Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Darkness: Unknown

I recall a lecture I went to speaking on the subject of darkness. It was interesting that the darkness referred to was not necessarily that it was pitch black, or that you couldn’t see right in front of you. The darkness described was actually the absence of light. That no matter how hard you tried to find other sources of light, they just didn’t exist, except for one ultimate source of light, that not only lit the general area, but that also shone so bright you could see what was ahead. This story is more of a religious personification than anything, and I just wanted to reflect on this idea.

Many times it seems that darkness is something that can be prevented with a certain amount of preparation. Oil in lamps, batteries and a flashlight, kerosene and a lantern, matches dipped in nail polish, what have you. It is when we are lacking in these items that darkness overcomes us and we feel possibly feel engulfed by fear, lack of direction, perhaps a lack of understanding.

Imagine hiking a very steep climb, making it to the top, breathing it all in, staring at the peaked vistas, and starting to hike down this high mountain as the sun begins to set, knowing very well that when the sun sets, it will get dark. You feel you are prepared enough because you have a new flashlight with new batteries. The sun goes down, the moon and stars are not shining, your only source of light is coming from the knowledge you have of the trail and the destination or goal you previously mapped out. You ready your flashlight, push the ‘on’ button forward….and no light streams across the path. What is your next step? What guides you to return safely to your destination?

It is amazing to me that with one flip of the switch, light overcomes and extinguishes darkness, but when that light doesn’t work, what do we depend on? Carefully studying this situation leads us to criticize. We question ourselves thinking, “Why didn’t I start back sooner before the sunset, why didn’t I carry that extra flashlight, why didn’t I bring matches, why don’t I have another source of light to lead me down this trail back to my car?” We begin to envision being stuck on a mountain side awaiting a search and rescue team as they search for us. “Did I tell anyone where I was going, would they be able to find me, knowing that I don’t have a light to attract the search and rescue?” Doubt and fear of the unknown take over our thoughts.

So, here is the question: is darkness bad? Not when I sleep! ;) Can it be overcome? How do we find our way on a trail that we know exists and a destination that has been mapped? There was once an example used during another lecture about darkness being just as I described, not enough clarity to continue a journey, doubt and fear, not of the darkness itself, or being stuck without a light source, but the darkness being the unknown.

I know for myself, that when I am stuck in the darkness, not knowing where I am going is a lot scarier than not knowing where I am. Often in life we are faced with different situations where we are traveling down a path that is full of decisions that will lead us to other paths. We know where we ultimately want to go, but sometimes the path we are traveling on starts to get misty. It deepens to a dark fog, blanketed with uncertainty. We feel that we are still on the trail, because we feel like we are headed in the right direction. We rely on our previous experience, others' experience, the knowledge we have of the trail, our decisive and intuitive minds eye to keep stepping in the direction we feel and sometimes know is right. Then the fog subsides and darkness becomes us. The light for which we are searching exists in our destination. We just have to get there.

I hope that in each of us there is a hope that light exists past the darkness. Sometimes, we can stumble around to find the switch, but other times we have to rely on what we know in order to keep walking, trusting that if we rely on those other sources of light and in the destination, that we will see why that part of the trail - or period of time - was dark for us.

Is it dark because our faith is being tested? Do we have enough faith to get where we want to be? Do we have enough hope that there is light on the other side of the darkness - the darkness not being evil, but the darkness being the unknown?

So, is it safe to say that sometimes stepping out into the darkness is necessary for us to progress on the trail of life? I feel that darkness (or the unknown) is overcome when we decide to step in the direction we know and feel is right - the direction we know holds the ultimate light source.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Swimming and toast: Motivation

Some of my favorite memories all happened during my years of high school swim practice. I would wake up around 8:30 a.m. to go to swim practice on the weekend. We would practice at the city pool-a 50 meter Olympic competition pool. The water was always nice and cool on those Saturday mornings. During my morning practices, the water would be a little too cold, but then after swimming a couple lengths, not cold enough. The wind would often pick up around 9:00 a.m. To take advantage of the pickup, and rid us of swim cap headaches, we would dowse our heads with water from the pool while we were lectured on how many hundreds we had to do and in what time to do them in, letting the wind take to the wetness and soak our sweaty faces.

Churning the water, arms flailing, but steady, I maintain my course, all the while thinking, if only I could possess the speed of my teammate in front of me. Once I get into position of lead swimmer, the pressure builds…am I going fast enough, does my teammate behind me want to pass, how can I maintain this momentum in the next set of hundreds, will I be able to prove endurance, what song can I imagine that would put me in a constant-continuous beat, but bring the most benefit, my arms are aching, do I need to let my teammate pass me and let them lead for a while, what am I doing after practice, can I make it to the wall in the amount of time given, did I call my friend back last night? Distracted, I struggle with aches, thoughts and temptation to quit. I look ahead, seeing nothing but foggy, fuzzy water. Breathing hard, lungs bursting, kicking beyond beat, trying to concentrate on my technique, seeing my teammates in the other lanes pass me, disappointed in my lack of speed, I determine that I am at least accurate. I look forward (not too much because that causes strain in the stroke….but just enough.

The goal is not too far distant, I see the wall and motivate myself to push all those other thoughts behind me. TOAST TOAST TOAST, I repeat in my head. I don’t know why the word toast pushes me to outperform what I think I am capable of. The word ‘toast’ means, I am almost there…and I am going to give my all and finish knowing I have done just that.

