Category Archives: Personal Perspective

Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

Tom Kelly, general manager of IDEO, the world-renowned design firm, likes to quote French novelist Marcel Proust, who famously said, “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” What goes for novelists goes for leaders searching to craft a novel strategy for their company, a new product for their customers, or a better way to organize their employees. In a world that never stops changing, great leaders never stop learning.

Today, the challenge for leaders at every level is no longer just to out-hustle, out-muscle, and out-maneuver the competition. It is to out-think the competition in ways big and small, to develop a unique point of view about the future and help your organization get there before anyone else does. Which is why a defining challenge of leadership is whether you can answer a question that is as simple as it is powerful: Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

Of course, learning new things is all about exposing yourself to new ideas. So if you want to learn faster, you’ve got to think differently about where new ideas come from. Here are a few ideas I’ve developed over the years about what turns leaders into learners — three “habits of mind” that will help you keep learning as fast as the world is changing.

First, the best leaders (and learners) have the widest field of vision.
After Steve Jobs died, I, like everyone else, read and watched as much as I could about his life and work. One of my favorite sources of insights was an old PBS documentary called “Triumph of the Nerds,” in which luminaries of Silicon Valley talked about what inspired their innovations. As Jobs talked about the original Macintosh computer, he talked less about semiconductors and software than he did about painting, music, and art.

“Ultimately it [creativity] comes down to taste,” he explained. “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done and then trying to bring those things in to what you’re doing…I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world.”

Translation: You’re not going to learn faster (or deeper) than everyone else if you seek inspiration from the same sources as everyone else. Educators know that we learn the most when we encounter people, experiences, and ideas that are the least like us. And yet, we spend most of our time with people and in places that are the most like us — our old colleagues, our familiar offices, our reassuring neighborhoods. If you want to learn faster, look and live more broadly.

Second, and more tactically, the best source of new ideas in your field can be old ideas from unrelated fields. A few months ago, after I gave a talk about innovation to a gathering of executives from the world of food retailing, one frustrated member of the audience asked for some advice about dealing with her boss. “My boss likes to say, ‘I want a totally new idea — and three examples of where that idea has worked before.’” The audience roared in recognition of the oxymoronic absurdity of the boss’s sentiment, as did I.

But then I got to thinking…Often, it turns out, a powerful source of “totally new” ideas in one industry can be standard operating procedures from another industry — well-established practices that look downright revolutionary when you simply move them from one place to another.

For example, leaders at Lexus identified all sorts of new ideas to reshape the customer experience for luxury cars by searching for clues at brands such as Four Seasons and Apple — companies that were great at what they did, even though what they did had nothing to do with automobiles. Physicians and administrators from London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children redesigned many of their surgical procedures by studying how Ferrari’s Formula One racing team handled pit stops.

Sure, there’s always a place for R&D as research & development. But there’s also a place for R&D as rip-off and duplicate. Ideas that are routine in one industry can be revolutionary when they migrate to another industry, especially when they challenge the prevailing assumptions and conventional wisdom that have come to define so many industries.

Finally, and most personally, successful learners work hard not to be loners.
These days, the most powerful insights often come from the most unexpected places — the hidden genius locked inside your company, the collective genius of customers, suppliers, and other smart people who would be eager to teach you what they know if you simply asked for their insights. But tapping this learning resource requires a new leadership mindset — enough ambition to address tough problems, enough humility to be willing to learn from everyone you encounter. Nobody alone learns as quickly as everybody together.

We all want to be better leaders. And the best leaders, it turns out, are the most insatiable learners. How are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

80-bill-taylor

William C. Taylor is cofounder of Fast Company magazine and author of Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself. Follow him on Twitter at @practicallyrad.

Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?

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The Best Leaders Are Insatiable Learners

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Nearly a quarter century ago, at a gathering in Phoenix, Arizona, John W. Gardner delivered a speech that may be one of the most quietly influential speeches in the history of American business — a text that has been photocopied, passed along, underlined, and linked to by senior executives in some of the most important companies and organizations in the world. I wonder, though, how many of these leaders (and the business world more broadly) have truly embraced the lessons he shared that day.

Gardner, who died in 2002 at the age of 89, was a legendary public intellectual and civic reformer — a celebrated Stanford professor, an architect of the Great Society under Lyndon Johnson, founder of Common Cause and Independent Sector. His speech on November 10, 1990, was delivered to a meeting of McKinsey & Co., the consulting firm whose advice has shaped the fortunes of the world’s richest and most powerful companies. But his focus that day was on neither money nor power. It was on what he called “Personal Renewal,” the urgent need for leaders who wish to make a difference and stay effective to commit themselves to continue learning and growing. Gardner was so serious about this learning imperative, so determined that the message would get through, that he wrote the speech out in advance because he wanted “every sentence to hit its target.”

What was his message? “We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit,” he said. “Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day ‘How can I be so bored when I’m so busy?’ I said ‘Let me count the ways.’ Look around you. How many people whom you know well — people even younger than yourselves—are already trapped in fixed attitudes and habits?”

