Category Archives: Strength

“In Spite Of”

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Last weekend I didn’t publish a blog post, as I had the privilege of being a presenter/facilitator at the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy (FWCA) National Conference at my two-time Alma Mater – The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Because the conference committee had experienced more than a few challenges while organizing the event, the accomplished, yet humble, powerhouse event Chair opened the conference with a very fitting theme – “In Spite Of.” Dr. Menah Pratt-Clark, Associate Chancellor at the University of Illinois, Associate Professor, and fellow graduate of Leadership Illinois, recalled a few of the difficulties the committee had faced but quickly followed with her “In Spite Of” theme acknowledging that in the face of complications more than three hundred registrants had indeed gathered to share experiences, learn, and develop bonds with others who are faculty and/or administrators at institutions of higher learning from across this country – “In Spite Of.”

When Dr. Pratt-Clark opened the Conference, what she did not know is that I had experienced my own set of challenges prior to arriving in Champaign to lead my afternoon sessions on Values Driven Leadership. Indeed I had done my homework and prepared for this conference, of which I was so proud to be a part. But truthfully, the night before I did not know for certain if I would make it to Champaign.  In fact, I had been up the entire night with an emergency at my home as a result of the torrential rains and high winds we had experienced that day. The maintenance person from the one company I could find to show up in the middle of the night didn’t leave my home until 6:00 am.  I had not packed one thing and for certain (or so I thought) was not ready to stand on my feet for hours leading workshops for which I knew the participants had previously paid and more than likely carried high expectations. Needless to say, I was more than exhausted and running on empty. Just thinking about it again reminds me of how life will throw you a curve ball and then provide what you need to turn that curve ball on its head – and just when you need it. My very, very dear friend and colleague who was accompanying me to the conference relieved a bit of the burden when she volunteered to do the driving to and from Champaign. What an on time blessing and the first of many for this weekend. I could at least get an hour or so of sleep – even if it was sitting upright in a car.

In Spite Of

Because of our delay in getting on the road, we arrived at the conference only minutes before the scheduled opening plenary.  But when Dr. Pratt-Clark approached the podium and began to recite how the committee had overcome every obstacle to get us to the opening session I was energized by her very thought – “In Spite Of.” It made me think of not just the night before, but also the many times in my life where I showed up to do a job – In Spite Of. In spite of challenges, setbacks, naysayers, and doubters and even sometimes with doubts of my own, I was, am, and have been an overcomer. And I write today to inspire and encourage you to stay in the game of your life – In Spite Of. If you have a dream, goal, desire, wish, or challenge for that matter, now is a great time to make up in your mind that In Spite Of the challenges, or whatever, you might face you can achieve exactly what you set out to accomplish – if you persevere and stay in the game. All of us have experienced moments of despite, however, but, spite, and although.  In Spite Of those moments, however, you have the ability to overcome, which reminds me of a post I wrote not so long ago on adversity and resilience.

In that post, I wrote that adversity is necessary, as learning, growth and progress are its offspring.   And there is no requirement that adversity be the enemy many of us were taught it to be.   Adversity is opportunity wrapped in different packaging.  It is teacher, and classroom all rolled into one.  What I like most about adversity is given the chance it can become the precursor to resilience.  Adversity is like a force that presses against you to hold you down or push you back.   But my friends in the world of psychotherapy have taught me that resilience is the ability to be knocked down but get back up again knowing in the cycle of life adversity is sure to come.

There is no doubt in my mind that I was knocked down for a brief moment this past week. But as a woman of faith who had done the work necessary to be my best me at the FWCA Conference – In Spite Of – the night before (and life’s challenges in general) I was able “to get up” and One More Time be an overcomer and “deliver” to the point of making a difference in the lives of others. (And that’s really all that counts.) The kindness and generosity of the conference organizers and my friend made a difference. Moreover, I was humbled by the extraordinarily positive responses and feedback of conference participants. I knew then without doubt that a force much greater than me had once again taken me beyond me. Whatever you might be experiencing in your life as you travel on the road toward fulfilling your dreams, remember – you too can be an overcomer (and perhaps you already are) In Spite Of.

williams_geneace09_v3    Until Next Week, Best Wishes on the Journey, Dr. G

Copyright 2015 Geneace Williams

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Are You Thirsty?

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“Sometimes we have to be thirsty to crucify

the things in life that prevent us from achieving our greatness.”

