by Courtney Joy Jemison

Today, I am excited to feature a guest post from Courtney Joy Jemison. Courtney and I “met” on social media. She reached out on Twitter after seeing some of my posts for People Development Magazine. As I read some of her posts, her messages resonated with me, and I believe they will resonate with you. Read more about Courtney at the end of this post. 

I’m on autopilot—completely lost in thought as I turn left down the main street I always take to get home.

Copyright Matt Choquette via Sapulpa Times

The street is unusually busy.

Reality slowly peels me from my pensive musing, but by the time the anomaly registers, it’s too late. I’m forced to a stop and I’m surrounded.

There’s a line of cars on my left, a brick wall to my right, a barricade of people in front of me, and a line of cars forming behind me. The neighborhood homecoming parade is slowly snaking through the blocked-off roadway. Not yet committed to the worst-case scenario, I lean forward and strain to see if the tail-end of this slithering sea is visible.

It’s not.

I throw my car into park and sit back. I’m conflicted. One part of me is nostalgic as I see the tubas towering over the proud populace. I remember the pride of being part of the marching band in the high school homecoming parade. The disciplined pace of your feet perfectly in sync with your musical comrades. The tight cadences of the snares and bass drums resonating in the streets—those streets that were specially blocked off just for us.

But the other part of me just wants to get home to see my babies. I become overly aware of the seconds ticking away, cutting into my precious time with them, and frustration overtakes me. I whip out my phone and write a stingingly sarcastic and defeated text message to my husband, whom—would you even believe it—has zero control over my ability to get home any faster. Nevertheless, the reasonless emotions have descended and deceive me into thinking that venting will somehow help.

In situations like these, our human nature tends to focus on finding someone with whom we can share the struggle rather than finding a solution to the problem at hand.

I become annoyingly aware of this truth and after my snippety text message, I’m feeling convicted. I know better than this. I made a vow at the beginning of the year to eliminate the negativity and instead, look for opportunity. Committed to upholding this vow, I turn to look behind me and I see an entrance to a neighborhood just 200 feet away.

I pull up the map on my phone and follow this street all the way through the neighborhood and out to the main road. I look behind me again and see that the line of cars I thought was a mile long is actually only three cars deep (amazing how negativity can augment “manageable” to “unattainable” so quickly in the mind). With only three cars in the queue, I know I could walk up to each and coordinate a streamlined reversal into this neighborhood starting at the back of the line. I realize if I’m going to do this, I have to act now before this becomes a logistical impossibility. A fourth car pulls in, seemingly mocking my indecisiveness and further threatening the ease of escape. All at once, my will breaks through my paralysis and I jump out of the car.

I walk up to each one of the drivers with confidence and purpose (mostly to convince myself that this is going to work). One by one, I deliver the hopeful news that if we all back up and turn into this neighborhood, it will conveniently take us out to the main road. You’d think this promising solution for escape would be received with enthusiasm. Man, was I as wrong as the girl who shows up to her friend’s wedding ceremony dressed in white. I was amazed to find that it was like talking to zombies that had to be snapped out of their tunnel vision. And in two out of the four encounters, I got push-back from people stating that they lived in the neighborhood just beyond the parade. I stayed upbeat and smiled as I assured them this road could lead them to those neighborhoods as well.

It’s incredible how committed we can be to the struggle even when opportunity is so clearly in front of us (or behind us, in this case).

Ultimately and thankfully, I was able to convince these four drivers to trust me and they began backing up one by one. We all managed to successfully slip the parade perimeter and make it out to the main road where opportunities were now closer to endless. I took an alternate route home and only ended up about 15 minutes passed my usual arrival time, greeted by those wonderful baby smiles and a husband genuinely surprised that my plan worked.

********************

Up until my recent pledge to reprogram my pessimistic tendencies, I was the person that always had a reason for why something wouldn’t work. I’m ashamed to say that this was actually something I used to be proud of. I, of course, never saw this behavior as negative. I saw it as responsibly reasoning through something and giving a realistic assessment of how it would most likely play out.

