Ann Ueno + Westin + Bright Pink + Giuliana Rancic = $5,000

Ann-Ueno-Bright-Pink-FabFestGood morning friends and happy hump day!  I am super-duper excited to share big news on the professional and personal front.

Professionally, I have recently {and humbly} helped to create an innovative, meaningful cause marketing partnership between The Westin Chicago River North Hotel and Bright Pink, the only national non-profit organization focusing on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women.  It’s partnerships like these that make me love my job and feel honored to work with and for such inspiring and talented people.  And for me, this is big because what it means is that via my day job, I can not only help create a business partnership that benefits both parties, but that can potentially save lives.

And personally, as a result of this partnership and together with my colleagues, I am part of a fundraising team to raise $5,000 for Bright Pink’s annual fundraiser, FabFest, hosted by the amazing Giuliana Rancic at The Westin Chicago River North Hotel in my very own city of Chi-town!  I am so excited to come alongside amazing women (and men) to raise awareness for the organization.  More importantly, I am honored to support a dear friend, Lindsay Avner and her amazingness.

Lindsay, at the age of 23, was the youngest patient in the country to bravely opt for a risk-reducing double mastectomy with reconstruction.  She lost her grandmother and great-grandmother to breast cancer before she was born.  She had an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and a 54% chance of developing ovarian cancer.  She vowed to not let breast cancer strike and was proactive with her health.  And today, nearly a decade later, she is the founder of Bright Pink.

Lindsay is a walking inspiration every single day.  It’s people like her that make me want to do better.  To do something.  To do more.  To dream big.  And so, I am doing something small to make a big difference.  I am fundraising for this cause and I {humbly} need your help!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?  My ask of you is for a financial donation to help us hit our goal!  And one that feels right for you.  That could be $10 or $100, the amount doesn’t matter.  By supporting my FabFest fundraising page, you are helping empower women nationwide to advocate for their breast and ovarian health and supporting those at high risk.  Because of you, more women will detect breast and ovarian cancer earlier or prevent it all together.  That’s what matters most and therefore, every dollar counts so please click here to donate!

This is Addie, my colleague and me.  Help us hit our $5k goal!

This is Addie, my colleague and co-captain and me at our Starwood offices in Chicago.  Help us hit our $5k goal!

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Friday Round Up: Fashion, Food, Design and Saving the Earth, Of Course.

Probably like most of you, I am totally stimulated with visuals.  Like I am infatuated with visual language.  And this week I received my fair share of visuals and I am here to bring you the round up for your viewing and pinning to Pinterest pleasure.  Enjoy and make it a great weekend!

{Amy of Leopard and Lillies featured on In Honor of Design.  Love the comfy chic look!}

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{Amelia from The Chicago Life Blog – I want every single thing she is wearing, especially that jacket and that amazing bun and tall skinny legs, please.}

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{You know you want one of these Glazed & Infused donuts.  Yep, I had one and it tasted as good it looks.}

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{Oh yeah, you know you want some of this red velvet deliciousness, too.  Well, you have to have a meeting at The Westin Edina Hotel in Minneapolis for that.  #lovemyjob}

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{The West Elm Parson’s Desk continues to be a design phenomenon.  It’s simple.  It’s chic.  It’s classy.  It’s a steal.  And The Everygirl did a great feature on how to style this bad boy.}

Everygirl-Parsons

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{My current obsession is gold anything.  Gold lamps, vases, pillows, teeth.  Ewwww.  Okay not anything, but most things.  And Emily Henderson shared her find at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in LA.  And check out that fabric, too!  Ugh, want.}

emily-henderson-vase

emily-henderson-fabric

{One of my favorite visual captures this week was chatting with a girl I met at a leadership conference who was chugging some good, tasty, earth-saving Project 7 water.  If you haven’t heard of this company, check them out STAT.  How could you not want to #savetheearth and #housethehomeless and #feedthehungry and #healthesick and #quenchthethirsty and #teachthemwell and #hopeforpeace by simply purchasing every day products?!}

ann-written-notes-project7

Helping People Help People: How $100 Can Make a Difference.