Geneace Williams

This is Easter Weekend, and many are busy with plans for spending time with family and friends, including a Sunday meal complete with family favorites.  Scores of churches have participated in Lenten Season activities that will culminate in a grand Easter celebration.  Last night I had the privilege of participating with six other ministers in a 7 Last Words service.  Each person was given a limited time to speak on his or her particular word, representing what is recorded as one of the last 7 sayings of Christ.  My task was to speak on the 5th Word from the Cross – I Thirst.  As you are no doubt aware, a thirst relates to a desire for something to drink in order that the thirst will be quenched.

Speaking on the thought – I Thirst – brought to mind its applicability to our daily lives.  For what are you thirsty?  Are you thirsty for your life’s purpose, thirsty to find your place in the world, thirsty to do what it takes to realize your life’s dreams?  Are you thirsty to tap into life at a whole new level – allowing you to achieve well beyond your greatest imagination?  And are you thirsty to crucify the things in your life that have heretofore stood in the way of your progress?

Many people dream about achieving great things in life; and dreams require dedication, discipline, time, and effort.  Hardly a dream to accomplish something significant will come to fruition without the work necessary to bring it to pass.  That means – life requires a real thirst for what we desire to accomplish, a passion if you will.  A strong thirst drives us to meet the desired outcome with the ‘work’ of our hands.  Today my wish for you is simple – to encourage you to find your life’s passion, feed it with hard work and dedication, and go after exactly what you believe you were placed on this earth to accomplish.

williams_geneace09_v3 Until next week, best wishes on your journey, Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Leadership – “InSide Out”

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For those who regularly read my blog posts about leadership and life, you know I am often inspired around life’s deepest ‘matters’ by the energy and power derived through engagement and dialogue with others. And this week is no different, as I was inspired while having my annual birthday lunch with a friend. She gave me a simple reminder that sent me on a “thought binge” about leadership and growth. You should also know that I highly value the strength in living and “leading” a fully integrated life. Here is what my friend said to me: “all of life is a process.” Immediately, I thought about Leadership and the value in viewing Leadership as “Process.” As such, my wish for you is that over these next two Weekly Wisdom Blog posts you will be able to further glean how you can apply this teaching to your life while connecting leadership to core values and actions that create great leaders.

In full disclosure, the conversation with my friend reminded me of a piece I wrote not so long ago on leadership and formation and the critical connection through a process often termed trans-formation. Not so ironically, I was also reminded of last week’s post entitled Living Your Legacy, which highlighted Five Living Essentials for creating a life-transforming legacy to impact the lives of others.  Indeed, the components of The Five Essentials are a part of the theory of formation I discuss this week.  Here I share portions of the former writing on formation, which views leadership as an important Inside-Out “Process.” I invite you to continue to analyze the many facets of leadership as we grow together.

Here is Part I:

The question was once asked – are leaders born, or can one learn to lead?  I contend there is truth in both camps.  But whether you are a born leader or born to lead, you must experience transformation on some level in order to be an effective leader.  In my work with leaders from many walks of life, I always suggest the best leaders are formed to meet success.

Formation is a kind of re-formation that leads to trans-formation.  In other words, formation is serious business that requires you to abandon comfort for tough internal work that promises to challenge your thinking and prepare you to operate at a different level. You will know you are ready for formation work when you are equipped to confront the possibilities that exist beyond your level of comfort and are willing to embrace the fact that positive change presup­poses confronting your growing edges. Likewise the leader who desires authentic and transforming growth is primed to resist the temptation to remain or become anesthetized by life’s challenges and/or its successes. Instead they are motivated to move as if life itself is depending on their will­ingness to pursue the journey of growth called formation.

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Formation is a moral imperative both in life and leader­ship. As such, true formation work is a prompter inviting you down the path of setting values and ethical boundaries by which you will live and lead. It is a dynamic, continual process fueled by receipt of input and feedback, both inter­nal and external, and it requires responding in an active manner.  In essence, it is a journey that occurs over time.

Formation happens at the point of intersection between intentionality and authen­ticity, two of the five living essentials discussed in last week’s blog. Intentional leaders concern themselves with who they are and the path they travel. An authentic leader is genuine beyond the surface and ever seeking her true self while working to live a purposed life shaped by a personal philosophy of integrity. With crucial ties to integrity, moral consciousness and ethical patterns are the rules of law in formation. Said another way, rules of law are standards and boundaries by which one chooses to live, and the work of formation suggests integrity, honesty, morality, virtue, honor, and service.