Pessimistic people love this about themselves. They think they’re healthily dosing circumstances with a realistic prognosis, when in reality, they’re conceding victories and solutions yet to be realized by calling time of death prematurely.

Optimists, on the other hand, create their own realities. They shape their lives and their futures through proactive thinking, consistent habits, good decisions, and positive outlooks. They aren’t paralyzed by likelihoods and potentialities, rather, this energizes them to embrace new direction and forge new paths in their lives.

Optimism breeds creativity and creativity breeds solutions.

Knowing that, let’s immediately sever the socially acceptable pairing of optimism and naiveté. Naiveté is ignorantly swearing allegiances and blindly forming conclusions. So, let’s not fold the rotten fruit in with a perfectly promising batch of dough. Consider optimism for what it really is—a very powerful tool. And when it is employed as such, it can serve as an objective and creative filter through which all possibilities are considered before a final decision is made. It gives one the emotional and intellectual flexibility to entertain many different perspectives and outcomes, thus engendering the creative solutions that the pessimist is incapable of arriving at.

Caution: the conclusions healthy optimists reach also engender responsibility. This is what the pessimist is so skillful at avoiding. If they can suppress innovation and write off potential solutions from the outset, then they’ve successfully skirted the responsibility to bear them and see them through.

So, contrary to popular opinion, optimism is the more remarkable show of mental fortitude. It takes courage, discipline, and grit to shoulder the risks and responsibilities that come with being dedicated to problem solving.

So, the next time you feel the urge to pipe up in dissent, ask yourself, “Am I assessing or am I solving?

Challenge yourself to lock up your input unless it includes solutions. And always remember:

 

Negativity concedes the victory.

Optimism fights for victory.

 

Negativity assesses reality.

Optimism creates reality.

 

Negativity suppresses potential.

Optimism embraces potential.

 

Optimism, my friends, is not for the faint of heart.

 

Courtney Joy JemisonCourtney Joy Jemison

Courtney is wife to her unwavering solid rock and safe place, John, and mom to two beautiful quarter Koreans, Olivia and Ethan. She is the Chief Creative Officer at Jonah Digital Agency in Texas and a passionate writer on the topics of emotional intelligence and selfless leadership. You can find her thoughts regularly posted on www.courtneyjoy.com and to her Instagram account @courtneyjoy. 

Rivers of Thought

Rivers of Thought passed a milestone of sorts in November. Eight years ago I launched Rivers of Thought as a platform for blogging and speaking. It started with a whisper (I love that song by the Neon Trees, don’t you?) but has grown to so much more!

Eight Years of Blogging

Welcome to Rivers of Thought!

In this space you will find my musings about sustainable business practices, sustainable lifestyles and general observations about business, life and the world around us. For those that know me, you will not be surprised when I throw in the random Lewis and Clark story, or perhaps overuse a river analogy to make a point. I hope you find the postings interesting, worthy of comment and that they will stimulate some helpful dialog.

That was it, my very first post on November 26, 2008. I created Rivers of Thought when I started my sustainability consulting firm, Confluence Dynamics. I was new to using social media, heck, everyone was new to social media in 2008. My plan was to use it as a platform to promote the business. After a couple years, I made the decision to close the business (I preferred a paycheck over starving) Rivers of Thought was put on ice.

Fast forward a few more years. I was CIO for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. I held a firm belief that CIOs need to embrace Social Media. Not knowing exactly how to start, but wanting to be seen as a thought leader, I reached out to Rachel Nelson. Rachel was our Online Marketing Manager and social media guru. With her help Rivers of Thought was resurrected, given a facelift, and re-launched.

I now write for a variety of platforms in addition to Rivers of Thought. What started out as a blog about Rivers of Thought - Bloggingsustainability and environmental causes has morphed into a channel for stories about family, life, love and music. Some of the posts will make you chuckle, some will bring a tear. I hope in some small way, they generate reflection on your own life and loves.

