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Archive for October, 2013

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Commitment – 2 powerful examples of it!

- by Charlie Adams – Inspirational speaker/Seminar leader

When speaking on attitude or peak performances, sometimes organizations will ask me to put an emphasis on commitment. I will share two stories with you this week that will both have a lasting impact.

One of the most inspiring stories I know about commitment is one of the legendary love between John and Nellie Wooden.

Many motivational books have been written on Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who led them to ten national championships. His Pyramid of Success has been used as a model by many companies.

But to me, what was more impressive was his love for his wife Nellie, who he was married to for almost 53 years (photo below)

They met at a country carnival while early in high school back in the 1920’s in their home state of Indiana. They were classmates at Martinsville (Indiana) High School. John played basketball and Nellie played the cornet in the school band. They were together constantly from then on. John always said Nellie was the only girl he ever kissed in his life.

In the book ‘They Call Me Coach’ author Jack Tobin writes that Nellie and John’s plans for getting married on August 8, 1932 in Indianapolis in a little church were severely challenged when two days before their wedding, the bank where they had their savings ($909.05) went broke and closed.

They were very sad but the father of Nellie’s best friend loaned them $200 so they could be married. John’s brother drove them to Indianapolis and stood up for them.

John and Nellie had dinner after their wedding ceremony at the Bamboo Inn and went to the Circle theater to hear the Mills Brothers.

They were together from then on until her death at the age of 73 on March 21, 1985 after a long illness. John was at her side when she died. They had 2 children, 7 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.

While he kept busy sharing his motivational messages and writing books, he missed her terribly. From 1985 until his death in 2010 at the age of 99, John would sit down on the 21st of each month and write a letter to Nellie. Rick Reilly wrote more in a wonderful column for Sports Illustrated:

‘He’ll say how much he misses her and loves her and can’t wait to see her again. Then he’ll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He’ll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again.

The stack would grow to be hundreds of letters high. In her memory, he sleeps only on his half of the bed, only on his pillow, only on top of the sheets, never between, with just the old bedspread they shared to keep him warm.’

In Jay Carty’s book ‘Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life,’ John shared this:

“Another old-school quality that I have chosen to maintain is the fact that I am a one-woman man. Nellie and I were married for 53 years. I’ve never been with another woman. When she died two decades ago, I decided to remain loyal. I was loyal to her in life, and I will remain loyal to her memory until we are forever together again.”

John would live 25 years after Nellie passed away in his condo near Los Angeles. “I’m not afraid to die,” he would tell friends. “Death is my only chance to be with her again.”

In Steve Jamison’s book ‘Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court,’ he shared their approach:

“Love means many things,” he said. “It means giving. It means sharing. It means forgiving. It means understanding. It means being patient. It means learning. And you must always consider the other side, the other person. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving … I agree with Abraham Lincoln. He once said that the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.”

“Life is a united effort of many. My life has been inspired from my youthful days in high school, through university, and into my coaching career by one person — my late wife, Nellie. Together we survived many trials, many misunderstandings, many separations; together for over 52 years, we weathered the Great Depression of the ’30s with few material possessions and shared in the innumerable joys, fears, such as World War II, a miscarriage, and disappointments that cross every life. Whatever problems arose — and there were many in the life of a teacher/coach — Nellie was always beside me …” – John Wooden

What a wonderful story about commitment.

The other story I have shared in inspirational keynotes about commitment that has connected with audiences from Curacao to Chicago to Juneau is the story of Pass Right. Whether you have time right now in the office or at your school, or whether it is later today, I encourage you to watch this inspiring story of what commitment really means.

It happened in 2005. A dying boy asked the Notre Dame football team to pass the ball right the first time they got the ball in their next game at the University of Washington.

However, when they got the ball, they were backed up within feet of their own goal line. Would they honor their commitment?

Pass Right - Commitment means following through..regardless of the situation
Pass Right – Commitment means following through..regardless of the situation

Charlie Adams Motivation

Keynotes for conferences, retreats and meetings and seminars designed to be a part of your training events

“How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!”

This keynote, or 2 or 4 hour seminar is based on the 2013 book of the same title. It equips your people with the attitudes to be more positive, team oriented and solution centered.

* Stoke the Fire Within

This peak performance keynote is ideal for opening or closing conferences, retreats, meetings and off-site days.