So what is the opposite of boredom, the personal attribute that allows individuals to keep learning, growing, and changing, to escape their fixed attitudes and habits? “Not anything as narrow as ambition,” Gardner told the ambitious McKinsey strategists. “After all, ambition eventually wears out and probably should. But you can keep your zest until the day you die.” He then offered a simple maxim to guide the accomplished leaders in the room. “Be interested,” he urged them. “Everyone wants to be interesting, but the vitalizing thing is to be interested…As the proverb says, ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’”

In these head-spinning times, even more so than when John Gardner offered his timeless advice, the challenge for leaders is not to out-hustle, out-muscle, or out-maneuver the competition. It is toout-think the competition in ways big and small, to develop a unique point of view about the future and get there before anyone else does. The best leaders I’ve gotten to know aren’t just the boldest thinkers; they are the most insatiable learners.

Roy Spence, perhaps the most interested (and interesting) advertising executive I’ve ever met, recently published a book called The 10 Essential Hugs of Life, a funny and moving take on the roots of success. Among his wise and folksy pieces of advice (“Hug your failures,” “Hug your fears,” “Hug yourself”) is a call to “Hug your firsts” — to seek out new sources of inspiration, to visit a lab whose work you don’t really understand, to attend a conference you shouldn’t be at. “When you’re a kid,” he says, “every day is full of firsts, full of new experiences. As you get older, your firsts become fewer and fewer. If you want to stay young, you have to work to keep trying new things.”

Spence cites as one of his inspirations management guru Jim Collins, who, as a young Stanford professor, sought advice and counsel from his learned colleague John Gardner. What did Spence learn from Collins? “You’re only as young as the new things you do,” he writes, “the number of ‘firsts’ in your days and weeks.” Ask any educator and they’ll agree: We learn the most when we encounter people who are the least like us. Then ask yourself: Don’t you spend most of your time with people who are exactly like you? Colleagues from the same company, peers from the same industry, friends from the same profession and neighborhood?

It takes a real sense of personal commitment, especially after you’ve arrived at a position of power and responsibility, to push yourself to grow and challenge conventional wisdom. Which is why two of the most important questions leaders face are as simple as they are profound: Are you learning, as an organization and as an individual, as fast as the world is changing? Are you as determined to stay interested as to be interesting? Remember, it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

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How Successful People Handle Toxic People

Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.

Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you’re bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It’s the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralize toxic people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep toxic people at bay.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when dealing with toxic people, what follows are twelve of the best. To deal with toxic people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize.

They Set Limits (Especially with Complainers)

Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral.

You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

They Don’t Die in the Fight

Successful people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

They Rise Above

Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. Which begs the question, why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?

The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.

They Stay Aware of Their Emotions

Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.

Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with a coworker who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.

They Establish Boundaries

This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to Rise Above a person, you’ll begin to find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.

You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.

They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

They Don’t Focus on Problems—Only Solutions

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.

When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.

They Don’t Forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Successful people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

They Squash Negative Self-Talk

Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised in the hallway by an angry coworker.

They Get Some Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present.

A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.

They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.

Bringing It All Together

Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.

I always love to hear new strategies for dealing with toxic people, so please feel free to share yours in the comments section below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book,Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests, emotional intelligence training, andemotional intelligence certification, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.

How Successful People Handle Toxic People

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Leading or leaning?

Think of those immediately surrounding you in supervisory positions.

Now filter out your natural biases, jealousies or negative comments. Just look around. How did they get to where they are? Okay, now you’re free to flood the responses with whatever your perception is of how they arrived at that level. Some of your suspicions are probably true.

This article isn’t as much for those being led, as those doing the leading.

Ask yourselves how’d you get where you are? Was it because you exhibited leadership ability along the path of your career? Was it because you leaned against the wall longer than the next person?

Ever heard these pearls of wisdom from your superiors? Don’t rock the boat. Being first around here don’t mean squat. Slow down, you’ll make us look bad. If you screw up, I gotta take the heat. If you wanna fit in, you’ll do as i say.

Supervisors, ever mutter those words to an eager, idealistic employee? Most have. Why? Because it threatens their accumulation of time.

From our earliest days, we’ve endured years of hearing the “Seniority” alibi. Time – I got time – He got time – They got time. Ask yourselves just what did you do with that “time” you so proudly rest your laurels upon? Have you been a progressive leader of others, or have you learned to milk the system and the clock?

I’m months away from my 25 years in law enforcement. In no way am I against experiences and seasoning gained over years on the job. Although, to gain experience requires making an effort. To gain time just requires showing up without too much screwing up.

I cringe when I hear officers battling over promotions, assignments, vehicles or the last scoop of alligator sauce piquante and default to TIME.

As a supervisor, that’s usually the factor weighing most heavily against that employee gaining benefits where my discretion is involved. Tell me what you’ve accomplished in that time. We all can accumulate time – just sit there.

Don’t be that guy – you know the one who’s afraid to chance becoming amazing. The one who’d rather wait in the shadows because of fear of making an honest mistake. The one who will never accomplish anything significant, other than meaningless seniority promotions.

