent didn’t bother the hometown friends and neighbors who gave them enthusiastic applause when they tried out their act. But road audiences expected entertainment for their two bits. So the Cherry Sisters grew accustomed to dodging rotting vegetables and raw eggs. Addie was even known to patrol the stage with a shotgun to keep audiences from running the girls out of town.

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Be confident in your ideas

South Sawyer Glacier and the Coast Range, Alaska

In these precarious times, it takes courage to approach others with an idea for a new project you believe will pay off in the long run. And it takes special courage to stand by your idea when no one but you can see its value.

William Seward had that kind of courage.

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Avoid making snap judgments

Dagwood Sandwich

With so many out of work these days, employers can practically sketch their ideal employee and find someone to perfectly fit the image.

Not many would sketch Nic Schoonbeck.

A decade of drug abuse had left the 24-year-old with a felony arrest record and bedraggled appearance. But as Rhonda Abrams explains in her book Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom, the owners of Zingerman’s deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, prided themselves on looking beyond externals when interviewing prospective hires. So instead of being put off by Nic’s unkempt ponytail, torn t-shirt, and spotty résumé, they welcomed him aboard and assigned him sandwich duties.

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Creating a Christmas classic

Rudolph with Your Nose So Bright, at Tivoli Gardens, Denmark

After years of recession, we know all about cutting back and being frugal. Folks knew all about it during the Great Depression, too. Executives at Montgomery Ward weren’t worried about pinching pennies when the mail-order giant launched its first retail store in the mid-1920s. But by 1939, even the retail powerhouse had to cut costs during its annual Christmas promotion. So instead of buying coloring books, the company decided to create its own in-house giveaways.

Although 35-year-old Robert Lewis May was fortunate enough to be employed as a copywriter in Montgomery Ward’s advertising department, it still wasn’t the most wonderful time of year for him. His wife was battling a terminal illness. But since he enjoyed trying his hand at children’s stories, he appreciated the assignment to come up with a booklet to replace the coloring books. Perhaps his melancholy over his wife’s illness led him to think of his childhood as a small, shy boy often teased by others. Inspired by his memories, he created Rudolph, a red-nosed reindeer rejected by his classmates.

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The credit-grabbing boss

Ships of Christopher Columbus Sailing on Earth

It’s tough enough to get ahead these days without others taking credit for your work. But office politics is nothing new.

In the 15th Century, English and European sea captains made their fortunes by traveling to the Far East and returning with valuable silks and spices. But it was an arduous journey, around the southern tip of Africa, up to China and Japan, then down and back again. Believing the earth was a small orb, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus thought he could sail straight across the Atlantic, around the globe, and arrive at Asia in record time.

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Finding inspiration from grief

Civil War Field Telegraph Sending-Key in Working Order, Shiloh National Military Park, Tennessee

From King David’s ancient psalms lamenting his conflict with son Absalom to artist Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece mural commemorating the 1930s bombing of the Basque town Guernica, human creativity has been inspired by real-life tragedy.

What sets apart portrait painter Samuel Morse isn’t that his life influenced his art, but that the inspiration wasn’t expressed in charcoals, oils, or watercolors but in the invention of a new language.

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Being an unlikely leader

Variety of Groceries in Paper Bags

Sometimes it feels like I was born in the wrong era. I’d love to have marched with suffragists at the turn of the last century, campaigned for better labor conditions in 1930s factories, or helped stage sit-ins on college campuses in the 1960s. Oh, I’ve participated in my share of marches and worked for many causes. But I always yearned to do something more dramatic … until an unlikely hero reminded me you don’t have to start a revolution to make a difference.

“Johnny” was exceptional … but not in a way that usually suggests leadership qualities. He had Down Syndrome, and working as a grocery bagger for a Midwestern supermarket chain was likely as far as his skills would take him.   Continue reading...

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The trouble with mind-reading

B.B. King

We all have hidden talents. Mine is mind-reading. Somehow I can discern—without any meaningful evidence—when people disapprove of, or disagree with, something I’m saying or doing. It’s an amazing skill. And what’s truly amazing is how many of my friends share this wonderful gift. In fact, the world seems to be a thriving hive of mind-readers.

We mind-readers could be a useful or dangerous bunch … if we were any good at our hidden talent. But usually when we decide what other people are thinking, we couldn’t be further from the truth. And if we act on our fanciful imaginings, we only wind up hurting ourselves … as blues legend B.B. King once discovered. In a 1997 interview with writer Kira Albin for Grand Times magazine, King shared how his mind-reading skill combined with his love for potato pies to create a painful childhood moment.

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Getting the last laugh

Ice Skater's Feet As She Leaps in the Air

With emerging technologies ushering in new industries while phasing out others, many of us are tackling challenges we didn’t envision when starting our careers. Fortunately we don’t have an audience watching as we stumble through the awkward learning phase.

Yao Bin wasn’t so lucky.

He was born in the People’s Republic of China in 1957 during the last gasps of Chairman Mao’s “Social Revolution”—which wiped out the class system—and a heartbeat before his “Great Leap Forward” plan to radically reform the nation’s economy. Yao’s birthplace was Harbin in Heilongjiang Province, a place of brutally cold winters nicknamed the “Ice City.”

Geographically, Harbin is almost nestled in the arms of Siberia and has always felt the influence of its Russian neighbors. Following their defeat in the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, Russia’s White Guard fled to Harbin, establishing the largest Russian community outside the mother country. Most were forced to leave during the post-WWII Soviet occupation, but during Yao’s boyhood, Harbin still bore the architectural and cultural influence of Russia … including, perhaps, that nation’s love for figure skating.

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Act like somebody

Rude, Obnoxious or Ornery

All it took for a Blizzard to start a firestorm was the suggestion that people be themselves. Apparently a lot of us have decided we’d rather be someone else … someone whose behavior is not our responsibility.

People claim to be increasingly bothered by rudeness. Nearly 75 percent of Americans responding to a recent online survey, conducted for communications and public affairs firm Powell Tate, said poor behavior has gotten worse in recent years. But when Blizzard Entertainment tried to curb some of that incivility by requiring participants in its “StarCraft II” and “World of Warcraft” forums to use their real names, the company received a blistering response. The idea was shelved within a week.

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I'm Deborah, survivor of everything from multiple cancer battles to major business setbacks. Join my search for ways to move the mountains, big & small, that block your path to success.
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