Sunday, April 20, 2008

Randy Pausch: A Life-Changing Message

Randy Pausch is a 47-year-old computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In September, Pausch said goodbye to his students at with one last lecture called "How to Live Your Childhood Dreams." Millions of people have seen all or part of Randy’s “Last Lecture” on either You Tube or the April 9th ABC special that ran on this incredible man. Those who have seen either the full lecture, or the many abridged versions call it the lecture of a lifetime.

Unless faced with the unthinkable ourselves, who among us knows what we would do and how we would react if we were faced with the finite. Randy Pausch has chosen to use the time he has left to inspire others by sharing lessons he’s learned on his life’s journey.

I can’t do justice to the message this man has to bring to those who take time to really listen to his words, but I can say that what he has to say is nothing short of life-changing. Here are just a few tidbits of his amazing wisdom:

On living: “If you live the right way, Karma will take care of itself”
On career setbacks: "Brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls aren't there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to show us how badly we want things.”
On adversity: “In the face of adversity, don't complain, just work harder. Your patience will eventually be rewarded.”
On Anger: “I have never found anger to make a situation better”
On criticism: “Your critics are the ones telling you they still love you and care”
On patience: “You might have to wait a long time, sometimes years, but people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting.”
On life: “We have a finite amount of time. Whether short or long, it doesn't matter. Life is to be lived."

Tim McGraw recorded a song a few years back called “Live Like You Were Dying” It was about a man in his early 40’s who was told he had a short time to live. When asked what he did when he heard the news, he said he went skydiving and rocky mountain climbing.....and he loved deeper, spoke sweeter and gave forgiveness he’d been denying. He said “I hope someday you get the chance to live like you were dying.”

You or someone you love may have heard the unthinkable words: “There’s nothing more we can do…we expect you have a few months.” Like Randy, my husband heard those words when he was the same age Randy is now: 47 years old. What we and the people around us instantly gained was immediate clarity on what was important: relationships and time. Precious…sweet…time.

Phil’s been gone 6 years this June. Life gets in the way and sometimes I forget the lessons I learned 6 years ago. God bless you and thank you Randy, for the reminder on what is really important: "You can't control the cards you're dealt, just how you play the hand."

Please take time view the original full lecture from Randy’s Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon below, or at the very least, one of the shorter abridged versions. I am not exaggerating when I say it is life-changing. I've included links on the right, or you can copy and paste the links below into your browser:

Full Carnegie Mellon version:
Not as much time? This one is about 9 minutes
View the ABC special

Note: this is another in a series on inspirational people.

Monday, April 7, 2008

No Coincidences

(This is Part One in a series on people I know who inspire. People who’ve taken the lemons life handed them and with them, made lemonade.)

One of the qualities I admire most in a person is an ability to take a bad situation or circumstance, learn from it, and turn it into something positive. For those currently experiencing a crisis, this may seem like an annoyingly Pollyanna viewpoint. However, I’m a believer in the old saying "everything happens for a reason", and that somehow, someway, something good can come out of even the worst circumstance if we are open.

Mark Biviano is the Senior VP of Sales for the Rubber City Radio Group, the parent company of WONE, WAKR and WQMX (where I work). At lunch recently, I shared with Biv (as he is known) and the others at the table that a former boss and friend of mine had just lost his job. I was expressing concern over his family and future in this uncertain economy,

It was then I learned a few things about this man.

Some 15 years ago, Biv held the position of General Manager at a radio station in Cleveland. He was good at what he did; loved the job, the people and the radio business in general. But as things go, the company got sold and changes were made. After years of success and loyalty, he found himself unemployed.

As a man who’d been running businesses and had the task of hiring and firing people, he now was in the same position he’d put others into. It felt different on this side. He recalled the things he’d said others when others lost their job. “It’ll be ok. You’ll find something else.“Hey, these things happens.” Words that sounded empty, almost cruel now that he was hearing them.

Biv opened up about what was to be the darkest time of his life. A highly intelligent man, he was not only despondent over the fact he had lost his job, he was unable to grasp why this company would let someone like him go. He was good at what he did. Such a hard worker. The first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. Didn’t they value him? Confusion led to anger, then to anxiety, then to despair. His self-esteem plummeted and he fell into a depression so deep that he said he couldn’t get out of bed.

That was 1991. But what makes Biv’s story inspiring is what happens next.

He realized he was depressed and sought help, and through a process of self-actualization he began to move on. In 1992 he joined the University of Akronas Adjunct Professor in Communications, Broadcast Sales & Management and Communication Research. In 1994 he went back to school and got his Master’s Degree, graduating in 1998. In 2006, he joined the staff at Kent State University, also as Adjunct Professor. And yeah, he landed another job. This one. Since 1993 he’s led a team that consistently surpasses budget goals when most radio stations in the region fall well below.

The fact that he so openly shared his story was inspiring enough. Pride might prevent others from doing so. But he has no problem sharing it because in doing so he can use his bad experience to encourage others. He is once again in a position of making difficult decisions, but now really understands what it is like to experience job loss. He considers the life-changing effect releasing someone from has and doesn't make the decision lightly. Now, when he hears of someone who has lost their job, he reaches out.

If he’d stayed at that station in Cleveland, would he have his Master’s degree? Be teaching at 2 Universities, and end up in a work environment where he counts his blessings every day?

I think not.

Mark Biviano took lemons and made some sweet lemonade. He’s living proof that every single thing you go through lead you to where you are today.

Oh…and that friend I mentioned earlier, the one who lost his job recently…he shared with me that his elderly father was just diagnosed with cancer. He’s been taking him to doctor appointments, handling all the details of his care, dealing with his mom’s fragile emotions. How could he have possibily been able to handle this if he were working, he wondered to me aloud?

Hmmm. There are no coincidences.

WQMX Rising Star Showcase: A Local Tradition, A National Example

A lot of people think that once an artist gets a record deal, they immediately become stars. In fact, the percentage of artists that record a song on a national label that becomes a hit is actually quite low. As listeners, we turn on the radio and hear a song we like, not realizing the blood, sweat, tears, time, and money that went into getting that song on the radio.

One of the things newly signed artists do are called "radio tours". Once an artist gets signed to a record label, a representative from that label takes the artist around the country introducing them and their music to local radio. They stop in, meet the program director and music director, and often play a song or two live in the station's studio, conference, or even the coffee room for staff member.

Several years ago, WQMX management came up with a great idea: since so many artists are coming through the station, why not have them play for more than just a few staff members? Hence, the Rising Star Showcase was born. After several years, the photos lining the walls represent a virtual who's-who of artists who've played the room. Some have gone on to be big stars, like Rascal Flatts, Martina McBride, Sara Evans, Blake Shelton, Taylor Swift, Brooks and Dunn, Big and Rich to name just a few. Others, though still talented, became one hit, or no-hit wonders.

WQMX has earned a solid reputation locally and nationally for helping to expose up-and-coming artists to listeners via this exciting, exclusive venue. In Nashville, word spread among radio and record companies nationwide about this cool radio station in Akron, Ohio who not only treats their listeners to an awesome experience for free...but in doing so, exposes music to the greater Akron-Canton-Cleveland market, spawning record sales and helping to launch careers with this station's support.

A few radio stations around the country have emulated WQMX's showcase concept, but most artists coming though tell us that ours is the coolest radio venue they've ever played. We're proud that the WQMX Rising Star Showcase has become a local tradition, and a national example for other stations.