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This past Christmas, Rick and I tried something a little different as it related to giving gifts.  As we were thinking of what to give his parents, aunts, uncles and siblings, we stopped and asked the question, “Do they really need anything?”  And this led to the more important question, “How can we help more people this holiday season?”  And then it hit us.  Instead of sending gifts, let’s send each family a hundred-dollar bill and give them a challenge.  A challenge to take that $100 and pay it forward.  Give it to a family in need.  Give it to a friend.  Donate it to an organization of their choice.  Whatever way they chose was fine, it was more about replacing another “thing” with helping an organization or a person in need.  You know, a helping people help people sort of thing.

And now, I am here to share our first story which came from Rick’s mom and dad.  She typed this beautiful letter to us and I wanted to share it with you.  Perhaps for an upcoming birthday or holiday or even next Christmas, you will be inspired to give in a new, potentially more meaningful way!

Christmas Challenge for December 2012

This was such a fun challenge.  I knew immediately what I wanted to do.  There is an Ethiopian woman who works the front desk at the Yesler CC where I play pickle ball.  She is very conscientious and does an excellent job in my opinion.  Her name is Genet M. Woldeyesus, age 63.  She lost her husband to a stroke 14 years ago.  She has three sons still living in Ethiopia and one granddaughter who turned one years old today.

She and her husband had entered the DIV Lottery to come to the United States but then her husband had a stroke and died in three days.  As luck would have it after he died her name came up as a winner and she came to United States 11 years ago in 2000 by herself.   Genet has a younger sister and brother-in-law living in San Diego so she went there first.  Than in February 2002 she moved to Seattle.

Genet applied for a job through the Mayor’s office under the Title Five program for seniors over 62, which is a training program for seniors to earn minimum wage. She works for the City of Seattle under the Parks and Recreation Dept. but has only been able to work part-time for the past year and a half and having a tough time making ends meet.  She needs to work full-time but because of her age is having difficulty.

For Christmas her younger sister sent her a round trip airline ticket to visit her family in San Diego.  I knew she needed money so I have Genet an early Christmas gift before she left.  She was thrilled and so happy.

When I saw her this morning I told her of the idea and generous gift you and Rick had sent to Dad and me.  I told her my thoughts went immediately to her.  Whenever, Christmas comes around children are always remembered but I told her seniors also need to be remembered and I gave her the $100.00.  It was such a joy to see how grateful she was.  She said no one had ever done something like this for her.   What a blessing, thank you for giving us the opportunity to truly help someone in need!!!

Love, Mom and Dad

7 Ways to Give Back During the Holiday Season

7-ways-to-give-back-during-holiday-seasonHi friends!  With the holiday season in full gear and bank accounts a bit less than they were last week (thanks Cyber Monday), I have been thinking about how to give back during this holiday season.  This time of year is so special for me and is such a great season to give thanks and give back.  Most of us are MORE THAN blessed and have more than we even know what to do with.  Others do not.  So why not stop and take some time this holiday season to give back?

Here are 7 ways to give back during the holiday season:

