the "Don't Say I Can't Project"

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Category: Writing (page 1 of 4)

Monthly Minute

We often see athletes in various sports get physically knocked down…a football quarterback is sacked by a defensive player who weighs 50 more pounds than he does…a basketball player stands in the path of an oncoming player to take a charge…a hockey player gets slammed into the sideboards at a high rate of speed by an opposing player and crumples to the ice.

More times than not, these players will get back up on their feet, shake off the collision they just endured, and continue to play the game. The television announcers will yak about how brave the player is to “take the hit” and to get back up again.

But what do the rest of us do when life knocks us down? I don’t think there’s any grey area here. I honestly think there are only two solutions to that question. You can stay down, whine about your circumstances, ask the proverbial “Why Me?” question, and continue down a negative path.

Or you can choose the path that Jenny Hopkins chose. To use every fiber of her being to fight back. To stop making excuses…to stop listening to people who don’t want to see you succeed…to stop the behavior that put you in the negative situation to begin with, and to climb out of that negative scenario one small positive step at a time.

Webster’s defines ‘Resilience’ as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” I don’t think Jenny would say her redemption has been easy, but her journey fits the description. My simple definition is simply having the fortitude to keep getting up – every single time you get slammed to the ground.

The negative thing about Resilience is that most of us wish that we never have to know what it is. Because that would mean that we haven’t faced any hardship. Hardship is uncomfortable, at best, and debilitating at worst. Unfortunately, I don’t know many people who have never faced a hardship or misfortune…no matter how big or how small it might’ve been.

For my younger readers, it could be not achieving an ‘A’ on the Math test that you studied really hard for, or not getting accepted into the college that was #1 on your list, or not making the team.

For older readers (including me) it can be losing a job, the death of a spouse, or the bank foreclosing on your house.

Just remember…the hardship doesn’t define you. How you respond to that hardship does. Are you going to stay down, or are you going to fight back?

Don’t Say, “I Can’t.”

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Bulletin Board Material

“You can do anything that you put your mind to,  if you have a desire to do something. I look at myself, I’ve come from so low… you can achieve and keep striving for the next best thing. I had a goal, from when I got on Drug Court, to complete Drug Court, to better my education, to better myself, to increase my potential, to have bigger and better things in my life. It’s just working hard at it. Don’t try to tackle too many things. Have that goal.”

–Jenny Hopkins

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Standing Up For Herself, Part 2

Hopkins followed those guidelines. She got a job at a packing company and advanced to become a supervisor, overseeing the administrative part of the operation. She got fired when she called out a week before Christmas. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she got a job at a local ShopRite, making $10 an hour.

Little did Hopkins know, but the forces of the universe were working in her favor, behind the scenes. The end of her stay at the Anderson House coincided with the beginning of her job at the packing company. She was working a lot of hours, and she was not at the house on a night when a successful attorney showed up to deliver a talk to the women at the house. He offered the women an opportunity to be employed by his firm.

The women who were interested in the opportunity had to write an essay, detailing why the attorney should select them for the two available positions. They also had to provide a resume. Hopkins felt as though she had a really good job, and she didn’t pursue the opportunity. Two women did get hired from Anderson House, but unfortunately, they both relapsed and lost those jobs.

When Hopkins lost her packing company position, she decided to reach out to the attorney, even though a couple of years had passed. The attorney did not have any positions at the time of Hopkins’ initial outreach. Three months later, however, Hopkins received an email from the attorney, inquiring if she was still interested. Hopkins began her job as Office Administrator for the Serra Law Group this past September.

Hopkins has been sober from heroine for four years and three months. But the good news doesn’t end there. Hopkins found out last week that she will graduate from Drug Court early, in May instead of July, because of the positive progress she’s made and because she consistently demonstrates her stability with her employment and with her living condition.

“Jenny is a good example of what Drug Court is intended to do for people in recovery,” said Tony Serra, Esq. the principal and owner of the Serra Law Group. “It’s a tough program and participants are accountable, almost weekly, but in the end, your record gets expunged and a few of the more difficult barriers to recovery get eliminated. So that’s all very good.”

Even though Hopkins is on a positive path forward, she continues to set new goals for herself. She has reconnected with her three children, who are 17, 15 and 13. She also wants to elevate her position at the law firm. She has her eye on a specific course at a local community college, but first she needs to pay off some student loan debt from her previous life.

“I’m only 37, and I’d like to continue my education,” she said. “I’m a people person, and I like working with people. And I’m working really hard at the office so that he (Serra) can see there’s potential in me.

