The old saying that we all have heard most of our lives is that
“The only things that we can count on happening are death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin
I take issue with that declaration by adding one other component of our journey and that would be
“the inevitability that change will occur.” If not now… be patient, it is on the way.
“In preparing for change, it takes a readiness to accept the expected as well as the unexpected. Here, lies the true challenge.” – Wayne Messmer
Does Everything Happen for a Reason?
There is a school of thought that the sequence of events that occurs in our lives is all carefully laid out for us like a row of dominos waiting for the initial energy to start the chain reaction. I discovered that change has a way of sneaking up on you, just like old age. Our best-laid plans are often swept right out from under us, just as we least expect it. Trying to find a reason is often a frustrating chasing of the tail.
Think of Change as an Opportunity for Improvement
Have you ever been blindsided? Too often, change in job status or in a life situation proves to be crippling, particularly if we get blindsided by it. At times in my life, when the unexpected jumps in front of me, I imagine sitting in a rowboat surrounded by water without oars.
We constantly have the opportunity to prepare for the “what-ifs” in our life. As I share from the stage, it often feels like we “place land mines in our own back yard.” When I was blindsided in ’94 with a bullet to the neck (my land mine), one of the greatest lessons I learned was that I had to open myself up to the possibilities of change.
Where Do You Find the Answer?
Countless times over the years, I have described the “so-called moment of truth.” It is that instant when you focus on the person looking back at you in the mirror. The voice is quite recognizable. It speaks even when we would rather not hear what he/she has to say. The words are few, but poignant, the voice simply says, “You’re not fooling me.”
Not knowing whether I would live, let alone talk or sing the National Anthem again, forced me to examine my options. It forced me to open myself up to all the possibilities for my career and life. It is painful when “life happens.” Sometimes, you may not want to get back on the horse that just threw you to the ground, or to reach down to pet the very same dog that just bit you.
Accepting change, embracing change happens either when we catch our breath after the dust settles or when the alarm sounds. Either way, we step forward into the unknown, and we find that change can be an emancipating moment. And on the other side, we find everything we didn’t yet know we could achieve. And, that my friends, I have found to be, is one of the telling tales of what it takes to instill the “Spirit of a Champion.” ©
What challenge are you facing? It’s your move. The next step IS entirely up to you, and that person in the mirror. You can do it. Step forward, to the other side. Waiting for you is everything you have yet to achieve. Embrace “The Spirit of a Champion.” ©
Life isn’t easy. We all have our challenges. But what if your entire life as you knew it changed in a split second? What would you do? How would you react? More importantly, how would you overcome and march on?
Wayne Messmer knows all too well how sudden change plays out. In April 1994, a singular event dramatically impacted Wayne Messmer’s life. Nationally recognized as the “Voice of the National Anthem,” Wayne steps off the baseball field and onto the stage to share his powerful story of survival, courage and triumph.
Audiences walk away with
- New perspectives to adapt to sudden change, no matter the circumstance,
- Inspiration to face the unexpected with great resilience to persevere,
- And motivation to embrace the change by instilling “The Spirit of a Champion.”
Wayne Messmer is a master storyteller who engages audiences with a balanced mixture of wit, humor, music, experience and inspiration. Drawing from a storied career as a certified speaking professional, singer, broadcaster, author, actor, and businessman, Messmer delivers a timeless message of resilience, perseverance, adaptability and hope for all audience types. You will be changed by Wayne when join his journey on stage, and in blogs, books and music. Watch Video. Book Now.
Each year, as the Christmas season is upon us, the challenge for many, is to try to carry on despite the absence of a loved one. The feeling of separation or loss is greatly magnified during this period that is supposed to be enjoyed together with those you love.
We hear talk of “Christmas Spirit,” but do we really put it into practice? Reaching out to someone who might otherwise be alone at this time of the holidays can be one of the greatest gifts they will ever receive, and it does not cost a penny. Pay a visit to a nursing home, a senior center, or a hospital to bring a simple message that just says, “you are not forgotten.”
Christmas memories are meant to be the beautiful sight of watching the smile of a little child as they scamper down the stairs to discover that Santa had visited overnight leaving some neatly wrapped presents under the tree. It should be the joy of gathering around the piano with friends and family singing the carols that have been the sounds of the season throughout our lives. It should be that special moment when handing over that special gift for that special person in your life, whether it be your first true love, or your life partner who is deserving of all that you can give them.
For many, these memories and feelings are sometimes painful to recall, when facing Christmas without that someone special. In the lyrics of the song “Doesn’t Seem Like Christmas Without You,” written by my dear friend Joy Smith, we understand that life goes on despite our losses and separations. However, our challenge is to make a genuine effort to reach out beyond the comfort zone of our circle of family and friends and touch someone’s heart with a random act of Christmas kindness. A smile, a hug or even just a gentle touch can be the greatest gift that you might ever give.