  1. Adopt-a-Family:  Rick and I have done this for a couple years in a row now and plan to do so each year.  There are so many children and adults alike that do not have the means to have gifts at Christmas and chances are, by adopting a family, your gift(s) may be the only ones they will receive.  To help you get started, you can check out The Salvation Army Adopt-A-Family program.
  2. Surprise and delight someone you know: this could be sending a gift card to a family in need or just buying a nice little gift for an old friend.  A dear friend of mine LOVES Frango peppermint coffee and she now lives in the D.C. area.  The minute I saw it on the shelves of Macy’s, I snatched it up and mailed it to her (loved thinking about the smile she would have drinking a hot cup of her favorite coffee!).  It’s all about the unexpected and  making someone’s season that much better.
  3. Surprise and delight someone you don’t know: we have all heard the story of the nice women in line in front of you at Starbucks who paid for you coffee for no reason at all.  Be that person.
  4. Partner with Toys for Tots:  Let’s be honest, so much of the joy of the season is watching little children open up gifts from Santa and be so happy about what they received!  Toys for Tots offers three ways to give back:  donate financially, donate toys or volunteering at a Toys for Tots event.  Either of these options are so generous and would certainly put more smiles on children’s faces on Christmas morning 🙂
  5. Write a handwritten holiday card:  Write five handwritten holiday cards each week in the month of December to friends and family in your life to simply say hello, say happy holidays, say thank you, or to remind them why you love them.  Or,  write Cards for Hospitalized Kids.  This is such a special program and a fun activity to do with children.
  6. Serve in your community:  Gather a group of friends together and plan a service event.  Make it a family outing.  Do it for date night.  Go alone.  No matter who you are with, taking the time to serve during the holiday season is a great way to give back.  This year, my bible study group and I are doing something a bit different.  We are choosing two families in need, getting together one night and pitching in $20 each and going grocery shopping.  Afterwards we are driving to the homes of the families and dropping off the groceries.  That’s just one idea.  I am sure your church, your synagogue and place of work have many opportunities as well.
  7. Donate your clothes:  If you were too busy or didn’t get a chance to do a fall cleaning of your closet, it’s okay!  As we approach the end of the year, it’s a perfect time to purge your closet and go to a local Goodwill, Salvation Army or anywhere that accepts clothing donations.  Not only will you feel good starting the new year organized and simplified, you will also have helped families in need.  And if you need inspiration on how to purge your clothes, check out my blog on how to organize a closet.

What are some ways you give back during the holiday seasons?  Please share!

Best of Holiday Gift Guides

If you are like me and, um, the rest of the population, you may {already} be overwhelmed by the retail spam marketing during this time of year.  Listen, I am in marketing and I hate to say this, but gosh, the choices are endless and often leave me paralyzed and brain-warpedI love the fact that the handy-dandy world wide web has given us so many resources, but sometimes I just want simple.  I want easy.  I want focus.  I just want to buy some holiday gifts without spending 30 hours searching (if you are like me, you get an email, you click through, you find a new blog, you Google the writer, you find cool images, you end up on Pinterest and the next thing you know 4 hours have gone by and you have done nothing).

Well, my fellow readers and dear friends, I thought I would try to help you out and share with you some of my personal favorite holiday gift guides.  Maybe, just maybe, you can buy a few gifts, feel productive and THEN spend 4 hours on Pinterest if you want.