* The Spirit of Customer  Service

(2 hour seminar often paired with How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!

Contact information:

Direct line: 574 – 807 – 2279


Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Leadership from a Bronze Star candidate

- by Charlie Adams – Keynote speaker/Seminar leader

I recently spoke on the attitude of effective leaders at the Michiana SHRM Executive Leadership Forum. Not long before the event, my longtime friend Dan Tudor shared a remarkable story about leadership that will inspire you and startle you.

Dan is a business owner that lives in a small town in California. I have known him since 1985 when I was a department head at a television station out there. His story about a young Army soldier he knows is riveting. There is a part that is a bit graphic, but important to the story. I have changed the name of the soldier for this story for privacy reasons.

No delay! The powerful 4 seconds of leadership by a young soldier
as told by Dan Tudor to Charlie Adams

“Charlie, I wanted to share with you and your readers an incredible story about leadership and positive attitude. Steve is 21 years old, and he’s amazing. I coached him in football the last year I coached in high school three years ago. He was the type of kid that was dressed out first, serious 100% of the time, no screw ups on or off the field. He knew he wanted to go into the Army from the time I knew him. He’s just one of those kids. He’s won numerous medals and awards of merit for his performance in the Army on his 9 month tour of Afghanistan he recently got back from. He’s up for a Bronze Star.

He talked about the large main base he was at in Eastern Afghanistan. He went on over 200 individual missions while he was there, but this was the main big base where all their missions were planned and staged. At one point, he and a few of the other soldiers went to a special training on body language and non-verbal communication.

He was up for it and took a Charlie Adams-like positive attitude into it, while most of the other guys dragged their feet and complained (it was 54 hours of training…most 20 year old kids don’t find that exciting) One guy in particular that took the class was also real sloppy with his equipment. Didn’t take it seriously, which is a no no.

After the training a few weeks later, Steve is back at the base sitting down and eating lunch in their big mess hall with a few hundred other army personnel. They had Afghan nationals working around the base…they really liked most of them. They were good people and hard workers. Steve noticed a new worker standing about 10 yards away from him. He said right away he noticed his feet weren’t right – not relaxed, not normal (he learned that in the class). Overall, the guy just didn’t look right.

Steve looks over at one of the other guys (the sloppy one) who took the class with him. Using eye signals and their own body language they learned from the class, Steve signals that something’s not right with this Afghan worker. They decide – across the room, without saying a word to each other – that they were going to take this guy down. Remember, they’re in a crowded mess hall! So the guy who is farther away starts to take out his rifle and shouts “Get down! Get down!” as he prepares to take the Afghan guy out. But as he brings his gun up to fire, Steve see’s that it is jammed. The guy holds his rifle down at his side as he tries to unjam his gun (remember, this is the guy who never took cleaning and servicing his gun seriously).

Only about 2 seconds have gone by. Here’s where cool leadership and preparation come into play (as Steve tells me this story, he says that he learned that you always have to be prepared to lead…pretty profound for a country kid all of 20 years old). He draws his gun because the terrorist, at this point, knows he is the center of attention. He reaches into his pocket for what Steve knows is the detonator. He had 18 sticks of dynamite strapped to himself. Usually, terrorists will wear explosives and take a detonator that has a magnet on it and hold it up to another magnet near their chest tied to the explosives and once the magnets make contact and he presses the button, it’s all over.

So, 2 seconds have gone by. As the terrorist reaches in to his cloak pocket for the detonator, Steve reaches for his handgun. Steve has learned to be an expert marksman. With one gun, he can hit targets within 6 inches of the bullseye from 300 yards away! As he’s drawing up his gun, he remembers his training: He can’t shoot the guy in the chest because it will detonate the explosives. He can’t shoot him in his head/skull because it will still allow him a split second to trip the detonator if he has it close to his chest because he’ll still have a split second of motor skills left.

So Steve, remembering his training in the past 1 second of the story that has elapsed in this event that is now 3 seconds old, knows what he needs to do. He fires four shots (sorry for the graphic nature of this next part) into the terrorist’s cheek so it will go through and hit his brainstem, which will shut him down instantly. He hits his target. No other injuries.

Had the terrorist done what he wanted to do, it would have killed between 70-100 soldiers inside the base. It would have made national news…who knows what the ripple effects would have been.