Take that chance, ignite a revolution. Be the one to earn benefits based on merit, no matter how many or few years you’ve accumulated. You’re going to spend years there anyway, you might as well make the most of it. Please, don’t be that guy.

 

Leading or leaning

 

 

 

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Are you pregnant?

Are you pregnant?

I thought what a crazy question to ask a man.

Are you pregnant with greatness?

Oh, not that kinda pregnant.

With greatness? I never thought about it. How many of us are actually pregnant with greatness? Unfortunately, we fear change. Therefore, we do anything we can to avoid giving birth to this potential. An odd analogy? Not really.

Change is often accompanied by uncomfort, if even for a brief season. The transition into motherhood requires many changes leading up to and after giving birth. Some dread the pains of labor and opt for epidural to mask the suffering.

Often we fear the pains of labor that increase the potential for achieving greatness. Whether its education, exercise, learning a new job skill required for promotion, or reaching out to a new social circle to find a more positive pool of friends – we fear change.

The greatness within languishes in our spirits, in our bodies and in our minds because we want more than anything to avoid the process standing in-between who we are and what we have the ability to become.

Ask yourself; are you pregnant with greatness? The answer is simple. Yes you are. A great parent, spouse, co-worker, community volunteer, or fellow human being is waiting for you to claim it. Stop being afraid of what might happen if you try for that promotion, or tell your spouse you’re sorry, or your child you love them.

Yes, the process is stressful and the unknown expanse between who you are and who you want to be is unnerving, but no more so than refusing to try. Don’t carry that potential around unbirthed until it’s too late to make a solid push.

Give birth to your greatness. Celebrate the miracle of life – YOURS.

Are you pregnant?

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Always Faithful | America’s Night Before

911 pledge

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September 10, 2014 · 23:51

Capturing the Moment \ Christie Pepper / Part 2

CPepper face

Christie Pepper Photography©

http://christiepepperphotography.smugmug.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ChristiePepperPhotography

Welcome back to the second half of my interview with Christie Pepper. In addition to having first met Christie while working at the same Sheriff’s Office, she’s a trusted honest eye for my upcoming crime thriller and current A Cajun Murder Mystery Series.

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I’m excited to continue this conversation with Christie because one answer blew me away. I’ve asked this same question to others, and yet her reply was so unique, I’ve thought about nothing since. You’ll know it when you read it.

Scott – Getting right to it, what do you enjoy most about photographing south Louisiana?

Christie – South Louisiana is absolutely beautiful. As a child, I had huge dreams and couldn’t wait to become a powerful successful woman, move away to a big city, and live in a loft apartment overlooking the hectic streets and bright lights.

Today, I look back and laugh. I never appreciated the true beauty and history that surrounds us. The prominent old oaks, perfect cypress trees, elegant “gro-beck” cranes, vicious gators and other wildlife should be appreciated.

In today’s time, everyone is busy, life is frantic at times and we all have to work just make ends meet, but we also have to take some time to sit back and appreciate what God has surrounded us with.

Just driving down Hwy 308, we can see old plantation homes, wildlife, vibrant plants and trees, but how many of us truly notice it?

We all have a destination in mind and get there as fast as we can, foregoing any admiration and gratitude for what physically encompasses us. For those who can’t see these images, I hope that my captures bring the beauty to them.

Scott – I know it’s cliché, but it fascinates me – If you could photograph anyone from any period of time – who would it be? Why, and how would you set the shot?

Christie – That’s an easy one, I would love to be able to photograph my mom with my children. She passed away when my youngest was only two years old. He wasn’t even speaking yet.

I know that she would be very proud of all of grandchildren and I try to keep her memory and spirit alive by speaking of her often. I don’t necessarily think I’d want a posed picture though.

I’d love to just capture some candid shots of her and my children enjoying each other, laughing, playing, and any other things that were taken from them when she was called home.

She loved New Orleans and would spend time in the French Market and Riverwalk every chance she had so it would definitely have to be shot somewhere in that area.

Scott – Lots of smart phone picture snappers to professional enthusiasts out there. What wisdom would you share with aspiring artists?

Christie – Capture everything that you see is beautiful. The way you see something is truly different from the way others see things. The one statement that I hear over and over is “you have the eye for beauty”.

I have taken pictures of light fixtures, buildings, and natural habitats that people see on a daily basis, but have been told “I have never seen it that way before.”  Don’t ever give up on anything that means something to you.

Art is always open to interpretation, something that may be beautiful to one, may not be to another. It is your way of expressing your views and emotions to others without words. Also when taking portraits, the venue should be the choice of the person being photographed.

I like to get to know the people I am photographing before doing it, in an effort to bring out their personality and charm. I’m not a huge fan of over editing faces, everyone’s natural beauty deserves to come through. This of course is just my opinion, and I have found that my clients feel the same; editing is always discussed before anything is done to photos.

Christie – thank you again for gracing us with you passion and talent. Stay safe on the job and best of success capturing the moment.

Stop by Christie Pepper’s Facebook page and hit the LIKE button. You’ll be glad you did.

Making the Picture Count \ Christie Pepper / Part 1

Capturing the Moment \ Christie Pepper / Part 2

 

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