  1. IHOD Holiday Gift Guide –  Anna, the creative behind this blog and guide, shares with her readers her annual holiday guide and I have to say, I am impressed.  From unique finds on Etsy to Peppermint Truffles (yum) to great ideas for the gents, I love her online holiday gift catalog!
  2. J.Crew 101 Gift Guide – of course, you knew I would feature this.  Here’s the deal.  It rocks.  Awesome gift ideas and ridiculous visual stimulation (that’s reason enough to visit the site), you will for sure find a gift for…her, him, for girls, for Ann Ueno, for boys.
  3. Restoration Hardware Stocking Stuffer Guide – let me just say I was able to cover off a lot of kids in one fell swoop here.  The best part, however, is there are very unique gifts for everyone – your dad, co-worker, game-lover, your friend who is a magician, yourself, your friend who is a total tech geek…everyone!
  4. Etsy Gift Ideas – I don’t need to explain myself here.  Supporting amazing artists, creators and designers is just plain awesome.  And you really will find one-of-a-kind gifts here for everyone on your shopping list.
  5. Vogue’s Holiday Gift Guide – okay, let me be honest.  I probably won’t will never buy anything from this, but, it’s fun to look at and it’s Luxe with a capital L.  Hermes and Chanel and Gucci oh my!
  6. JustGive.org Charity Gift Card – there are several companies out there that do this and kudos to all of them for creating a platform to give someone the gift of charity.  As it says on their website, “You choose the value of the cards; your recipient chooses the charity; their charity receives a donation—everyone wins.”  Awesome, right?  Talk about a gift that keeps on giving.
  7. Dwell Holiday Gift Guide  – for the  music lover, wine enthusiast, chef, traveler, euro-obsessed and everyone in between, I love the creativity and unique aspects to the products Dwell offers.
  8. Red Envelope Christmas Favorites – I have to say, I think Red Envelope has stepped up their game these days.  Specifically, I think their monogram and personalized gifts are far less cheesy and much more modern and classy.  So if you are looking for some personalized options, check them out.
  9. World Market Gift Shop – truth be told, I shop here a lot.  I buy wine, wrapping paper and sometimes a giant container of peanut butter pretzels for my dad.  I recently bought really cool letters that spell out TRAVEL covered in a map for my office.  I buy unique picture frames here.  I buy bath towels here.  One year I bought an “Around the World” twelve-pack of brewskies for my brother-in-law.   I actually once had my sister buy like 10 bottles of wine not to drink, but to decorate with. I buy a lot of stuff from this store.  Maybe you should, too.

My Week That Took a Week to Recover.

 
I am 31.5 years of age and I can officially say, October 9 – 17 was  a time in my life I will never forget.  A week that was invigorating.  A week that was exhausting, mentally, physically and spiritually.  A week that was inspiring and filled with ideas.  A week where I was sad, challenged, excited, tired, awed and fulfilled.  A week that took me a week to recover and sit to type this.  Why?  Well, for this note, I am going to “summarize” the insanity.  Enjoy.

Sunday, October 9

My husband woke up at 6am and decided he would run the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Now, he did train.  But, half-way through training he was injured.  With.  Shingles.  Yes.  His body was rejecting 26.2.  So for the past two months, there wasn’t any running for Rick.  So when he got up Sunday morning and decided to ‘try’ it, my response, as any supportive wife’s response would be, was ‘text me if you need me to come run with you…’  Low and behold, I received the text and went in for the rescue at mile 16.  We walked to mile 17 and Rick demanded I buy him a Coke.  We stopped, sat down and Rick chugged a Coke.  He claimed his legs wouldn’t move anymore.  So as we neared mile 18, we stopped.  Rick was sick, it was 84 degrees.  I had no idea how to get him home (no cabs, no public trans and thousands of runners and people everywhere).  15-20 minutes had passed and I thought, “hmmm…I can’t carry him…will we just die here together, in love, in Little Italy?  It will be a nice love story.”  And then, low and behold, our friend, Mr. Jimmy Lee (otherwise known as a gift from God), pulled up out of nowhere.  We hopped into his car, he drove us home, Rick puked and passed out for 3 hours.  Good times.

Monday, October 10

  • Work.
  • Noon:  Social entrepreneurship talk at Chicago Ideas Week.  Wow, wow and wow.  I felt alive and inspired and wow’d by this panel of people.  Dave Gilboa, co- founder of Warby Parker, Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of Charity: Water, Leila Janah, founder and CEO of Samasource…and more.  People changing the world, one idea at a time.  Literally.  This was one of my favorite sessions of CIW.  Will blog further about these incredible people.
  • 3pm:  Prayers and tears as I said good-bye to a special, special women.  My best friend’s mom had passed from pancreatic cancer and Monday was her wake.  Cathy O’Connor is now in heaven with God and no doubt, enjoying her time there and smiling down on her husband and children.
  • 6pm:  International Mayoral Event at The Oriental Theatre in Chicago.  Mayor Bloomberg from NYC, Rahm from Chicago and Reed from Atlanta.  Rick and I arrived, exhausted.  30 minutes later we left and went to Chipotle for dinner.  Here’s the deal.  We just aren’t political people.  Period.