Steve isn’t a West Point grad, and doesn’t come from some sort of extraordinary family. He’s a regular kid who happens to be detail oriented, knows what he’s good at, and will do his duty when called upon. But what a story about being prepared for a one or two second event that forced him to take a leadership position. He was ready because he was prepared. I don’t know, Charlie, but I think there’s a lesson in there somewhere for leadership that a business person or someone in the academic world can relate to.

Steve had these injuries when he was in Afghanistan:

* He was shot in the back – saved by his metal protective backplate

*  Broke 5 ribs when a bullet hit his flack jacket

* Concussion from an IED (he was in vehicles that hit 5 IED’s in all)

* Shot in the leg – (”just through the skin, no big deal” as he says)

He said he became a voracious reader while he was there. He would be on guard duty up in a tower when he was on the base and they’d be taking fire from the hills, bullets whizzing overhead, and he’d just be hunkered down reading a book to pass the time. Every once in a while he’d have to get up and return fire, and then he’d go right back to reading.”

By Dan Tudor, as told to Charlie Adams

My goodness. Thank you, Dan, for sharing that story of a young man who at the age of 20 had to make leadership decisions of great magnitude within 4 seconds that most of us will never have to make at any point of our lives.

A follow up to the Allison Hayes story

Since I started writing this Tuesday newsletter in 2006, I have never had more response to one than the recent one I did of Allison Hayes. I had hundreds of emails from many of you about it. Allison and her 4 year old daughter have started a non profit called One Good  Deed Michiana, a year after she lost her husband in a car accident. Her strength and optimism is inspiring.

Allison was recently on the television program Experience Michiana where she talked openly with host Gordy Young about how she got through the hardest part of her life.

When you click below, you can use the arrow to go to the 1:30 mark of the program, which is where the interview begins, or you can watch from the start of the program. She is the first guest.

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

A positive attitude to inspire you!

- by Charlie Adams, author of ‘How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!’

A few days ago I took a picture of the sign below. It was taped on the glass of an exercise facility.

For success, attitude is as important as ability.

Everything comes back to attitude, and when it comes to positive attitude Jim Swihart has one of the best I have ever seen. Jim was among the travelers on a recent group trip I hosted.  Since 2006 I have hosted a few group trips each year where I share inspiration and humor. Along the way, I meet so many inspirational people that are in the group.

As the picture below shows, it is hard for Jim to get around. He is constantly hunched over from spinal stenosis, osteoporosis, arthritis, degenerative discs, and rheumatoid arthritis. He has congestive heart failure, a pacemaker, rods in his back, and a plate in his toe. He has had both knees and hips operated on.

“My brain’s still semi functional!” he told me with a smile.

Turning more serious, he looked at me and said “there are people worse off than I am, Charlie. It’s not easy. I do what I can.”

As the trip went on, I watched as the other 45 people couldn’t help but notice and be impacted by Jim’s positive attitude. One traveler took me aside and said Jim was the most positive person he had ever seen and that nothing could hold him down. Jim kept up with everyone. Grunting and snorting, he would get off the motorcoach. The driver, Bernard, would have his walker ready, and Jim was ready to roar – with a constant smile on his face.

“I see little kids in hospitals that can’t get around and some are dying,” Jim said. “People have it worse than me. I’m hunched over but I can still get up and move around. I like to keep a smile on my face. When I was in school our health teacher used to tell us it takes more muscles to frown than to smile. I have always remembered that.”

Jim’s spinal condition is hereditary and wasn’t helped by his job of working at the feed mills as a young man. He lifted 100 and 50 pound bags for years to provide for his family.  Just 61 now, his conditions really started kicking in 15 to 20 years ago. The pain got so bad that a few years ago he had a pain pump implanted with a constant infusion to his spine. Every few weeks a nurse comes to their house to empty and refill the pump.

Besides his physical challenges, when Jim was 16 he and his buddies were in a car when something ran across the road causing an accident. One of his friends was killed.

“I have always thought about that,” he said. “God must have had a plan for me. When my brother got to the hospital they had me lying in the hall. My brother asked why. They said I was going to die anyway. I didn’t and it was because God wasn’t through with me.”

Jim admits he was a hand full as a young man. When his Dad died at 49, his brother stepped up as a leader and helped him so much. “To me my brother has the most positive attitude I have known,” Jim said.

