The Year That Dreams Come True

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Sunrise-St. Thomas, USVI

Amid the many sad headlines, I have found a means to fortify my resilience by manipulating mindset through the mantra that this is “the year that dreams come true.”


In retrospect, it started when a one-way flight to Phoenix to find an auction deal on a car for our son resulted in a powder-blue Ford Mustang, which I drove back to Chicago. It sparked a recollection that I’d naively hoped that I’d find a Mustang on my driveway on my 16th birthday. The reality though was that I was the eldest of six in a middle-class family, and I was not even allowed to test for my driver’s license until I was 17 and ready for college. Yet, I enjoyed that ride from Phoenix because the car, the engine, the handling was everything I’d expected. Since then, I repeated that trip to acquire for myself a Mercedes SUV. Chicago winters are particularly caustic to cars, and now mine has no rust.
It occurred to me that through much of my life, I’d put off and delayed many wants and dreams. Whether due to finances, work obligations, or family responsibilities, I realized this year that my mortality could be approaching and I had better start knocking things off my bucket list before I no longer could. Nagging little reminders of my physical limitations were becoming evident too, even with attempts to be athletic. Rust can take many forms.
Realizing that it is through small, consistent habits that great changes are made, I have for over a year, almost daily, been using the Duolingo app to learn Spanish. Granted, I could invest more time and effort to expedite progress, but I have progressed and retained a degree of written comprehension that has benefited my work, and it has advanced my expectation of myself to be somewhat competent in several languages. I admire polyglots and was particularly impressed when my husband and I took our first cruise this year to the Caribbean. The assistant cruise director was completely fluent in English, Italian, French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese. The Caribbean has been on my wish list since I was a teenager, and I’m glad that we chose this time after the islands suffered from hurricane damage because one of the excursion vendors said, “Thank you; we haven’t worked in 2 ½ months.”
A cruise was something our son was pushing us to try for over a year. Not sure if I would be an unlucky victim of seasickness, and haunting anxiety of disaster, as influenced by the movies Jaws, The Poseidon Adventure, and Titanic, I delayed making the commitment until we could book the trip with points. During the first 5 minutes of sensing that the ship was moving out of the Port of Miami, I gripped the edge of the dining table, trying to look demure as I struggled to keep down a few bites of salad while listening to my giddy spouse, but I was fine for the entire 7 days.
Even my daughter and her husband joined the bandwagon, and they reserved a shorter cruise; but since their itinerary began before ours, we met them in Fort Lauderdale the day of their return which was also the day of our departure. It was our best adventure and we look forward to more.

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Deira- Old Dubai

It seems like I am cheating winter this year. Shortly after the cruise, I booked a business trip to Dubai to attend the world’s largest halal food trade show along with a colleague. We packed the week with meetings and only had the last day to be tourists whereby we visited a beautiful mosque in neighboring Abu Dhabi and my niece, who also lives in Dubai.

 

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Abu Dhabi, Sh. Zayed Mosque

Our meetings took us to all parts of the city; we fulfilled the dream-come-true-desire to eat camel milk ice cream and drink some deliciously flavored camel milk products, but we did not have time to check out the beach. Regardless, it was a successful trip, and it reconfirmed the value of mindset.