Tuesday, October 11

A celebration of Mrs. Cathy O’Connor.  While funerals are very sad events, this one was different for me for some reason.  It truly was a celebration of her as a mom, a servant for the world, a wife and a friend.  My heart was happy in hearing Father Tom talk about her, about what it means to be a follower of Christ and how we have a choice:  We can choose to move on, live life and follow her lead and live joyful, serving lives.  Or we can die a bit, hide and be angry.  My prayers are for her family and friends to choose the former.  Mrs. O’Connor build her house on rock and the story of the Three Little Pigs will forever remind me of her and her family.  And then, to witness my best friend give her mom’s eulogy in such a real, humbling and brave way was truly a moment in time that will remain in my heart forever.  Love like you want to be loved.

Late afternoon on Tuesday I attended a Fast Company Creativity Sessionfor Chicago Ideas Week and was able to see  Doug Ulman, president & CEO of LIVESTRONG, Robin Willner, VP at IBM, Jeff Semenchuk, Chief Innovation Officer at Hyatt…and more.  I then trekked to a Time Magazine Innovation and Influence panel at Northwestern.  This was Brad Keywell interviewing Suze Orman (two thumbs down for her, no offense…she’s loud, instills fear, somewhat phony and has a distorted view of the world.  I’m sure you are probably thinking, “wow, Ann, tell us how you really feel!”  This obnoxious-ness was followed by a panel of incredible people including Michelle Rhee, Founder & CEO, StudentsFirst, and Rob Bell, author of Love Wins and Founding Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church

And yes, I was inspired.  But nobody could have followed Eileen’s words for her mom and the love that permeated all day among family and friends in Mrs. O’Connor’s honor.

Wednesday, October 12

  • 9am:  Live Social Media event for Chicago Ideas Week, LiveLab at Suite Partners:  how to get your fans to go from liking you to loving you.  Words can’t describe this session, but let’s just say it was a live taping, the next generation of social media and I felt like I was on the Jetson’s.  More to come on this.
  • 12 noon:  Lunch with dear friend Audra, amazing women and professional who works for Oprah Magazine.  Brainstormed on how to change the world.  I’ll vote it a success.
  • Work.
  • 4pm:  Great discussion with my boss [continuation of changing the world]
  • Work.
  • 7pm:  Intelligence Squared Debate live broadcast through NPR:  “Too Many Kids Go to College”  This was a great debate, two-on-two (for: Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder, Charles Murray, author, against: Henry Bienen, President Northwestern University, Vivek Wadhwa, entrepreneur turned academic, reserach for Duke University and columnist for The Post and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.  After almost 2 hours, the audience voted and agreed with the ‘for’ team, too many kids DO go to college.  I know, sounds crazy.  But, you had to be there and frankly, the education system in America MUST change.

Thursday, October 13

  • Work
  • Lunch with dear friend, Vaneesha Pause.  Ahh, always learn and grow and feel lots of love with V!  [continuation of changing the world]
  • 4:3pm:  TEDx Midwest!  I will be doing a series of “TED Notes” as part of my blog to go deeper into who I heard, what I learned and how incredible TED is.  But to summarize, this first session was on Courage and 5 people talked:  Alison Levine, Jerry Mitchell, Kevin Bacon, Amory Lovins and Bill Strickland.  Brilliance, bravery and bold leadership.
  • 6:30pm – 8:30pm:  TEDx Networking.  Met some awesome people, had some wine and was definitely outside of my comfort zone, believe it or not.  Being in a room with hundreds of brilliant people is intimidating.  Everyone is doing something amazing and to have the privilege to meet and get to know some of them was very humbling.