On the Intel IT Peer Network, I focus on the role of the CIO and it’s continuing evolution. I am in the midst of my third series on that platform. “The Path to CIO: Profiles in Leadership” is a series of interviews with CIOs from around the world and in a variety of industries. The focus is on the steps they took to reach the office of CIO, while at the same time providing insights and advice to others on the path.

As a contributing author for People Development Magazine out of the UK, I write about leadership and staff development. My series, “The Roosevelt River: Lessons in Leadership from Theodore Roosevelt”, originally posted on Rivers of Thought was republished in People Development which greatly expanded its readership. In fact, the post “Blue Bloods’ Frank Reagan Paddles the Roosevelt River” remains my widest read post of the past eight years.

When LinkedIn launched its blog platform, I was among the first ones asked to be a contributor. On LinkedIn, I write about general interest business topics such as vendor management or collaboration. Among my most popular posts were “D’ya Want Fries with That?” and “You Want to Sell Me What?”.

During 2016, I was accepted into the Forbes Technology Council providing access to publishing on Forbes.com. Thus far, two of my posts have appeared on Forbes. On this platform, I write about technology trends and how they impact business.

Most recently, I was nominated to be a Fellow for the Institute for Digital Transformation. The Institute is a non-profit organization whose mission is to train IT leaders to help their companies grow and thrive in the digital economy. As a Fellow, I will be writing on a variety of topics under the Digital Transformation umbrella.

Through these various outlets I have been able to meet and interact with some incredibly talented people. Their willingness to share their insights and thoughts has been vital to my continued growth and learning…Chris Peters, Charlie Araujo, Isaac Sacolick, Will Lassalle, Christina Lattimer, E.G. Nadhan, and many, many more…I can’t thank you enough!

Eight Years of Speaking

At the same time I launched Rivers of Thought, I started down a parallel path (or stream) of public speaking. I had always been petrified of getting in front of people and talking. However, I knew to achieve my career goals, I would need to get over it and “put myself out there”. I had experience teaching college and professional level classes in computer programming, computer science and green building techniques, but somehow public speaking was different in my mind.

My “big break” came, when my mother-in-law, Judy Hollander became the District Governor for Rotary International in our area. She invited me to speak at their local chapter in Attica, Indiana. She even requested my favorite subject…Lewis and Clark. So, with that I began to develop a talk (with a LOT of help from my wife Carmen) on our adventures along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Aptly titled, “The Lewis and Clark Will Never Die Tour” it chronicles our trips to mark the 200th anniversary of their exploration.

You might say my public speaking also started with a whisper…I rehearsed a million times…until I was almost hoarse! Over the course of the next couple of years, I presented the same talk to dozens of Rotary Groups across Indiana. Several even asked me back, so I wrote part two, covering our trips to visit Lewis and Clark sites from their return trip back to St. Louis.

During that time, I was asked to speak at a corporate annual meeting for a local company. They wanted the them to be around leadership and creating an environment of transparency and candor. So…I developed “Everything I Learned About Leadership…I Learned from Lewis and Clark”, an exploration into leadership using the expedition as a backdrop. Hey! Go with what you know, right?!!?

Rivers of Thought - SpeakingOver the last eight years, I have spoken to a wide variety of groups on topics including Lewis and Clark, leadership, Information Technology, the role of the CIO and Innovation.
These groups have ranged in size from a half a dozen to almost a thousand. And. Yes. I. Still. Get. Nervous. But, instead of dwelling on it, I am able to be energized by it and the audience and channel that energy into the talk.

While I can remember each and every talk, there are three that really stick out in my mind. The first was at the annual convention for Mended Little Hearts. a non-profit, volunteer-led program providing hope and support to children, patients and families affected by congenital heart disease. Leading up to the keynote, I was able to meet and talk with many of the members of the organization. I was struck by their passion, their dedication and their caring for each other and their mission. I truly believe I took away more from the experience than they did.