Jim told me we all have a purpose. He said he still wasn’t sure what his was. I told him I thought it was to inspire others with his positive attitude despite such physical challenges.

“Yeah,” he said. “That could be it. I had an ex military guy with a oxygen tank once tell me I was the most inspirational person he had been around. We are all here for a reason, Charlie. Maybe me being positive all the time is mine. I have always said you can go a couple ways with your attitude. Why be negative and always blaming things?”

Jim and his wife Terry tackle his challenges with a sense of humor. Extremely supportive, Terry can also be counted on to deliver zingers at Jim. When he took part in the men’s “Best Legs” contest on the group trip, she shouted out “don’t fall!!” as he tried to raise up from his walker to pull up his shorts to showcase his legs. when he strutted out fast on his walker. She gives him grief regularly, and even turns his physical challenges into a positive.

“He would wear shorts all year if he could get away with it,” she told me. “Even in the dead of winter. So what I do is take them all down in the basement during the cold months. He can’t get down there!”

“My wife has been such a support,” Jim said. I couldn’t do it without her. She does make jokes and maybe some people take that the wrong way but she is with me 24/7.  She knows me inside and out. Using humor may be one way she deals with it.”

I asked Sandy Shoff, who has been the group tour manager on two trips that Jim and Terry have gone on, to share her observations on his approach to life:

“I have traveled with Jim to Alaska and most recently the California Coast and Wine Country Tour. It’s not just watching Jim tackle his mobility issues, it’s watching his speed, the way he picks up that walker and slams over the curb instead of using the sidewalk ramps, it’s his ongoing, sincere, positive comments about life and all he has to be thankful for as others have it so much worse that have impressed me since I first met him. This wonderful man and his lovely wife, Terry, are mentors to me and I truly know they are two of God’s chosen people who are living their lives as He would have them do.” – Sandy Shoff, group tour manager

Jim says it is about taking it one day at a time and doing what you can do. For Jim, it is inspiring others with his determination and constant positive attitude!

Charlie Adams


To see Jim take part in the infamous “Best Legs” competition we had on the group trip, the video is below. Ironically, the picture on the video below is of Fred, who took me aside in the group trip and told me how Jim’s positive attitude had impacted him. “That guy doesn’t think he is disabled at all!” Fred told me.

Jim competes in the
Jim competes in the “Best Legs” competition against the likes of Fred above

Charlie Adams Motivation

Keynotes for conferences, retreats and meetings and seminars designed to be a part of your training events

“How to Build a Positive Attitude and
KEEP the Darn Thing!!”

This keynote, or 2 or 4 hour seminar equips your people with the attitudes to be more positive, team oriented and solution centered. Everything from customer service to organization chemistry comes back to attitude!

* Stoke the Fire Within – this peak performance keynote is ideal for opening or closing conferences, retreats, meetings and off-site days. The inner core is tailored to the theme of the event, such as leadership, embracing change or team. It includes the popular ‘run the steps’ or ‘tripod’ way that everyone can approach life.

* The Spirit of Customer  Service (2 hour seminar often paired with How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing! If people haven’t build a foundation to have a positive attitude, it’s hard to try to train them in customer service)

Contact information:

Direct line: 574 – 807 – 2279


(photo below – equipping an organization with the tools to be positive, solution centered and team oriented)

Key Bank

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Seeking Excellence in all you do

- by Charlie Adams

It is about doing the best you can and seeking excellence no matter what you do in life.

The story of Darin Pritchett is an example. Chances are you’ve never heard of Darin, or will ever hear him on the radio. He’s not famous nationally, or regionally, or in his state. It doesn’t matter. He seeks excellence in all that he does. Darin hosts a nightly radio talk show known as “Weekday SportsBeat” on News Talk 960 radio in South Bend, IN where I live. I tune in when I can, and am always impressed with the professionalism of the show. One time I had finished delivering a positive attitude seminar for an organization when a corporate businessman came up to me and said, “Charlie, I listen to that Darin Pritchett. I’ve listened to him for years. I have never heard him say ‘Uh’ or ‘Um’ or ‘you know’ or anything like that. Ever!”

“Really?” I answered, with a surprised look on my face. I had never really thought about it, but surely Darin had an ‘Uh’ in there once or twice! After all, he was on the air 2 hours a night, 5 nights a week.