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The Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is greatly admired by the populace, has embarked on a mission to counter the depressive state of the region. The approach is reminiscent of how we educators value positive expectations. He has articulated and set in motion initiatives to bring happiness to the people. And as about 97% of the population are expats, the need for harmony is necessary. As one person told me, “Bad attitudes are not tolerated here.” Even my niece confirmed that she and her husband love living in Dubai. People work hard there, but it is safe. Several stories were shared by various individuals that related how no one steals, even when wallets, phones, and briefcases are left unattended. Doors are not locked, and women and children are given priority seating on public transportation. If men transgress to those seats, they are subject to fines. Women feel safe even at night. Also, I was impressed with the cleanliness of all public areas and noted a robust economy. Eating, drinking, smoking, and chewing gum is not permitted on public transportation. On a Tuesday evening, a mall was bustling with families shopping and dining out. Most malls and restaurants are open quite late, and they do seem to have happy people. It reminded me of the 1970’s when we had a middle class with expendable income.
Before leaving for Dubai, I’d went to Macy’s to buy shoes. To my surprise, only some sizes were available, and the signage indicated that other sizes were only available online. JC Penney only had a limited supply of shoes as well. It was opposite to when Gorbachev was amazed to see the quality and quantity of produce in our grocery stores under the Reagan regime. That was a time of prosperity, and no one can convince me that what was then is now. No one seems to be calling it, especially since the 1% is doing so marvelously, but the rest I believe are struggling. Even our young people who may be doing well if they are gainfully employed may have anvils of debt that will burden them and prevent their progress for a very long time.
The headlines are troubling here, but Asia is rising and the global economy is growing. Isolationism and protectionism have never benefited anyone long term. History students know that, but our leadership apparently never studied or retained such lessons.
Positive mindset and people working toward a better global society, albeit with certain challenges, give hope. Read this pdf! Government in 2071: Guidebook It is a guide by which educators and policymaker should study.
A reason we chose to attend the Dubai Gulfood trade show was that although we see data reflecting prospering halal industries abroad, particularly in Europe and Asia, there is scant evidence of it here. Yet at this trade show, there were 163 U.S. exhibitors. When we spoke with them, it was clear that they were there to solicit business for export, but some of the largest expressed no interest to produce halal products or label them here in the U.S. We found it sad and felt a bit angry.

Since we were among trusted locals, we asked them about how they perceived the U.S. under the current administration. Frankly, they said, “Well, we feel that since you voted for him, you deserve him” (though I did not). For although they follow our news, we are just too far and removed to even care about. Bigger and better news is happening elsewhere. We have lost our former status and influence.

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A reflective moment…

Meanwhile, I’m going back to making this the year that dreams come true, as I’ll be sharing my vision for education and steps that teachers can take to help students prepare for the future this April in Dallas and Chicago.

 

A New Learning Paradigm

10020940964_9a153ac6e2_zEducation in the U.S. is slowly evolving to face its competition–a young, curious and inventive demographic found in countries that highly value their educators, and increasingly in developing countries where youth use technology to access the world.

Somewhere along the way we questioned if teaching penmanship was still relevant in an age of keyboarding. Well, I will verify that it is—as long as we still hand write notes, essays, and the free responses on standardized exams. These are the evidences we associate with learning; and yet, is what we learn in school still relevant to our needs today?

Perhaps the answer to this is dependent on what role in society we assume, or what roles our children will hope to actualize. And one also ponders if teachers, with rapidly evolving technologies, are keeping current?

We live in an age of educational abundance, thanks to the internet. Though, while people in remote developing nations are investing with curiosity in their enhancement of knowledge and commerce, are we significantly invested as a nation in our own self-improvement?

With a smorgasbord of courses, free and paid content, how many spend at least two hours a week accessing professional development and cultivating new skills that will meet the requisite level of competence for adequately responding to global challenges? If not, then we become dinosaurs and demonstrate a miserable model of irrelevance.

Investing in professional development is a wise choice, and just may help secure value-driven personal profit, contentment, and a link to the interconnected matrix of diverse people who are connecting to work well together and prosper.

If interested in this topic for a keynote or professional development, visit my website at susanlabadi.com

5 Tips for a Better Year

 

Holiday breaks can foster fertile ideas and hopefully you have made solid plans for your entrepreneurial intentions. Yet, even if you are not an entrepreneur per se, you may have had ideas of ways you wish to improve your life. With that, allow me to share some tips with you, as I’ve had some fun conning myself at times to do the nasty but necessary tasks that I’ve preferred to defer, but just knew that I had to do.

