Inspiration in our own backyard

By Gale Mote / Guest Column

Thousands of people travel millions of miles to be inspired by great thinkers, business entrepreneurs and athletes. They want to hear their stories and be inspired by the lessons learned on the road to achieving their personal and professional goals, otherwise known as success.

On March 10, I was able to find inspiration in my own backyard. The Corridor Business Journal honored 10 extraordinary Women of Influence in our communities. As I listened to each humbly receive their awards, I began to reflect on common themes acknowledged by each.

To influence others, your focus must be outward, not inward – selfless, not selfish. It is about giving, not getting – living a life and following a cause based on purpose, not a paycheck.

My dad, a Wisconsin dairy farmer used to tell me, “Gale Jean, if you don’t like the crop you are reaping, you had better check the seeds you are sowing!”

When you wake up in the morning, what gets you out of bed? The thrill of a title or the passion for helping someone face another challenge with grace.

Influence comes when you love what you do, do what you love and do it well. You have found your sweet spot. This requires that you identify your core talents and work hard to develop them into strengths. According to the Gallup Corporation, a strength = talent x investment. Many people are hardwired with certain talents such as being analytical, empathetic, strategic or positive.

However, they do not want to pay the price to apply that talent for greatness. People with lesser talents can accomplish more if they discipline themselves to focus on building their strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses.

You can influence others because you are willing to be influenced. People who are closed-minded, stubborn and arrogant do not learn or grow. They isolate themselves from options and opportunities. As one honoree said, “they love to wear the victim cape.” They spend more time blaming and making excuses than owning their behaviors and results.

Change is painful and something to fear. When you are open to what you can learn and are curious, not furious, with what you do not understand, you become a catalyst for making things better.

Be grateful. Each of the 2016 honorees spoke to the importance of having an attitude of gratitude. Karen Stenger, advanced practice nurse at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, noted that she runs the stairs rather than take the elevator “because she can.” Think of the number of people who are not able to do just that. The most negative people in the world spend most of their time complaining about what they don’t have instead of celebrating what is good and right in their lives.

Psychologists have researched that people who begin their day by writing down three specific things they are grateful for over a 21-day period can actually change the patterns in their brains to more positive, optimistic outlooks.

My dad used to say, “If you feel like you are in a pile of manure, remember there is a pony in there somewhere.” I always look for something positive in any situation – good or bad. No one ever damaged his eyesight by looking on the bright side.

You must be courageous to have influence. To say “no” to something, you must have a bigger “yes” burning inside of you. Learn what matters most and make your choices accordingly – be intentional. All choices have consequences and you must be willing to own those results.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”

So, you and I must be so clear about our purpose, our values and beliefs. Our actions and responses align with our character. We role model who we are and influence others with our steadfast commitment to do what is right.

Lastly, take risks. Jim McMahon said, “Yes – risk taking is inherently failure prone. Otherwise, it would be called Sure Thing Taking.”

Don’t be afraid to fail because most of our greatest lessons come from making mistakes. Don’t dwell on what went wrong – focus on what you can learn and how to prevent it from happening again. Say, “How fascinating!” and move on. Keep looking out your windshield and less time “coulda, shoulda, woulda” out your rearview mirror.

Tracy Tritle, CEO of Tritle Consulting Group suggested we “act as if.” Let your behaviors and actions build your confidence. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and most important, believe in yourself.

In the “Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy found that she didn’t need to leave Kansas to find her heart’s desire. I am so proud to live in a place where we have living examples of positive influence around us in so many places. Congratulations to the 2016 CBJ’s Women of Influence honorees. You make us all better.

Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at