Doesn’t Seem Like Christmas Without You
Christmas time is here again
The Season’s full of cheer again
I should be merry, but I’m blue…
Doesn’t seem like Christmas without you.
Snow is falling down again
And Santa’s back in town again
But gifts, should be exchanged by two
Doesn’t seem like Christmas without you.
‘Tis the season to be jolly
But what’s a holiday for one?
Can’t help feeling melancholy
When you’re not there to share the fun.
Christmas bells will ring again
And carolers will sing again
My dreams will have to see me through
Doesn’t seem like Christmas without you.
As we spread the true meaning of Christmas by remembering the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem, may we commit to share another precious gift with the world by exchanging a smile and a loving word with one person, one soul at a time.
To quote a classic phrase from another seasonal favorite, ’The Night Before Christmas,” the traditional poem by Clement C. Moore, I share my Christmas wish to say, “Happy Christmas to all… and to all, a good night.”
I have never caught the fever of so-called, Black Friday. Somehow, waking up in the middle of the night to get in line at a giant box store to get a jump on my neighbor for this year’s latest toy… just didn’t appeal to me. No doubt… there are bargains to be had, but not at the expense of risking life and limb with the modern-day re-enactment of the Oklahoma Land Rush, or better yet, the running of the bulls in Pamplona.
Of course, it very well may have something to do with the fact that many Americans will be coming off an all-you-can-eat feeding frenzy with the rest of the family, the day before. That’s where the only thing more stuffed than those who circled the dinner table was the turkey.
The day after Thanksgiving is sometimes thought of as the day that the merchants finally go “in the black,” as in… make a profit for the year. Well, I should hope so, after all, we’re talking about the end of the penultimate month of the calendar year. Thus, answering the rhetorical question, “Have you ever thought of going into retail?”
The alarm clocks are set and so are the sights of the determined shoppers who will make a bee-line for the section of the store that has only a few of those advertised items at the amazing sales price. It’s a hook to get you in there in the first place. Maybe that’s a bit too cynical? But hey, when that’s happening, I’ll still be cuddled up in my soft, cozy bed with thoughts of a turkey sandwich, (you can hold the sugar plumbs) dancing in my head.
The History of “Black Friday”
The term “Black Friday,” is said to have been originated by the Philadelphia Police Department in the early 1960’s when the order went down each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Oh, it was sounded for a 12-hr shift and no days off for anyone. They had to handle the traffic and the crowd coming to town for the traditional Army – Navy football game. The coppers didn’t like it one bit… and it became known sarcastically as “Black Friday.” The media picked it up, and the name stuck.
What I am concerned with, is not the crowds or the size of the bargains that I will surely miss, but rather, the fact that many of the warm hugs and family prayers have already vanished in the evening of Thanksgiving, as quickly as a New Year’s resolution. I can only hope that the feeling of togetherness and thankfulness would last… for at least another day.
Shop if you must on “Black Friday,” but try to keep the warm glow of Thanksgiving throughout the next several weeks as we prepare for the granddaddy of all shopping seasons. Oh, you’ll need all the strength you can get.
Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight
Every so often, the duo of Mother Earth and Mother Nature find it somehow necessary to compete for the biggest disruption of the lives of otherwise peaceful people with the natural disasters of flooding, tornadoes and hurricanes.
We have had our share of disasters this year with devastation in many parts of our country, leaving folks without electricity, water and in many cases, even a home in which to live. As first responders risk their lives to help those in need, it often goes unnoticed that the families and individuals who are left with nothing are the ones who must grab life by the boot straps and get to work trying to continue in the aftermath of tragedy. These brave and courageous souls have no choice but to try and carry on as best they can, despite the human condition. Where is the source from which they draw this strength? That is the age-old question that we may never completely know the answer to until we are faced with a critical situation head-on.
As a speaker, I focus on the topic of resilience and mental toughness as we are charged with the challenges that accompany change. It has become very apparent to me that it is not the severity of the trauma that we face, but rather, our reaction to it that measures our true character. There is a Zen belief that encourages us with the words… “Fall down 7 times, get up 8.”
As parts of our world struggles to regain their homes and try to bring some semblance of order back into their lives, I think about the inner strength that it takes to rise, again and again, despite the odds against you. Somehow, the tenacity of the human spirit has this amazing ability to forge on, in spite of the magnitude of the precipitous event or setback. It has been said that there are only two types of people in the world: those who have been hurt, and those who have been hurt worse. Inside each of us is the strength that we may have never realized before, until such time when we are called upon in these moments of truth.