I reach my destination. I realize that I sprinted all that way. There are others who finished before me, others who finished shortly thereafter and I see the strugglers in the middle of the pool, wading but not pushing. I am relieved to know that I put up a good fight and made it to my destination. And that was only one of three sets of 300’s.

Ah, knowing I would have to subject myself to that again….do I do it? YES. Why? The feeling….the feeling of knowing that I did the best that I could. Knowing that despite my aches, fiery lungs, doubt, misinterpreted trust that I could do it, wandering thought—losing the goal ahead….I would do it all over again. And I do it with fervor.

Looking back at my swim team experience, I see now that I view my life like every 300 push. TOAST TOAST TOAST…..hold out, keep going push to the end….sprint your hardest and then, do it all over again and accomplish something new. The thing I must remember is how much I enjoy the journey.

Just do it: Improve technique, focus on the goal, fight for it because you love it. Your hard swim becomes a coast, gradual development, but still room for improvement.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

PR helps media win the game

As public relations specialists, we pride ourselves in getting as much earned media for our clients as possible. Our work is primarily tailored around truthfully telling our clients’ accomplishments and success stories, as well as representing them during a time of crisis. Public relations helps each company discover stories that are unique and that correspond with the overall identity of that company. Different than advertising, public relations allows the researched publics gain an understanding about each client in conjunction with their identities and missions, which is why public relations professionals spend most of their time developing story ideas that have not been noticed or reported.

PR professionals within the agency arena are not only responsible for finding the news, but are responsible for knowing the newsmakers in nearly every field imaginable. It is not our responsibility to offer news that is a mere blip on the media’s radar, but to deliver good, reliable, solid news. We crave information and want to develop partnerships with media professionals that provide the print and broadcast audiences with relevant news from newsmakers.

There is often a standing controversy about the way public relations works with the television stations. I have found that people who work as directors or producers of newscasts mention certain aspects of a story and may disregard others because of the fear of free advertising. In the movie I Am Sam, Starbucks probably paid millions of dollars to be the chosen coffee house where Sean Penn worked. It could be assumed that television stations sometimes feel uneasy in mentioning certain things in order to protect those who have spent their advertising dollars.

The point to be issued is this: Many times public relations professionals create news opportunities in conjunction with what needs to be heard. If a reporter in television, radio or print likes the idea, they will pursue the story and cover its newsworthy elements. As Ted Koppel mentioned during a Nightline series in September 2001 highlighting the genocide taking place in the Congo, as media representatives it is important to deliver not what people want to hear, but what needs to be heard including all of the: who, what, where, when, how but most importantly the why- despite any fear of free advertising.

I hope I speak for all public relations professionals when I say that PR should not be viewed as a burden to those writing about and/or delivering news. PR professionals should be used as pawns to get media to the newsmakers. Public relations fits into the every day media scheme and deserves to be noticed as those who can also deliver news.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

In 10 minutes

March 4, 2007

In 10 minutes...

In 10 minutes I could sit down to the piano to play two pieces of my mom’s music.

In 10 minutes I could watch the part in Pride and Prejudice where Darcy is walking through the moors toward Elizabeth Bennett and watch them together until the scene where the father says something like,” If anyone inquires after Mary or Kitty, send them in, I am quite at my leisure.”

In 10 minutes, I can pick apart 15-20 split ends. I know this because I was waiting in line for the car wash yesterday. The wait was about 45 minutes, 7 minutes per car, and in those minutes I split the majority of my split ends.

In 10 minutes, I could sing at least four songs all the way through twice.

In 10 minutes, I could take 3 pages of notes from very impressive religious and or other intriguing lectures.

In 10 minutes, I could cook a baked potato in the microwave, drench it with sour cream and eat it half-way.

In 10 minutes, I could read 30+ pages of any children’s fantasy novel. Right now it is the Hidden series.

In 10 minutes, I could call one of the people I love and talk to them about nonsense things until I was laughing or crying. 10 minutes is enough time to reconnect and decide a perfect time to spend 10 more minutes together.

In 10 minutes I can travel to Target. Target is very much like a Tiffany’s for me, in a sense that I love to stop and stare at all the fanciful fun. Rarely do I spend more than 10 minutes in any given store, except Target.

In 10 minutes, I could watch 1/3 of a Gillmore Girls episode and leave feeling refreshed in knowing that I am not just the only silly girl in the world…they are everywhere.

In 10 minutes I can swim at least 500 yards, how many laps that is, I have no idea (I measure by yards).

In 10 minutes I can arrange an interview with a client, write a press release, take a call from an assistant and develop talking points for my clients.

In 10 minutes I can find my favorite songs online and import them to my itunes, my new favorites being Azure Ray, Nouvelle Vague and Sting.

In 10 minutes, I can tell if a situation is going to make you or break you.

In 10 minutes I could write a blog that is completely dedicated to silliness, deep thought, randomness and fun. This blog being so dedicated, I am going to promise that I will write 10 minutes worth, non-stop. I had a teacher in college that developed an exercise, where we would have to write for 10 minutes non-stop, without the internal editor taking control. This being my first blog, I have already let my editor through, correcting spelling errors and such. From now on….there will be randomness and if thoughts are left unfinished, that is all right. This blog is about enjoying the journey. I am sure I will still use spell-check, and I am letting you know that because I don’t want you to feel cheated. If you feel like adding, please do so. Without the thoughts and depth of others, it is hard for me to draw strength in my thoughts. For the next 10 minutes, I will post this blog and begin a new era that I have wanted to explore for a very long time.