Friday, October 14

9am – 6pm:  Full day of TED.  Sessions included Nature, the Future, From Fear to Love and Anything’s Possible.  Morning networking, noon networking and you guessed it, afternoon networking.  Talks on how to make the world suck less (literally was the name of his talk), the ridiculous humor of John Hodgman (“I’m A PC”), first-time powerpoint user, Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Sreet), inspiring talk from Paul Nicklen, National Geographic Photojournalist and more.  Minute by minute I felt more inspired, intelligent and confused, all at the same time.

6pm – 10pm:  United Way Women’s Leadership Council reception and dinner at The Pump Room and the Public Hotel.

10pm – 1am:  Intimate gathering at Nomi at Park Hyatt of amazing people like Mike Gogis, Lindsay Avner, JR Kerr and Jill Felska [continuation of changing the world].

Saturday, October 15

Rest. Time with Rick.  Reconnect with everyone I met this week.  Tommy and Charlene Lee’s wedding.

Sunday, October 16

Sleep.  Get caught up with life.  Church.  Grocery store.  J. Crew.  Run 4 miles.  3 loads of laundry.  Sprinkles Cupcakes.  Make dinner.  Prepare for wedding shower for dear friend Christina.  Blog.  Bed.

Monday, October 17

Work.  6pm guests arrive at my house for bridal shower.  Skinny Girl cocktails, amazing food, great conversations.  11pm minor meltdown with dear friend Vaneesha.  11:30pm bed.

Happy to report now that it is Friday, October 21,  I am recovered, I feel a little smarter and I feel VERY blessed to have met so many amazing new people.  I look forward to a low-key weekend with friends and family.  The End.

Put Yourself Out There (and get farted on).

I am so excited to write my first leadership blog. It’s funny because as an infant blogger, what I am finding is content for my blog is completely unplanned.  It’s organic, it’s an experience and it originates in my head in the craziest of times [at church today] and when I live with awareness of the present moment [on my run this morning].  And also, I’m finding that content comes pretty naturally when you put yourself out there in life.  And this weekend, Rick and I did just that.  We put ourselves out there.  Warning, this is a long blog…but worth it [humbly stated].  If you just want the lessons, scroll to the bottom 😉

After serving in The Loop, the children’s ministry at our church (aka Sunday School), the past 2 years, Rick had the brilliant idea that we should be “promoted” from watching the “walkers” (1-2 year-olds) to the elementary kids (first and second graders).  You see, before this promotion request, we essentially were there to make sure none of the kids were fighting, we fed them a graham cracker snack, ensured they were safe and sent them back off to their parents.  It was a great foundation for us and very easy.  But, it was time to take the next step and (drum roll please), we were promoted to the elementary classroom!  We were moving on up and putting ourselves out there.

We arrived on Saturday at 5pm sharp and I walked into the classroom and noticed I was the first adult there.  Uh oh.  I wondered if the main teacher was sick.  The director of The Loop popped in, asked if I needed anything and I lied.  Yes, I lied at church.  I said, “Nope!  I’m good, thanks!”  How could I tell her I had no idea what the heck I was doing? “Oh, one question, Maggie…”  Yes?  she said.  “Will there be a main teacher coming in?”  “No, there may be a floater to assist but you guys should be set!” she said with a bubbly smile.  S*%t!  Oh yeah, and then I cursed in my head at church.  What a great Christian I was.