The second was a graduation ceremony for the Excel Center in Anderson, Indiana. As an executive of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, I was asked to speak on behalf of Goodwill at the commencement (Goodwill is the owner and operator of the Excel Centers, high schools for adults who had dropped out of school, but want to come back and earn their diploma). I struggled with what I could say that could have an impact. I finally realized this day was about them and their families. My talk was brief. I thanked them for allowing me to share that day with them, I thanked their families for supporting their efforts, and I thanked the faculty for their dedication to the mission. You can read my thoughts and the transcript of my talk from that day in the post “56 Stories, 56 Graduates, 1 Amazing Night!” Their stories were indeed the stories of the day. Again, I took away more from the experience than they did from my words.

The third and most recent was at another graduation ceremony. This one was for Eleven Fifty Academy. Their mission is to help close the nation’s growing technology skills gap through its mission of creating an ecosystem of coding talent that benefits the individual, their employer, and their community. Students range in age from teen to mid-life and beyond. My role was to tell my story, provide my thoughts on technology careers and then do a bit of Q&A. What an amazing group of students! I had some time over coffee to speak with several of them and learn their stories. Some are just starting their careers, others are re-inventing themselves for a second or third career. All incredibly inspiring. And yes, I think I took away more from the experience than they did!

Final Reflections

You’re getting the idea by now. What I love about blogging, what I love about speaking, is the interaction, the sharing of insights, the learning I am able to participate in through those pursuits. The people I have met (virtually and in person) have made my life richer, and they continue to shape my thinking. I am looking forward to listening, reading, learning and growing through the next eight years of writing and speaking.

I would love to hear from you. What’s on your mind? What’s on your heart?

Connect with me on LinkedIn.
Or Follow me on Twitter (@jtonindy)

Find my posts on a variety of platforms:

 

 

Wow! Where has the year gone? Seems like only yesterday we were kicking off 2013 and now we have said goodbye to it as we jump into 2014. To wrap up the year, I thought I would jump on the bandwagon and do a year end review of my own. Using a secret formula of views, Facebook Likes and Shares, Twitter re-Tweets and Favorites, LinkedIn Likes and Shares and website links I ranked the top 10 posts and just to be different, the bottom 10 posts. 2013 was a year of incredible highs as well as incredible lows, many of which I have shared here. Throughout it all, I’ve enjoyed the process of writing Rivers of Thought and I hope you have enjoyed my musings.

crop380w_iStock_000022454598XSmallSo, without further delay: the TOP 10 in order:

Living in a Virtual World – Big Data in 4DX

How Arlo Guthrie Saved My Life

Mary Ellen Ton 1933-1980-2013: The Woman with Two Dashes

An Old Dog Goes Back to High School and Learns Some New Tricks

My Mother Was a Jesus Freak

Take Your Vendors for a Ride – A Hay Ride

One Bourbon, One Shot, One Beer

The Curse of the Black Walnut

VMWorld 2013 – One person’s somewhat skewed experience

N.C.I.S Indianapolis: Episode 1 – Networks

And now…the Bottom 10-from lowest of the low to highest of the low (my editorial comments in () ):1366381892920304628free-violet-button-arrow_bottom_left-md

N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 4: Systems   (Cindy I told you we didn’t have to worry!)

N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Series Finale: The Results  (Attention span, what attention span?)

N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 2: Communication and Collaboration

N.C.I.S. Indianapolis – Episode 3: Information

5,000 Views   (Granted, this post and the one you are reading are really self-serving)

Shades of Grey   (Still my favorite title!)

Go and Get Your Google On – Our Journey to the Cloud   (Still one of my favorite Brad Real lyrics)

N.C.I.S Indianapolis – The Pilot    (Can’t blame this one on attention span!)

I will never take notes again!    (Still not taking notes!)

The Donut Hole  (Perhaps no one reads blogs during the holidays!)

Thank you again for the honor and the gift for moments of your time to read my thoughts! Here is to a better and brighter 2014 for us all!

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.