“I can’t tell you how great it feels, going from worthless…” Hopkins concluded. “I’m accountable, and I feel good about being able to save some money. I’ve come very far and I’m proud of my accomplishments.”

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Standing Up For Herself

What would you do if you lost everything?

Your family, your home, your job, your car, your freedom.

What would you do if you hit rock bottom?

Would you continue to do the things that sunk you as low as a ship anchor in the ocean? Would you blame others for your circumstances? Would you ask the age-old question…why me? Or would you fight back? Would you do everything in your power to regain the life that you lost?

The answers to those questions, intellectually, seem to be easy. But they aren’t. Until you’ve been in that position, you don’t really know what you would do, or how you would do it.

Jenny Hopkins was in and out of jail 14 times in four years. Yes, you read that number correctly. Her husband divorced her, and he prevented her from seeing her three children. She lost her house, her car, her job and her freedom.

“I was doing heroine and constantly getting arrested,” Hopkins said. “The majority were possession charges, and a couple of violations of probation. I got more charges on top of the charges I had, and things snowballed.

“I knew who I was before I started using,” Hopkins continued. “I was a good person, and I wanted to be her, again.”

Like many in today’s society who suffer from drug addiction, Hopkins never had any intention of being in this place. She suffered from post-partem depression after her third child was born. She was prescribed Xanax. She also had a lot of back pain, and the doctor prescribed Percocet. She got hooked on them, and she said the pills were difficult to find. She was draining the bank account and stealing money from her ex-husband. Then someone whispered in her ear, “why waste your money on pills? Just get a bag of heroine…it’s cheaper and it will give you the same thing.”

Hopkins finally got a break, when she appeared before the judge for, what would be, the last time. The judge gave her the option of jail (again) or Drug Court. Hopkins chose Drug Court.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Drug Court is to 1. Help participants recover from use disorder with the aim of reducing future criminal activity 2. As an alternative to incarceration, drug courts reduce the burden and costs of repeatedly processing low-level, non-violent offenders while providing an opportunity to receive treatment and education.

“I knew how to jail,” Hopkins said. “If they would’ve sent me back to prison…I would’ve gone in and come out and went back to what I was doing…using again.”

Instead, she spent three months in the John Brooks Recovery Center in Atlantic City, NJ. which provides a residential treatment program. She progressed to the Anderson House, a halfway house specifically for females in recovery. Anderson House provides an intense, six-month program that helps the patients “develop necessary goals and life skills to return to the community as responsible, sober and productive individuals.”

Anderson House states that approximately 400,000 women in New Jersey are addicted to drugs or alcohol.

“You just have to WANT to stay clean,” Hopkins said. “You can’t do it for anybody but yourself.”

Anderson House has strict accountability, and when a person leaves that facility, they have to stay sober, they have to get a job, they must get a sponsor and they have to integrate back into society.

[Come back next Wednesday to see how Jenny’s story turns out]

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Monthly Minute #6

I admit to having some superstitions, especially when I was a competitive athlete, and now, as a high school basketball coach. One of my pre-game rituals is that I always stop at Starbucks on the way to that afternoon’s game and get a cup of tea.

In years past, beginning right after Thanksgiving, Starbucks had a special Christmas tea, called Joy. Over the years, my players have caught on to my pre-game tradition, and they’ll always ask me what flavor tea I’m enjoying that afternoon.

A couple years ago, Starbucks over-thought their business strategy and stopped doing business with TAZO tea, the producer of Joy tea, and went all in on another tea company…which they then sold and ruined their tea business. But that’s another story.

Young people have better memories than we realize, and when I walked into the gym in early December for our first game, one of my players asked me, “Do you have your Joy tea today?” I told her the abbreviated version of the above story, and I also said that I was sad because of how much I looked forward to Joy. I also told her that I was doubly sad because I could not find it anywhere.

Less than a week later, she walked into the gym with an early Christmas gift bag, and in the bag was three canisters of Joy tea. My player and her Mom made it their mission to find it for me, and while many people will dismiss it as a cup of tea, the gift truly brought me joy. And not just because I could enjoy one of my favorite Christmas/basketball traditions.

When I reflect on the time I was able to spend talking with John Lee and his dad, Mark from John’s Crazy Socks, I think the nugget in their story that stands out the most to me is that they’ve made it part of their business mission to spread happiness to others – Joy.