As Rick took a call for work and would presumably be 10-15 minutes late, parent after parent came to drop off their children.  I smiled uneasily, introduced myself and did my best to engage and direct the little ones on what to do (which was…um…I HAD NO IDEA!).  Parents went off to church, about 10 kids piled in and stared at me with high expectations of what would happen over the next 90 minutes.  I defaulted to the “what’s your favorite sport?” for the boys and “your dress is so pretty/fashion convo” for the girls.  Nice.  My blood pressure was rising and immediately in my head, the blame was shifted to Rick who had yet to come to the classroom to lead his wife and 10 kids (after all, this big promotion was HIS idea).   At 5:15pm, after I enthusiastically and confidently told the kids to go draw on the white board and mingle (yes, I said mingle…can you tell I don’t have kids?!)  before we would begin our lesson (there was a 6-page lesson plan and it was the first time I was seeing it), Rick arrived.  I gave him a look and with the angry whisper voice told him I skimmed the lesson and would have to wing it.  He said no, took the lesson plan from my hands and sat down to start reading it.  What the…I thought.  In true Rick fashion, he calmly tells me to continue to preoccupy the kids for another 10 minutes.  One little girl saw what was going on and sweetly said, “Miss Ann?  Sometimes the teacher let’s us draw so maybe we could have some paper and crayons until we get started.”  Great idea!  Whew.  “Everyone write your name on the piece of paper and draw one of your favorite things!” I said excitedly with pride and thanksgiving for little Tessa and her brilliance.  And oddly enough, there was excitement from the kids!  SUCCESS!  Rick finished reading the lesson plan and took over.  Here were the highlights of our first day on the job:

  1. Rick did an awesome job leading the first lesson which was centered around Ecclesiastes 4:12 and the idea that standing alone in life is much harder than having friends, family, Jesus and God (this comes from the mouths of 8 year-olds) to stand with.
  2. I instantly learned the personality and strengths of each kid (the musician, the dancer, the skateboarder, the leader, the intellect, etc.) and we tag-teamed playing off of their strengths.  Strengths-based leadership worked even at that age.
  3. Kids are resilient, super smart and love to sing and dance (that was the last 15 minutes of class and personally, my favorite part).
  4. The bias that boys are rowdier, smellier, noisier and more physical than girls is 100% true.  At the end of the class, one boy, still hyper from dancing, busted out a dance move, turned around, stuck out his butt and farted at me.  Case in point.
  5. The love of brands and the admiration of celebrities starts at such a young age!  I was educated about Tony Hawk jeans, what building the Big Ben was connected to, what a ukulele was and some stats on D. Rose.

What does this have to do with leadership?  First and foremost, I believe to be an effective and impactful leader, you, yourself, have to Put Yourself Out There.  Get outside of your comfort zone.  Volunteer.  Run a marathon.  Try a new food.  Learn a foreign language.  Quit corporate America.  It would be hard to lead well if your own life isn’t filled with trying new things and getting uncomfortable.  And to that, when I put myself out there this weekend at The Loop, here’s what it taught me about leadership:

  1. Be prepared.  And if you aren’t, be prepared to wing it and give 110%.  Chances are you will learn and grow either way.
  2. Play as a team.  No further explanation needed.
  3. Take a back seat and let others lead (be humble, remove ego…say it with me…be humble, remove ego…one more time, be humble, remove ego).  Rick and I did this 2-3 times and gave the kids the opportunity to play a leadership role and wow, it’s amazing what those kids (and, ahem, adults) can do when you encourage, empower and allow them the chance to succeed and fail.
  4. Play to people’s strengths.  Pay attention and invest in people and learn what their natural gifts are.  Their satisfaction and contribution will be at 100% or greater.  It’s a win win.
  5. As a marketer, it opened my eyes to the fact that branding is critical and kids are watching you.  Yikes!
  6. Be willing to take feedback.  One of the little girls, who clearly is a natural-born leader, gave us direction 2-3 times and we trusted her, listened to her and it was a success.  The kids were engaged, they were learning about the bible and God and so were we!
  7. Dance and sing.  Didn’t think I would ever say this but maybe we would all take ourselves a little less serious and have a little more fun if we shook our money-makers a bit more at work.
  8. Ask for what you want.  Best case scenario, you get what you want.  Worst case, you don’t.  Big deal.  In this case, Rick asked for a promotion in our volunteer roles and boy, did we get it!
  9. When someone farts on you, move on and don’t take it personally.
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