I think it was Brian Tracy that coined the term “Eat That Frog” as a title for one of his books. This zany phrase was extrapolated from Mark Twain who described that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, then that is probably the worst thing that will happen all day. The gist of it is that with the myriad of distractions in our lives, be sure to knock off the most vital thing you can prioritize in order to gain traction; eat that frog.

For me yesterday, I updated and renewed a FAFSA application with my child who is in college. Everything else-albeit more pleasurable-took second place to “eating that frog.” Today it is writing lesson plans, for I am returning to the classroom for some part time social studies at middle school and high school levels. This will give me the pleasure of satisfying my “kid fix” while funding my other entrepreneurial tools that I want to explore. The only downside is that I’ll have to join the early riser club again, but it is probably for the best.

Every day, I have a huge amount of useless emails that I typically don’t even open after scanning the subject line because I do not find them relevant to my needs. Consequently, they pile up and I periodically unsubscribe or at least bulk delete several times each year. The reason I acquire so much email is that I find many free resources that give benefits, but at a certain point it becomes clear that subsequent offerings don’t interest me, are not coming at an opportune time, or cost more than I am willing to invest. Purge unnecessary emails. Ditto; for smartphone apps that free up more memory.

The tips on decluttering from Marie Kondo still give me “spark joy,” but it is deep winter now and I have no need for chiffon blouses, Boho skirts, and lightweight workout apparel. In fact, I’m recovering from a Baker’s Cyst (getting drained and having a Cortisone shot was like eating a frog!) that put brakes on my typically athletic lifestyle, so until I mend it seems joyful to thin out warm weather clothes from closets and drawers, except for what I will wear to present at the West Coast Education Forum in Newport Beach in mid-January.

Lastly, with high expectations for a productive year, it makes sense to calendarize, in order of priorities, all the work, personal projects and dates you intend to pursue. This includes writing and marketing campaigns, content creation, social dates, and vacations. For me, if I put it on my calendar, it is going to be done-even if it’s within a few days of my posting-so fill 2016 with a seriously accountable calendar of things that matter to you!

Hope you have the best, healthiest, happy and prosperous year ever.

Multipotentialite: How I Connect Business and Education

IMG_1473 Multipotentialite: How I Connect Business and Education

They said, “You have to choose between Business and Education.” But they complemented each other, and I always knew it in my gut that I belong comfortably in both realms. Similarly, students are relegated to silos of educational disciplines via courses or major declarations, but reality dictates that integrated knowledge provides greater bases for decisions. That is one of the reasons I created Genius School, Inc.

There is a term for people like me, I am a multipotentialite. That is, I have a lot of knowledge, strengths, and areas of insight and experience. Chalk it up to 50 plus years of living and having a low threshold for boredom. In fact, I have a joie de vie for learning all kinds of things, which I believe garner me the right to crow a bit about them.

With humility, I do have some weaknesses; but at the end of the day I am a teacher. And although my LinkedIn profile chronicles my professional climb, there is much more in my bag of resources and network.

Through my escapades I have designed and sold both residential and commercial security systems. There were also sales ventures of clothing, fine furs, skin care, Native American pottery and jewelry. I’ve mastered a number of eclectic cuisines, created various marketing campaigns, taught myself and made money while staying home with my kids doing medical transcription, taught elementary Arabic, middle and high school social studies courses, homeschooled one of my children, taught standardized test reviews, became a school guidance counselor, managed a diverse staff when I served as a school administrator, provided training to schools, managed a number of professional development events and am an accreditation specialist. I have sourced and shipped container loads of products overseas through one of my companies, counseled business owners, taught entrepreneurship workshops, put together a trade magazine, written articles, promoted other companies and organizations, and designed and managed websites and social media campaigns. On the home front, I have painted, gardened, fixed plumbing, changed countertops, installed ceramic flooring, changed the sump pump, repaired electrical wiring and installed fixtures, and handled basic automotive maintenance. Lately, I am exploring several aspects of visual content creation for another of my businesses. Besides these, I enjoy dabbling in foreign languages, various forms of athletic pursuits, and reading up on the environment, geography, nutrition, and medicine.