Each time another catastrophe strikes, I am reminded of the story of the resilience of the folks who lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota many years back. Unfortunately, this scenario has been played and replayed in other towns and cities many times since then, and the courage shown by others is equally as inspiring, but I will always remember the good citizens who lived in Grand Forks.
There is so much more to the story than just the fact that the banks of the Red River sent floodwaters spilling over its banks. There was a collective statement made by the rugged individuals who looked the beast squarely in the eye and said, “Hold on a minute here… you can damage our buildings, but you cannot destroy our spirit!”
The true sense of community that beams across this great country was never more obviously touching than in Grand Forks, ND. It was then, and is now, worthy of a second look. We might all just learn a few things about resilience.
At a time when ninety percent of the fifty thousand residents found their homes and businesses… or both… under water, it would have been much easier to just give up, accept defeat and literally throw in the towel, but they refused to do so. Instead, the town’s newspaper, the Grand Forks Herald continued to print the news of the day just as they had done for the previous one hundred years. The Herald was kept alive, although their building was at first flooded and then subsequently destroyed by fire. Much like the stoic Queen Victoria once said, “I am not interested in the possibility of defeat.”
The newspaper may not have been all that they wanted it to be during that period of community crisis, but it was everything that the townsfolk of Grand Forks needed it to be. It was a moment of raw courage where the inner resolve was tested and the lifeline that they needed was there at a time of togetherness.
Now, that is truly news that is fit to print and a glowing example of “The Spirit of a Champion” in action.
I remember my first day of college. I was nervous and expecting that someone was going to ask me what I was doing there, and then ask me to leave. It was a strange and fearful moment when I realized that as the first person in my family to begin college, the journey had begun and there was no stopping the inertia that had been initiated. There was apprehension and a lot of the unknown staring me in the face.
As vividly as I recall that day, I also recall the trip home on the bus, feeling taller than I had been when I woke up earlier that morning. There was something different about the world, suddenly, I was a college student… and it was at that point where I never looked back, through undergraduate and graduate school that followed.
Many of the lessons that I learned proved to carry me through the rest of my life, and they came from those glorious years of learning and the experiences that I consider to be invaluable. Testing the waters and pushing the limits of my knowledge to new heights while shaping the core values that would serve as the rudder of my life’s journey are the moments and memories that are once again spinning through my mind as I prepare to accept a great honor from my alma mater.
It was at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL, where I discovered an oasis of all things that I loved… standing in front of people and using words and music, to connect with others. I also found academic challenges, a community of sharing, a fraternity of brothers and a place to call home.
As the drum major of the Marching Titans, I had been handed the whistle to lead my fellow marching band members down the gridiron at halftime at football games. I also organized and directed the “pep band” for the basketball games while subtly developing a sense and understanding of leadership along the way. Lesson learned was the discovery of the strength of teamwork, cooperation and learning when working together with others.
As a hopeful singer, it was there, at IWU, that I was first encouraged to study the art and the craft required to make it professionally as a vocalist. Because of the attention shown to me, I found the courage and inspiration to do the hard work that is necessary to find success in singing, or any of the other fields of endeavor that I successfully pursued later in life. The lesson learned was simple, yet very profound, hard work and dedication really do pay off.
It was during my time as an undergraduate that I struggled with my feelings about my country and the war that raged in Viet Nam. Fortunately, I was surrounded by caring and loving professors who understood the struggle of my generation and guided us through the tumultuous times of conflict and our collective search for meaning in life. Lesson learned was to find out how to decipher truth from fiction and how to appreciate history as it happens before our eyes, not after it had already passed.
My heart learned about what I believed to be love and love lost. I also recognized that my passion was brought to the surface, to discover that I am a musician first and everything else second in life. On campus, it was Parent’s Weekend when I sang “Leaving On a Jet Plane,” as my first professional singing gig. It was then that I overcame the terrifying fear of performing in public, a feeling that was solidified when chosen as the vocalist for the IWU Jazz Band. Lesson learned was confidence. That inner strength directly led to my career as a speaker, singer, broadcaster and entertainer.
There are people I remember too, who were there when just the right words were needed, or to provide a show of recognition for an accomplishment to help me realize that if I believed I could do something, I could usually do it. Lesson learned was that it only requires one voice, your own to succeed.
I have fond memories of the priceless friendships that were formed and the lives that I knew when we were all so young and vibrant who have since been lost. I also recall the pride of accomplishing what I set out to do, namely, become the proud graduate of this fine institution of higher learning.
A number of years ago, I was humbled when receiving a call from the president of the IWU. He informed me that the graduating class of 2003 had requested that I deliver their commencement address. It took me only seconds to accept. It was the pinnacle of my pride as a graduate, or so I thought.
