Archive | December 2013

The secret lies within…

Can you believe it

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Can you believe it’s only a week until Christmas? It feels like just yesterday it was summertime and this project was barely off the ground. Now it’s 7 days until Christmas, and we’re in the final stretch!

If you asked me a few years ago whether I thought I’d be writing a blog post promoting my children’s book about a misfit reindeer, the answer would have been a resounding “no.”

Simply put, I didn’t think it was a realistic goal for someone in my stage of life. As you know, I seemed to have lived multiple lives, having completed two successful careers in both the Military and IT. Image

Despite this, about four years ago, the idea of writing a children’s book began percolating in my head, and resurrecting itself each holiday season. Finally, around Christmas of 2011, I convinced myself to put pen to paper and draft a story around a germ of an idea that I had been developing.

Yes, “Ranger” may not be published by Random House, and I don’t expect to win a Pulitzer anytime soon, but the creation of Ranger has been a big personal success. I am happy to say that (with your help) this book has raised thousands of dollars  for the Antonia J. Giallourakis Endowed Fund in Art Therapy for Children with Cancer and brought countless children a happy Christmas. That is what I set out to do, and I am so proud to say I’ve accomplished this goal.

Actually, I should say I have just begun to accomplish this goal. The book became available on November 1st which is really way too late in the year to have an impact or achieve solid sales over the Christmas shopping period. But we have been accumulating a substantial set of great reviews, extremely encouraging feedback from families who are reading the story, and a lot of lessons learned about how to market it.  All of which is to say that we have had a successful launch in 2013, but 2014 is the year that we can exploit the book and let it “be all it can be.” The period of February through June is the time to get bookstores, toy stores and other outlets interested in stocking it for the 2014 holiday season. Therein lies the future of Ranger and his mission of helping kids fight cancer.Image

You really do define your own happiness. The secret to success, happiness, gratitude… and everything else really does lie within.

As I’ve said before, our children and grandchildren will quickly become exposed to one of the most powerful influences in their lives: peer pressure. The best defense for our children being misled by misguided peers is to teach them how to be leaders and define their own standards of ethics, success, and happiness.

Individuality and finding true happiness – that is what Ranger teaches us in his story.

Wishing you all a beautiful holiday season.

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The Story BEHIND “Ranger”

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In many of my recent interviews, one question seems to come up again and again.  Why, considering my age and professional background, did I want to start a new career writing children’s stories?  

 

Of all the titles I have held through my career (and I’ve had a few), the one I treasured most was “Daddy” (although more recently, “Gramps” is giving “Daddy” a run for its money).  My wife and I raised two fantastic daughters and both are now mommies in their own right, juggling career and family. My grandchildren range from 2 to 10 years old, with three boys and one girl. (Guess which one is boss?) What goes around comes around and these days I, once again, find myself reading bed time stories to sleepy grandkids.  

So why did I decide to write my own children’s book?

My own writing has been professional, with many magazine articles, professional papers and such over the years.  One book (you don’t want to hear the title) to my credit, a computer design reference book.   About four years ago, the idea of writing a book for children began percolating in my head, and resurrecting itself each holiday season. Finally, around Christmas of 2011, I convinced myself to put pen to paper and draft a story around a germ of an idea that I had been developing.

It was only during the actual process of writing the story that I realized that I was weaving some important messages for children (of all ages) into it.  They come from my own life experience and from many leadership situations I experienced during my career. The Army had the best possible recruiting slogan, designed to attract the best and the brightest: “Be All You Can Be.” Those five words encapsulate a philosophy that every individual would do well to internalize. If I were writing a college application essay, I can’t think of a better topic to explore.

My new book, “The Legend of Ranger: The Reindeer Who Couldn’t Fly,” is a Christmas story set in the North Pole region, but  it could just as well be set at any time of year and in any place.  It has been described by reviewers as a heartwarming and inspirational story, as it follows young Ranger through his quest to learn the secret of flying and join the Christmas Eve team. I also wrote a companion song titled “Dream and Believe.” The message of the book and song are succinctly stated in the concluding line of the song, “You can accomplish whatever you dream, if you just believe in yourself.” My purpose in writing the book and the song has been to teach children to think big, to set objectives and goals for themselves, and then to believe in their own hearts that, if they work hard, they can accomplish whatever they put their mind to.

Many Colonels and Generals (OK, Admirals too…) from the military have written books about management and leadership and left their constructive mark in the professional world.  I applaud them for that. I chose to target children instead.  Why children?  

For many years I served on the board of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education that was established as a living memorial to the seven Challenger astronauts who perished in January of 1986 when their space shuttle mission exploded on launch. This was to have been the “education mission,” carrying the first citizen astronaut, elementary school teacher Christa McAuliffe into space, from where she would beam lessons (and inspiration) to children on earth.  Christa summed up her own philosophy this way:  “I touch the future; I teach.” She recognized that children are the future, and the direction that future will take depends on where our children will take it. 

Christa McAuliffe exemplified the Army’s motto of “Be All You Can Be” through her own career, and set an example that all children would do well to emulate.  It starts with dreaming and working to realize those dreams, and developing the self-confidence to believe in yourself and make your dreams come true. What better lesson can we impart to our own children? And I am convinced that we cannot start too early in a child’s life to begin to shape their self-perception and ambition.  

Before we know it, our toddlers and preschoolers will be off to school for many hours a day where they are out of the protective envelope that Mom and Dad would like to wrap around them. They will quickly become exposed to one of the most powerful influences in their lives: peer pressure. Some kids will be the “leaders” and many more will be the “followers.” The best defense against our children being misled by misguided peers is for our children to themselves be leaders who have the self-confidence to say, “no, that’s wrong, we should do this instead.” 

The lesson that Ranger’s adventure teaches is a good place to start.