In some cultures, one gets shot down for bragging about accomplishments; but I think having done a lot has seasoned and gifted me with wisdom and the capacity to teach and help other people to learn, create, and build.

Education is the common denominator; business is the instrument to actualize that knowledge for the benefit of mankind. I have been truly blessed that I can indulge my curiosity on a number of fronts. That diversity is what characterizes a multipotentialite. If you want to know more about this topic, visit puttylike.com. Who wants to join me?

Health is Wealth

Picture1 Plenty of olive oil, halal meat and poultry, gentle exercise, sleep, and I try to use organic produce. Joy of joys! I’m back from my annual physical with great news that my C-reactive protein (CRP), which indicates systemic inflammation, is the lowest the doctor had ever seen!

These results are a gift of good genes, but I also attribute them to my lifestyle. As I am self-employed, I have the ability to design my day. Not many people enjoy that luxury, but it certainly can be done with planning. I feel like Superwoman and am charged up!

Another mainstay of my habits is to indulge in quality organic coffee, served black, and I typically keep a filtered water bottle close by. And I share this with you so that you can check your own habits because although the body can compensate for some assaults in dietary choices, it is best not to drive it toward too much acidity. Now that the autumn clouds are rolling in and we are less likely to process vitamin D from sunshine, our immunity typically pulls back. Sweets, processed junk, and too much food take a heavier toll.

Let’s face it, life gets more stressful in these months too, but I have effectively mitigated that with prayer and reading Qur’an. Also, it is important to like what you do, for how you spend your days is how you spend your life. Make it grand! Learn, love, share, and remember the special people in your life.

For those near Chicago, Whipping Up An Income (for Entrepreneurial Women) may be for you. It will feature Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen and Susan Labadi of Genius School, Inc. It happens this weekend, so get your tickets now.

Summer, Summer, Summer Time!

SAMSUNG Summer, Summer, Summer Time!

With one son gone to Italy for a stint teaching English, we have swapped in our nephew who arrived early for our daughter’s August wedding. It promises to be an interesting summer, especially with Ramadan starting next week, as it will have the longest days of the year for fasting.

Due to family—and extended family—obligations, business took a backseat, but I’m back on track. Though I enjoy the benefit of a flexible schedule, sometimes I have to put a hard stop on letting other people map my course. It is one of the banes of working from home; but between the weather (seems like Northern Europe-rainy) thwarting my usual outdoor activities (biking, tennis, golf, and walking) and prioritizing family, I realized that I was neglecting my life design vision and it was time to retrench and do some strategic planning.

My group of entrepreneurial-minded women deserves so much credit for helping to objectively critique, give advice, and share resources. We brainstorm to find answers to a variety of hurdles. Probably the most valuable though, is the accountability it entails. I find myself rushing to do what I’d intended to have done before the next meeting just before deadline. Don’t most of us work this way?

In our last gathering, it seemed to be a common phenomenon to have naysayers, problems with focus, scheduling projects, and keeping family from resenting our business activities. When the efforts result in low returns, it is hard to convince family that the work is worthwhile. Yet, we know that priming the pump is necessary and that solid planning builds a firm foundation. Those who persevere and keep refining their strategies are able to stay in the game.

I recall Maya Angelou revealing that to write she often sought out a motel room and a bottle of bourbon to allow herself the chance to focus and work uninterrupted on her writing. I’ve dreamt of remote artist retreats where I could focus and let my thoughts pour out (without the bourbon) to complete projects long held in mind but unable to nail down due to distractions. However, my family is not ready to cut me loose to that extent yet. I’ll just have to find a way by pushing through with whatever constraints are there. For most people, they have regular routines and set schedules. One of the things I do like about my life though is that schedules change daily, and I resist, or more accurately rebel, against routines. It keeps me fresh.