With these opening thoughts on the critical nature of formation in leadership, I will pick up next week with more in reference to Leadership as Process, but first I invite you to challenge yourself to do the following over the next few days:

  • Identify an area in your life wherein you desire to or know it would be beneficial for you to grow.
  • Focus on that one area over the next week.
  • Identify at least one thing you will do intentionally to spark growth in this area of your life.  Don’t be afraid to set your bar high. As I often say, you must abandon comfort to experience the extraordinary.
  • Once you have set your goal, begin your work, and remember – EVERYTHING BEGINS WITH A START…

williams_geneace09_v3    Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey! Dr. G

Excerpts borrowed with permission from Leadership DASH: Breaking Through the Finish Line by: Geneace Williams.

Original Copyright © 2013 Geneace Williams.                                                   Edited Edition Copyright © 2015

Just Say No!

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The popular three-line statement after which this Blog is named was born out of former first lady Nancy Reagan’s passion for discouraging children from experimenting with drugs. Since then, however, “Just Say No” has taken on considerable popularity in an untold number of venues. From credit cards to relationships to the foods we eat, “Just Say No” is a household term that has gained and maintained significant notoriety around the power and importance of saying no. Just googling this simple phrase led me to a website of the same name that is self-described as the “No Community across social platforms.” In short, wherever you find strung together these three one syllable words they are meant to encourage you to say no – where and when appropriate for you.

In reality, however, it is not as easy as it sounds. As I look around the world, I am constantly baffled at how difficult it is for some (including me at times) to say no while others find NO something they deliver with ease. I was reminded of this fact during a conversation with a friend this week wherein she said, “I am amazed at how it is so easy for me to say No to me and yet so difficult to say No to others.” Of course, her statement got me to thinking about the reality of how difficult it is for many to say no – even when it is in their best interest to do so. Whether it is saying no to a family member, friend, employer or client; an organization whose cause we love, or a solicitor who sends an email promising the world in exchange for little or nothing, saying no is a healthy essential in life that allows us to maintain balance and boundaries. It is often said – saying no is easier for men than women; but I dare not tackle that subject in this short blog. My goal is to encourage ALL of us around the growth that is achieved when we learn to give and receive the necessary – No.

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This thought provoking conversation with my friend prompted me to think about how the inability to say no is often associated with an “addiction.” And here I use the term loosely as I am aware the word addicted has its own set of issues and can trigger all types of responses. But hear me out before you hit close and stop reading. I suggest it is possible many have trouble saying no because perhaps we have become a world that is addicted to saying yes. While addicted often points to substance abuse, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary and other sources I referenced, addiction is “to devote or surrender to something habitually,” or as another source recorded – “enthusiastically devoted to a particular thing or activity.” The truth is, we find it difficult to say no for a variety of reasons including guilt, pressure from others, co-dependency (a term used by my psychologist friends), threats both perceived and real, and of course our habitual “friend” – fear. And fear, I argue is what keeps us addicted to saying yes. That is, we are often afraid of the outcome if we do not say yes.

But consider the following: In life, we must find balance where we are able to say no to some things so that we can partake in self-care, self-development, and yes self-actualization. If you always say yes to everyone else and what everyone else needs, it is almost a surety you are saying no to yourself on matters that really matter and particularly matters that make you better for achieving what you were born to accomplish. So today, I encourage you to learn the art of saying No, as it is often in the best interest of not only you, but also the person to which you are struggling to say no. If it is a “thing” to which you cannot say no like too much stress or eating too much of the wrong things, you would be surprised the sense of freedom you feel after just the first time of saying No.

So I offer you this “Call to Action.” In the upcoming week, take courage to confront fear by saying No to something you have struggled to say No to and experience a new sense of freedom. Take that newly found freedom and allow it to help you begin to establish healthy boundaries for when you say yes and when it is absolutely OK (in your best interest) to “Just Say No.”

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Until next week, Best Wishes on the Journey – Dr. G

Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Faith Over Fear

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While attending a Leadership Conference last week, I heard the word fear far more times than I care to remember.   As with all recurring themes, however, it left me thinking “it must be a topic ripe for this week’s discussion.”  I walked away pondering – What is Fear really, and why are we all so afraid anyway?

Fear, I have gathered, is a negative emotion brought on by the threat of imminent danger.  In life, there is fear of people, places or things, broken relationships and what someone else might think; fear of circumstances, change, and, yes, fear of the unknown to name a few.  We tend to fear anything we perceive as a threat, and it appears it is largely connected to what we do not know or, better, understand.

