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Against All Odds

January 15, 2004 Vol.II Issue 2

Dear Friends,

Well, gee, I thought I was going to write to you this week about my trip to San Francisco to be with Holly Stiel and Jana Stanfield presenting for the Northern California Speakers Association. It is a real honor to be asked to speak to one’s colleagues, and as a mentor, I was feeling like a proud “Mother Hen,” wanting to be there for her “kids.” Mother Nature, however, had other ideas and socked in the airport here in Portland, Oregon with ice and snow. No go. It feels like an appropriate time to acknowledge the dedication of speakers who brave the elements and the odds to make it to their engagements, in the face of adversities.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to share a little bit about Holly, one of my favorite people in the whole world, and the person who first introduced me to Jana Stanfield over ten years ago.

Yours truly,

Weather or not, I’m proud to say I’ve known my speakers to turn around when turned away at the airport, rent a car and drive long hours to make an engagement, if it’s at all feasible. 9/11, however, presented a whole new set of barriers to be overcome.

Our client, Baptist Hospital East, in Louisville, KY had scheduled their annual women’s program, “Wise Woman’s Wellness: A No-Guilt, Practical Guide to Everyday Health” for Saturday, September 15, 2001. On September 11, the keynote speaker, Dr. Deborah Kern, was just finishing a few days of teaching special sessions at Lake Austin Spa, in Austin, TX. Deb was soon to find out, it’s a REALLY long way between
Austin, TX and Louisville, KY.

As Kit Fullenlove, Public Relations Manager recalls, “Because of the devastating events of September 11, we felt it was important to hold the seminar to help people get their lives back to normal.”

We all watched the news for any sign of what might happen with the airlines, while rental cars were snapped up faster than snow shovels on a snowy day in Portland. And, I’m sure you will remember, that the entire time, we were dealing not only with the hour-to-hour uncertainty of it all, but the underlying fear for our own safety, as well as the safety of our loved ones and the future of our world.

From Austin, Deb was on the phone with her husband in Alabama, creating various scenarios, including him driving cross country to get her or meet her. Kit was checking Greyhound Bus schedules, (and possibly camels, I think). Deb finally decided on Thursday, to get on the road and head in an easterly direction, hitching a ride with a couple who were returning home from the spa to Baton Rouge, LA. From the backseat of their car, Deb continued to dial rental car companies, hoping to pick up a car in Baton Rouge, while continuing to concoct alternate “plans.”

There were no rental cars in Baton Rouge.

And then a U-Haul passed them. “A-ha!” she thought, “That’s a vehicle for rent,” and immediately called U-Haul. Fifteen hours later, Deb and her suitcase left Baton Rouge in a 14 foot truck (that’s big enough to move the contents of a one-bedroom apartment) and barreled on down the road for the 13-hour trip home to Huntsville, Alabama.

Home at last at 9 a.m., she hugged her son and husband, ate some breakfast and re-grouped. Later, she got in her own car and headed up the road, 9 more hours to Louisville, arriving at midnight.

Now if it didn’t take all of her creativity just to get there, at 9 a.m. the next morning, she faced an audience looking for hope and reassurance, if not answers.

“What a seminar that was!” Kit said. “We will never forget it. Nearly every woman who registered showed up, proving to us that it was important to them to carry on with their lives.

“Deb did a special segment that involved the participants lighting candles and making affirming statements to one another. One of our behavioral health therapists, said it was a tremendously healing experience, not just for herself, but for many others.

“The audience also appreciated Deb’s tremendous effort to be there for them. She did an outstanding job despite little sleep.”

For Deb it was a life-altering experience in more ways than one. She says that prior to this trip, she had never been able to drive more than three hours without falling asleep. Since then, when she gets in the car, it’s like a hit of adrenaline kicks in and she is charged for the long haul!

The part about being creative with the program under the circumstances is par for the course, I have to say, for the level of professionalism and pure dedication that speakers like Dr. Deborah Kern bring to your events.

I first met Holly Stiel over a decade ago when she was the guest speaker for our convention and visitors bureau in Lansing, Michigan. Our client had clipped a newspaper story about her and her new book, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, and asked our speakers bureau to check her out. We did, we hired her, she came, and gave our community a new way to practice customer service, and that is, from their hearts. For Holly and me, a sacred friendship was born.

Getting to know me, she said, “You’ve got to hear Jana Stanfield. You’ll love her.” Next thing I know, a tape, “I’m Not Lost, I’m Exploring,” shows up in my mail. Jana has written my theme song! Another sacred connection is made. Don’t you sometimes just wonder if the angels are up there watching to see if we take the bait and then whoop it up when we make the connection?

After a pioneering career as a concierge for 16 years, Holly delved into speaking and training with her unique “Neon Signs of Service,” which is also the title of her latest book. For businesses committed to customer service as a point of differentiation, there is no better teacher on the fine art of customer service than Holly Stiel. Holly not only recognizes, but embraces the notion of emotion in customer interaction, transforming that energy into people skills that increase customer satisfaction and decrease customer turnover. I have read about some hospitals and businesses initiating “concierge” services. If you need a resource, check it out here.

I also wanted you to know about Holly because she is a self-care expert. Her interest stemmed from her need to take care of herself under the stress of serving over 300 customers a day.

Ultimately, we are all in service and Holly believes you can’t give away what you don’t have. Service ultimately comes from inside as each one of us brings our unique, creative spirit to work with us.

For your new year’s contemplation, here’s a little of her philosophy. There will be more in future issues.

SELF-LOVE = SELF-CARE by Holly Stiel
How are you replenishing yourself? What are you doing to take care of you? It’s a scientific law that if you continually draw water from a well without replenishing it, eventually it will run dry. The airlines have it right when they say, “Secure your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.” It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to separate self-care from self-love. No technique of self-care worksunless the underlying tenet is self-love.

It is important to understand what self-care is and is not. It seems like a paradox, but self-care is not about being a narcissist. Taking care of oneself is how we can contribute more love to others. Self-care happens in relationships as well as in solitude. It is about being kind and tender with ourselves. It is a lifelong commitment and it is always in process. It is not about being selfish, feeling guilty, or extreme discipline. It is not about money or expensive treatments (while those are nice, they are optional).

Your own personal degree of self-love will have a direct effect on your ability to self-nurture. The odd thing is self-love doesn’t come all that naturally. It is in a constant battle with your inner voice, wanting to sabotage you. The human mind is amazing! Over the years I have learned to love myself — flaws, cellulite, the entire package. I’m much happier now. Try it. You will be, too!

Holly Stiel, author, speaker, trainer
Teaching the Art of Customer Service

Until next time, be good to yourself, for your well being and those you love.


My vision for The Speak Well Being Group is to be a connector for selected speakers I know, love and believe in, with the audiences who will be inspired, motivated, maybe even transformed by their perspectives, knowledge, empathy, compassion, information and, most importantly, capacity to enjoy the process, laughing at themselves and with you.

You’ll find many of our speakers on our website.
Or please call anytime and let us assist you: 503-699-5031

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