I called Darin and asked him about the “Uh” situation. “Well, Charlie,” he answered in a humble manner, “I don’t believe I have ever said “uh” on air. When I decided to go into this profession I made a commitment to speak the English language in a very professional manner. I decided that if I ever did have to pause for thought I would do just that – pause for thought. I studied people like Bob Costas and other high achievers that had excellent control of their speech.”

Ever since then I have listened to Darin, intently waiting for an ‘Uh.’ I’m still waiting.

THAT is excellence! He does it night in and night out on a fairly small radio station in northern Indiana. He doesn’t set a standard for excellence because he is on a national radio show. He does it because it is the thing to do, regardless of the magnitude of the show. Darin and his highly respected co host Rick Carter have a large sized, loyal audience in their area because their program is built on consistently being excellent.

Could Darin work for national radio audiences? Absolutely? Does he? No. His wife is from the South Bend area and that’s where he they want to raise their family.

Just be excellence (this slogan could be a cousin to the Nike slogan . . . ) wherever you are. The nationally known people aren’t always the best.

Peak Performers don’t settle. They don’t necessarily have to work unreal hours every day and live unbalanced lives, but they get to where they can’t do anything but get better day after day. They relish new challenges. Former Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz used to say, “If what you did yesterday seems important, you haven’t done anything today.”

That’s a good one. Of course, if you got married yesterday, you’d have a hard time topping that the next day! Peak Performers simply will not allow themselves to get caught up in the excellent work they constantly produce. They have an intangible that’s hard to put a finger on, but basically it’s like every time they do something, they’re doing it for the first time. Just because they did it great in the past doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to do it great the next time. They’re confident, don’t get me wrong, but they don’t take their performance for granted.

I watched a Biography of comedian and actor Steve Martin. He said he was born with no noticeable gifts. The point was that he worked his tail off to accomplish the things he has done in his career. I recently watched a Biography show on songwriter Paul Simon. He made the comment that even though his father worked a lot and wasn’t at home a lot, a comment he made impacted Paul’s life significantly. He was in his room singing when his father happened to hear him and walk in. He sincerely told his son that he was very good at it. That comment made a lasting impact.

I’m often asked who was the most impressive athlete I ever interviewed during my broadcasting days. That would be Vanessa Pruzinsky. When I say her name people look at me like, “Who’s that?”

Vanessa carried a perfect 4.0 grade point average her entire time at Notre Dame in CHEMICAL ENGINEERING! How hard is that? She was only the third person in the University’s history to do that, and the first female ever. At the same time she was also a starter on the powerhouse soccer team. Vanessa was the Rookie of the Year in the Big East Conference in 1999. She was a key player on a team that was consistently ranked in the top five in the nation, and that has won 3 national championships over the past 15 years.

She achieved excellence as a student and as an athlete. Vanessa was committed and determined. She had one brutally tough class that led her to tears. The librarian would often have to wake her up at 2 in the morning so that she could go back to her room for some sleep. As an athlete she had to have ankle surgery one season, but came back to lead a defense that allowed just 5 goals in one 19 game stretch.

She was excellence. Not excellent, excellence. It was her state of being. She was as close to perfection as any high achiever I ever covered in my broadcasting career.

Vanessa’s perfect grade point average in a brutally challenging major is an inspiration because it is up there in the “perfect” range. While she was able to persevere, that can of pace can take its toll on many of us. As Peak Performers you have to be careful to cut yourselves a break from time to time. I’m not talking about settling, but about understanding that seeking perfection can be damaging. No matter how well you do at something, you tend to harp on the one area where you came up a little short. It’s that “perfectionist thing.”

Then I read a quote by Dr. Harriet Braiker: “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”

She’s on the mark there, I believe. Striving for perfection is noble and this world would be in a whole lot better shape if everyone was in tune with that, but striving for perfection can demoralize you. Seeking excellence, however, is motivating. I truly believe it can be a state of being. Peak Performers strive for excellence as a habit and way of life. They care deeply, as I wrote about earlier, and take it hard when things go wrong, but they keep moving on because excellence is their way of life. Be excellence. I did a one hour interview with Pat Riley, who is the President of the Miami Heat and former head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He summed it up best when he said…

“Charlie, excellence is the gradual result of always trying to do better.”  – Coach Pat Riley

Charlie Adams


574-254-0188 || Email Charlie