Not being a psychologist, psychiatrist, or even psychotherapist, I do not pretend to be an expert on fear.  Nevertheless, a few things seem clear.  Fear is a matter of perception, and as I have heard most of my life – perception is reality.  Fear traps you in your own body and prevents you from discovering who you really are and the true meaning of life.  Fear strips you of hope and leaves you in despair.  Fear robs you of courage and spiritual victory.  Left unchallenged, it keeps you bound and prevents you from reaching your very destiny.  The fact is, wherever we allow fear a foothold, it will set up residence and stay as long as welcomed.   Make no mistake; fear is not a friend!  Fear causes you to overreact, lash out, and worry about things over which you have little to no control.  Truth told, some of us have feared for so long that we can no longer recognize its behaviors for what they are or amount to – FEAR!

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But if you no longer want fear to stymy you, perhaps you have stumbled across just the right post to help you turn your life’s page from fear to a more powerful force.  For in reality, stripped of its perceived power fear CAN be defeated.  You have the power to change your perception and correspondingly your reality.  Yet there is only one thing I know powerful enough to defeat fear.  That one thing is faith, and it starts with you not the paralysis that has stopped you in your tracks.

Instead, make up your mind you will work toward fearless.  That is – you will fear-LESS.  However, before you can master fear-less, you will have to decide to become more faithful.  What I mean is – faith-full.  You must fill your life’s cup full with faith – believing that what you cannot currently see or touch can and will become reality.  Even so, you must remember – Faith without works is dead.  To arrest fear and allow faith to lead, you must take ACTION daily.  You must become faithful in telling fear no.  And when fear says no, say yes.  Change your attitude from negative to positive.  When you don’t feel like doing something you know you should do, do it anyway.  When negative thoughts invade your space and discourage you from the positive opposing view, think positive anyway.  When fear suggests you will fail at something about which you are truly passionate, try it anyway.

Give yourself a healthy dose of positive reinforcement by adopting affirmations that encourage you wherever you are in life and through whatever you are facing. Take the passion, courage, and resilience I have championed over the past few weeks and add faith.  And when fear comes as a threat to maim you, as it surely will, be prepared to believe and practice faith anyway!

williams_geneace09_v3  Dr. G

 Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams

Resilience Trumps Adversity

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Over the past week, I have had the privilege of sharing in conversation with a host of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life.  I am always in awe of the opportunity to dialogue with others about things that matter, as this is “the” place where authenticity and vulnerability meet growth and development.  It is a place where I can get real with an-other, and they with me.  In turn, we can both close the exchange inspired to learn and grow and grow and learn.   And wherever you find real growth, learning, for sure, is lurking somewhere in the background.

In my quiet time since then, I have reflected again and again on those recent conversations.  Quite frankly, they reminded me of last week’s blog.   If you have not yet read last week’s post, it is worth the read.  Suffice to say I talked about courage and getting outside of comfort in order to head in the direction of true purpose.  Yes, so much talk about passion, courage, and purpose might inspire you; but the truth is it cannot and will not lead to overnight success.  In fact, “On the road to success, purposeful living is always met by adversity.”  And so this week on our wisdom journey we meet adversity head-on.

As I think back to those conversations from last week, a few things stand out.   They all had one thing in common; everyone – bar none – was facing adversity of one sort or another.  And everyone – bar none – was impacted by the shear weight of adverse circumstances.  But this week, I dare challenge you to embrace adversity and see it in a light different than before.

Adversity is necessary, as learning, growth and progress are its offspring.   And there is no requirement that adversity be the enemy many of us were taught it to be.   Adversity is opportunity wrapped in different packaging.  It is teacher, and classroom all rolled into one.  What I like most about adversity is given the chance it can become the precursor to resilience.  Adversity is like a force that presses against you to hold you down or push you back.   But my friends in the world of psychotherapy have told me that resilience is the ability to be knocked down but get back up again knowing in the cycle of life adversity is sure to come.

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This fact harkens me to Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Physics – “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  That is how I see adversity and resilience.  Adversity knocks you back or down, but resilience picks you up and moves you forward again.  Make no mistake – resilience is not automatic.  It comes with time, effort, work and resistance.  Developing resilience means every time you are knocked down by something in life you get up stronger and more determined than before.  Resilience means you learn your weaknesses or the things that slow you down and adopt or develop tools that will help you overcome and get back in the game.  I encourage you to not allow circumstances to dictate how far you go in life and what you are able to achieve.  Once you jump off the cliff of comfort into unknown but exciting and purposeful work as I suggested last week, be prepared with tools of resilience, as Adversity is sure to meet you in your new and unfamiliar surroundings.

 

 Copyright © 2015 Geneace Williams