Not many businesses will include that as part of their mission statement. John and Mark accomplish this in many ways. One is they pledged, from Day 1, to donate 5% of all earnings to the Special Olympics. Seeing that the company is going to gross approximately $5 million in sales this year, that’s a hefty number. But they’ve extended their generosity to other “Charity Partners.” They developed Awareness Socks for Autism, Down Syndrome, Breast Cancer and others. A portion of the proceeds from the specialty socks is donated to those charity partners.

“We believe it’s not enough simply to sell things,” Mark said. “We think it’s important to have a mission and to give back.”

Don’t Say, “I Can’t.”

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Bulletin Board Material

“Follow your dreams, follow your heart, get out of the house! This is not hard, find a way…”

 

–John Lee Cronin

John’s Crazy Socks

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Father/Son Team Explodes Crazy Sock Biz, Part 2

Mark and John built their sock business on four pillars: Inspiration and Hope, Giving Back, Socks You Can Love and Making it Personal.

“Really, it’s the hope and inspiration that matters the most,” Mark said. “We want to show what’s possible when you give someone a chance. That involves both doing and showing. It’s doing the work and hiring people with differing abilities…it’s running a great e-commerce enterprise. The videos are meant to share and to show…here’s what’s possible.”

Johns’ Crazy Socks has created 35 jobs, and 18 of those positions are filled by people with differing abilities. From the outset, they pledged to donate 5% of their earnings to Special Olympics. They’ve also developed theme socks for other charity partners, and proceeds from the sale of those specific socks are donated to those specific charity partners. To date, in just two years, John’s Crazy Socks is nearing $200,000 raised for Special Olympics and their other charity partners.

“Giving back to Special Olympics is important…I’m a Special Olympic athlete,” John said.

“We benefit and we want others to benefit,” Mark said. “We’re successful because of the people we hire. It’s not charity or altruism…it’s good business.

“We’re finding that the more we do for others, the better off we are,” Mark continued. “Charity is not an add-on, it’s an essential part of what we’re doing. For our customers, it’s part of what we’re sharing. It’s not enough to sell stuff. You have to have a mission and a purpose. You have to give back. Yes, our customers are buying great socks, but it’s more than that. They are buying into an experience. They are sharing giving back to people.”

Mark always maintains part of his focus on the metrics of the business. Every month, the company provides a detailed report, on the website, of the charitable giving for the month, which is a tremendous demonstration of accountability to their mission. They conduct 5-6 school tours a week, and their videos have been viewed more than four million times. One video, by the BBC, has over 35 million views.

To add to their philanthropic roster, in September, they created the “Autism Can Do Scholarship.” This program will present a $3,000 scholarship to a person on the autism spectrum in the United States to use at a college or a trade school.

Part of this amazing story happens because of John, and the other part of it happens because Mark and his wife have been amazing parents.

“My wife and I took the same approach with John that we did with our two older sons,” Mark said. “Promote independence, give them confidence, set expectations, and raise those expectations of what they can do. With John, every day he’s doing things that, if you would’ve told me a few years ago, I would assume he couldn’t do.

“Parenting is very humbling,” Mark continued. “There’s so much we want to give our kids, and there’s really not much we can give them. They’ve got to learn and do things on their own. We need to be willing to let them fail, and to take risks so they can learn. It’s particularly hard for parents with a differing ability. We want to watch out for our kids and sometimes we do a disservice. They gain confidence by doing…you can’t get self-esteem by somebody telling you over and over again that you’re good. You get that by achieving things and accomplishing things.”

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Sorry That I’ve Been Away…

I was pretty excited about the story I began in December about John’s Crazy Socks,  an incredible business between a father and son, the son who has Down Syndrome.  I posted the first half of the story in late December, and then something happened that I didn’t plan on.

At practice with my freshmen girls’ basketball team on December 28, I had a bad, accidental fall. Serious fracture in my hip, and had to have emergency surgery that evening. It’s taken me a while to get my mojo back. Even though I am still under doctor’s orders that I can’t put any weight on the surgically repaired leg, nor can a drive a vehicle, I am able to get back to many of my non-weight bearing activities.

In addition to my surgery, my webmaster and I also encountered some significant technology problems as my site was upgraded with a new operating system. It appears that we’ve been able to get everything squared away.

So, since I usually post on Wednesday’s, tomorrow we’ll post Part 2 of John’s Crazy Socks, and we’ll move on from there. Thanks for following along.