A couple weeks from now, my pride will once again swell to an all-time high as I accept the honor of being chosen as the Illinois Wesleyan University Distinguished Alumnus for 2017 at the Homecoming celebration. This honor will be shared with my fellow classmates and with all those who inspired me to always try to do my best. Using all of the lessons that I learned, I will stand proudly and speak from the heart as a grateful student of life and never forget the greatest lesson that I have ever learned… which is, how to love and to be loved in return.
Fall is approaching. For many, it means a new season of schedules for the kids that either intertwine or conflict with school, sleep, meals, work and family life. If you find yourself lamenting each evening about how tired you and the kids are at the end of a long day, it very well could be that your family is struggling because you are out of balance with work, school, healthy foods, exercise and the countless scheduled activities.
Trying to keep my own calendar straight is a challenge, and I often speak with individuals who are trying to get a handle on their world before it spins out of control. Trying to juggle the various schedules of everyone under the same roof can seem almost impossible, unless a few simple tips and tricks are applied to bring some order to life and stop the insanity
Here are some thoughts to jump start a healthy family calendar that I’ve seen work very well for friends and family.
1. Schedule “Family Night.”
This is the first step towards a solution. The idea is simple and best of all, it can create memories to last a lifetime. It might be movie night, take-out night (think pizza or Chinese, for example), board game night, or family walk night. Be creative to pick an activity that earns the consensus of the entire crew. Personally, Cubs games, Wolves games and concerts in the park are a few of my favorite things. The important part is that a night each week is designated just for “together time.” The days of the conversation at the dinner table have sadly gone, so time needs be set aside to catch up with each other. If we learn how to relax…and talk with each other, you might be very surprised by the things you can learn from your kids on your special night.
2. Enjoy time with your child’s friends.
No kidding. You don’t always have to be the coolest house on the block. However, letting kids “hang out” at your place will give you valuable insight into your own child’s interests and motivations. A bonus is the ability to understand the “crowd” with whom he or she associates. For younger children, time spent with a friend offers actual learning lessons and experiences such as sharing, responsibility, taking turns, and countless others. Many child development social experts point out that good, old-fashioned free time for playing and social interaction can be better for a child’s development than an overload of too many organized or structured activities.
3. Let your child choose his/her own interests.Too many well-meaning parents sign their kids up for activities that offer no interest to their child. Conflicts and power struggles are sure to occur as a result. All too often we see cases where a child begs to sign up for activities, or is encouraged to do something of no interest and then wants to quit. This can be caused by a number of issues that take the fun out of the activity… yet, allows for another chance to communicate. Try to aim for an activity where you find your child self-motivated to participate. If he or she needs to be begged, bribed or scolded to get ready, then perhaps, it isn’t the right fit. Many cues, verbal and non-verbal, will indicate levels of interest, dedication and enjoyment.
4. Consider the time commitment when making scheduling decisions.
Activities often emphasize multiple practices, time and travel requirements. As the parent, considering one particular activity over another allows room for more family quality time. There is always a cost to every new commitment. Ask yourself, does being involved with this activity hinder or promote our higher family goal of quality time?
5. Determine your child’s commitment as well.
If your kid says an activity “might” be fun, avoid committing to a full season or year. Not only could it present a problem for your child if he/she doesn’t like it, but will infringe on the other players/members participating in the activity; not to mention the family’s commitment. Many teams rely on a certain number of players or kids to form a group. A last-minute pull-out could cause an impact on everyone else. If you’re not sure, consider signing your child up for a mini-camp or week-long or short session instead. If your kid loves it, then you can always seek something more in the future.
6. Be the Boss.
If everyone in the family is involved in some type of activity, household chores may be harder to get accomplished, thanks to a lack of time. At the family planning meeting, explain for each activity, everyone will have to pitch in to make sure the clothes still get washed, the dishes get done, and the table gets cleared. The key is set expectations up front and stick to them to avoid mutiny down the road. Should you hear the statement from the troops that, “You’re not the boss of me,” remind them sternly, but fairly, with a smile, that you are.
7. They don’t have to participate in everything.
Try to adjust schedules when needed to accommodate the time required for schoolwork and family time priorities. If your child’s grades start to drop, or you notice that your child is falling asleep at dinner, it is quite possible that you may be asking too much of them. Always keep in mind that despite a bottomless tank of gas and a wealth of energy and enthusiasm, a child’s age, personality, and true interests must be considered when crafting their schedules and commitments.
8. There is no “I” in TEAM.
“A family who prays and plays together, stays together,” is a solid message. The healthiest families are those where parents and children support each other’s activities and interests.
9. Always, family first.
With priorities straight, your chances for a happy, well-adjusted family increase exponentially.