404062_10150666943006728_1408636370_nAndrea and I had been FACEBOOK friends long before we spent any time together. This past Thanksgiving we were both in South Beach, Florida at the same time and decided to take advantage of the situation and meet up in person. What was supposed to be one drink ended up several hours of extremely interesting conversation. She’s intelligent, interesting and the person you can spend hours listening to and wish the clock would slow down. I’m so glad to get to know Andrea better and can’t wait until our next meeting.

Who what inspires you?
People who take personal responsibility for their issues inspire me, looking inward for solutions and bootstrapping their way to success. We hear lots of people blame their background or circumstances for their lot in life, but how inspirational are those who refuse to buy into that premise that they cannot get ahead because of others or because they claim their backgrounds hold them back. There are so many wonderful stories of achievement, and they make me work harder on myself every day. Education ― self or formal ― is a tremendous equalizer. I hope to always be striving to do more or better and to learn. I feel I am the only impediment to my success and happiness ― and I take responsibility for those. I have great respect for individualists, those who create and shape their lives on their own terms ― not based on the constructs of what others think is right. People who are true to themselves are my favorites, and I am drawn to those who are true originals.

Do you have a slogan, motto or mantra?
Sometimes when I am seeking to uplift struggling friends, I always say “live in faith.” It’s my version of the saying “let go and let God.” Worry is just so sinful but something I’ve struggled with a lot. So I am trying to “live in faith” every day that there is someone who is in charge of my life if I am invested in living it the right way. I have a tattoo on the back of my neck, very hidden, that reads: “only love.” It is my deepest wish for the way I strive to greet the world. Sometimes, I fail miserably on this accord. But I do think it’s the only thing that truly matters. All else falls behind.

Do you have a lesson or thought to share?
I told some students just last week that they mustn’t be afraid to fail at things. That they must do things that scare them ― even if it means that at first, they are not very good at whatever they are trying to learn. I think tenacity is a great quality ― sticking with something that is hard. It gives you such a sense of pride when you see a project or a dilemma through. Too many people give up on things too quickly. That goes for learning and relationships. We want quick fixes or easy solutions. I think the way forward is straight through. I’m a fan of pushing myself. I feel when I do, I do not live with regrets if I know I’ve tried my hardest.

How do you deal with stress?
Sometimes, I have to give myself permission to rest. I am a Type A person. I work a lot. But sometimes I have too many balls in the air and I put my needs aside to get something completed or to go the extra mile. So stress relief might mean taking a nap or bubble bath, or pausing in my day to do a short guided meditation online or even to make tea and read my Bible. I also work out about three times a week. I do some cardio and always some weights. I live near a park system and so a walk in the woods is another favorite activity that gets me moving in a beautiful and peaceful environment. That is a stress-buster and gets me out of my head. I also love silly movies. Sometimes I go to the theater alone and just laugh my face off in the darkness over something ridiculous.

Anything you want to share?
I think we all should be kinder to ourselves and also to others. That’s a great lesson. Do good things for yourself and also think about what you might be able to do for others ― there are people right in our daily view who have great needs if we’ll only look. Also, be an encourager. You never know how much your words, the smallest of compliments or acknowledgements, might mean to someone who is struggling. Speak up and use your good energy to help someone along the way. That is so powerful. And finally, I think that diversity of opinion may be the highest form of that word we can embrace. I do not need everyone to agree with me to respect or love them. I am satisfied in my belief system and will robustly defend it, but I am not so arrogant or closed-minded that I will not be open to hearing your well-researched and defended opinion on almost anything, too. Debate is good, but dismissive, mean-spirited discourse has become the norm. We’ve became a shout-down, polarized society, and our news system has not helped us come together, I fear. It’s why fewer people vote and why fewer people want to serve politically. We can disagree thoughtfully. So, I’d like us to be less divided ― for the greater good of us all

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