Discovering technologies, learning new buzz terms, meeting people doing interesting things, these are what excite me and I am lucky to be part of it on a global scale. I’ve always felt that the whole world is home, and that there are many things to explore. With technologies today, I can experience it from the comfort of my home, and stay on top of trends. This is how I can help others as well, and I deliver a wealth of insight to my clients based on these observations.

Fortune has come to me from the wonderful people I have been blessed to meet and work beside. It is a privilege to train, advise, and promote folks doing important work in Education and the Halal industries, and soon you will see a new website for the American Halal Association with a Halal directory. Stay tuned for more, as I have entered into an accelerator program!

Muslim Women’s Alliance-Celebration of the Muslim Woman

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With Yvonne Maffei of My Halal Kitchen

 

Each year the Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA) luncheon hails the we’re almost there emergence of springtime with a sold-out gathering of 500 diverse Muslim women in Chicagoland. It attracts women from daughters to grandmothers and from a multitude of ethnicities, which is characteristic of Islam. They come to get reconnected after winter’s cabin fever, network, and celebrate accomplishments of their own cadre.

This year featured three award winners whose contributions to society were made public. Dorothy Habibah Collins, Founder of Sisters Nurturing Sisters, a non-profit that offers transitional and permanent housing on Chicago’s South-side, described her own start with sincerely wanting to help a woman and child who only earned about $300 each month and were having to set up their sleeping arrangements in a public park. She felt awful to not be able to do more than offer encouragement, but it galvanized her desire to do more for other women who she would help through her organization.

Another winner was Um Serage Rahima, the loving Prinicipal of Al-Siddiq Weekend School for over 20 years. She warmly related the gratification she feels when former students now enroll their children in her school, and she teaches classes in mosques and homes all around the city and suburbs. A life-long learning of several topics in Islam, she is certified in Quranic recitation and is a resource for many.

The final recipient of the MWA award is Joohi Tahir, who has had a successful corporate career in sales and marketing for over 20 years and is the mother of a 13 year old daughter with Autism. In her story, she related the challenges faced by many in the Muslim community, and she recently went into the non-profit world as Executive Director of Muslims Understanding & Helping Special Education Needs (MUHSEN). Her organization seeks to create awareness, build programs, and provide much needed services across America that will strive for inclusion of all members of the Muslim community. Their first fundraising banquet is this Saturday, March 7th in Garland, Texas.

MWA awards scholarships, provides events every month, and is actively seeking volunteers to empower, support, engage, and build leadership and community service by women. Embodying the spirit of a woman who humbly sought to do something in the interest of social justice, the keynote speaker was Linda Sarsour, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York, she is a Brooklyn-based activist who is gaining much publicity nationally for her accomplishments.

Sarsour spoke of the day she realized that she, a mother of teenagers, could make an impact. She simply helped someone for whom she felt she should offer assistance, and the effect raised her consciousness to learn that simply doing a little something can have a major boost to help someone who could not help themselves.

During the luncheon, the attendees were reminded of the many names and headlines from this past year that have born introspection about injustice and feelings of helplessness. Sarsour struck a note with the crowd when she related that upon learning of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, she hopped a plane to see for herself what was reality. She shared several observations, but among them was one that again jolted a revelation. When the protesters were bombarded by police with tear gas, Palestinians in Gaza were Tweeting about how to deal with tear gas attacks. The connection and desire felt from a subjugated population who sought to help Americans was astounding. It was from this that Sarsour cited that no matter how small we think we are, we must speak up. Together, we are a significant power that can bring positive results.

She reminded the audience that politicians are supposed to work FOR THE PEOPLE. The People have a responsibility to engage in dialogue and qualify their representation. That is America. We have to speak up to pave a better future for our children. We have to engage and contribute more to our communities. Give a little, for you never know how great that can be for someone today.