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Father/Son team Explode Crazy Sock Biz

Two years ago, John Lee Cronin faced a challenging predicament with no clear solution. He was finishing his last year of school, attending both Huntington High School and Wilson Tech. He was studying retail and customer service.

John was trying to figure out what to do after he completed school. He had worked several part-time jobs during his school years, but the prospects didn’t look too good at the time. John Lee has Down Syndrome.

Not a person who cowers from a challenge, John Lee decided to turn to something he was familiar with. He told his father, Mark, that he wanted to go into business with him. At the time, Mark was in the process of building several on-line businesses for himself.

The duo’s first thought was a food truck – until they realized that neither of them could boil water. With the food truck idea off the table (see what I did there?), John and Mark rattled their brains to try to discover what their next big thing would be.

For years, Mark had driven John around town, and further, to find what John termed, “crazy socks.” John loves crazy socks and has worn them for a number of years. The light bulb went off, and John had the idea for his and Mark’s new business venture.

John’s Crazy Socks.

“Crazy socks really make me very happy,” John said. “I love crazy socks, and I have worn crazy socks all of my life. They’re fun, they’re colorful and they’re creative. They always let me be me.

“I wanted to go into business with my Dad because I like to do fun things with my Dad,” John continued. “I love working, and I consider work fun.”

Mark truly had very little reservation about this joint venture, because he knew that John was up for the challenge.

“Often times, with someone with differing abilities, there aren’t a lot of options out there,” Mark said. “John is not one to see obstacles. He just sees things and does things and assumes they’re going to work out. Instead of hiding it and putting it in the back, John is the face of the business. He’s right out front so people can see him.”

When you go to the website (and I suggest that you do: johnscrazysocks.com) the first thing you’ll see is John greeting you with his smiling face on the landing page. There’s a bunch of videos about the business, and they all feature John. If you sign up for the free newsletter, you’ll get occasional messages from John. And when your order of crazy socks is delivered to your front door, there’s some candy and a hand-written thank you note from John in the box.

Don’t be fooled, however, that this is solely a feel-good story. This is serious business.

The two-year anniversary of the business was Sunday, December 9. That first Friday in 2016, the website crashed. They sold 452 orders worth $13,000 the first month. Last year, John’s Crazy Socks delivered 42,710 orders worth $1.7 million. This year, they’re going to process more than 160,000 orders and eclipse $5 million. They have shipped to every state in the union, and to more than 80 countries.

But that’s not even the best part.

Come Back next Wednesday for Part II of John’s Crazy Socks

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Monthly Minute

I have a close friend who’s been involuntarily separated from his chosen line of work for eight years. He lost his last full-time job in 2010, and he hasn’t been able to get back in the game. I asked him if he knew how many jobs he’s applied for during that time and he said that he stopped counting after 200.

I asked him why he’d stopped counting and he told me that he was keeping each and every rejection email and letter, sort of, as a motivator to continue going. But then he read an article that suggested that by keeping all those rejection letters he was subconsciously putting a negative roadblock in his brain. So, he decided to delete all the ‘No Thank You’ notes. Whenever he gets one, he reads it, dwells on it for a short bit, then crosses it off his list. Then he moves on and continues searching and applying.

There are some people who would say that my friend is wasting his time. I tell him that he has tremendous perseverance, and that he shouldn’t let anyone tell him to stop his quest.

Perseverance is defined as, “continued effort to do or to achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition; to continue doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

It’s one of my favorite qualities, and it’s a characteristic that I talk to my players about, often. In the context of my basketball teams, it can be a challenge to show up for practice and work hard if your team is on a losing streak. It can be disappointing to prepare for the big game and lose. The players that I’m impressed by are those who come back to practice the next day and work hard and prepare for the next challenge.

When you read both parts of my celebrity profile on Oprah Winfrey, the first trait I thought of is that she had tremendous perseverance. She was abandoned by her mother and father when she was in infant, she had no shoes on her feet nor regular clothes to wear to school when she was younger. Yet she continued to do well in school. Then she got pregnant as a teenager, ran away from home, and still won a speech contest to earn a scholarship to college.

The rest is, as they say history. But the other thing that is admirable about Oprah, is that once she became successful, she became one of the most philanthropic individuals of the past generation. She’s shared her wealth to help others, in many different areas. I believe she’s never forgotten what it was like to have no shoes on her feet.

When faced with a challenge or a setback in your adventure to your goals and dreams, are you going to quit, or are you going to continue work toward what it is you’re trying to accomplish?

Don’t Say, “I Can’t.”

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