Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Best Boss I Ever Had

The Best Boss I Ever Had …Okay, I have been more than remiss in by blogging to this site but will be better at posting as (I guess it’s a good thing) I’ve had a lot of requests to continue and to create content here.

A while back I wrote an article called: The Best Boss I Ever Had. I’ve been fortunate to have had it reprinted in numerous magazines, newsletters and publications so it has resonated with at least a few people. I hope you enjoy it!

Last week Wisconsin Public Radio called and asked me to be a guest on their drive time show: At Issue with Ben Merens. Firstly, let me say that Ben Merens is a true class act as a talk show host and has a huge following that is well deserved throughout the Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) network. He is knowledgeable, classy, is a master interviewer and the thing that left the best impression with me is that he truly “honors” the views, needs and perspectives of his listening audience.

He dedicated the show to his late mentor and station manager and called the segment “The Best Boss I Ever Had” and invited listeners to call in and recount their best boss ever. The recording of the show can be found at the WPR site. Click here for the recording.

Well the bottom line is that many callers called in and gave a variety of characteristics of their best boss ever. How about you? Who was your best boss ever … and more important, what made them such a good boss? In my leadership presentations we’ll often have many people share their version of who their best boss ever was. I would be interested in hearing your version.

Motivational Challenge: How well do you personally do exemplifying the character trait that you respected in your best boss? How would your employees, or co-workers, or your family rate you in the trait/skill area that you so respected in your best boss?

Do you feel like that is too tough a standard to live up to? It might be. But recognize that this is your own personal standard of excellence … it’s how you defined your best boss ever. Sometimes the standards we set for ourselves are the toughest ones to live up to!

Vilis Ozols

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Favorite Motivational Quotations - Submit Your Own

One of my passions, pursuits and ongoing obsessions is collecting great quotations. I have to admit that one of my pet peeves is purchasing or perusing a compilation of quotations and seeing the same "stuff" over and over again. Conversely, one of my joys is coming across a quotation that is truly inspirational, insightful or motivational.

So ... to this end, for the past many years I have established a page at my web site that pulls together my top ten favorite motivational quotations. Not surprisingly, many of them are my own, or quotations that I use in my motivational speaker presentations. But one of the coolest aspects of the page is that it also has a vehicle for submitting your own quotations. Once again, I have an ingrained fascination with having others give me or suggest to me their favorite quotations. I am constantly amazed and intrigued by the quotes submitted that have significance and impact on a given person.

If you are so inclined you can submit your own favorite motivational quotation.
Go to
my top ten favorite motivational quotations page and submit your own. It may even get posted at the web site or here at the blog!

Here are three submissions that I received early this morning at 5:45 AM. The scary part is I was on the computer at the time and received and viewed them in real time. The posting was from greenhulk87 (I won't give their full e-mail).

Submitted quote Number #1: "I have been a follower almost all my life. Now, it's time for me to take the lead."

Submitted Quote #2: "Life is all about choices. If you are not courageous enough to take risks, then you will not achieve anything in life. If you are talking about risk, then think again, everything in life involves risk."

Submitted quote #3: "If you can dream it, You can do it." Walt Disney

Vilis' Comments: I have always loved the last one by Walt Disney. One of the coolest speaking gigs I have ever had, was the opportunity to present a full day seminar to the creative team at the Disney Company's Imagineering group. It was both intimidating and gratifying because they asked me to do a custom program on creativity. Apparently, some of their decision makers had seem me in a presentation and then asked for a program about how to be more creative. I have to admit, as a part of the pre-program interview process I asked them why they, Disney, the acknowledged epitome of creativity, would ask me to do a program on their area of expertise, when it really wasn't my normal topic or subject matter. There is some insight in their answer. They told me that they had loved what I did in my regular motivational program, but they really wanted their people to learn about my philosophies, research and perspectives on being more creative. They said my motivational program established me as an expert, but they wanted the "drivers" and "philosophy" behind the evolution of the deliverable. They said that whenever they can give their people tools and insight on being more creative they jump at it. Even if it isn't a set "program."

"Creativity" was not a program that I have in my typical repertoire. Boy, you talk about stepping out of your proverbial comfort zone; "teaching creativity to Disney's creative people" ... like I said both intimidating and gratifying. (For those of you that need to know ... it went really, really well! Everyone, especially me, loved the day, had a great time, and learned some really good stuff!).

The session was held in the penthouse training suite of their building. The training room had more "toys" than you could imagine; Nerf footballs, koosh balls, ... they even had a built in mini-golf layout; a very cool set-up with putters and holes in the carpet, strategically placed around the room. From the suite you have a panoramic 360 degree view of the many different parts of the Disney theme parks and the various complexes and you could see, appreciate, and truly feel the genius, vision and accomplishment that is Walt Disney's legacy. I really felt like I was in the presence of Mr. Disney.

In the center of the room, embedded into the ceiling was a sound accentuating dome, painted to resemble the sky, with Walt Disney quotations written around the base. When you stand directly beneath the dome any sound is magnified and reflected directly back to your ear drums, creating both a sensory deprivation and sensory enhancement environment. You can hear the blood coursing through your eardrums. If you whisper it is like the voice of God talking inside your head, ... and truth be told, it really felt like you could hear your own thoughts magnified back at you. What an environment!

I don't know if that is still there, but one of the Disney quotations that was written around the base of this dome is the favorite Walt Disney quotation of mine of all time. It describes who I am, what I value, and it underscores to a great extent any success I've enjoyed in my business, personal and sports career.The quotation is simply this: "When your values are clear, your decision making is easy."

Whenever I have encountered people that I admire, it is eerie how this quotation is exemplified in their persona. They never seem to have conflicts of conscience. It seems that "who they are" and "what they do" are so in harmony that both are obvious and any associated decision-making is a given; an easy, obvious, foregone conclusion.
I know I've said this before, but my favorite most motivational presentations are not the ones when the audience learns and is maybe motivated or inspired, but the ones where I learn and am definitely motivated and inspired. I guess it is because those presentations underscore that the presentation was an exchange, like a community setting, and more of an experience for everyone; for the audience ... but just as much for the presenter. (If you're enjoying this blog, maybe we'll have the chance to participate together in a motivational presentation sometime!)

Vilis' Favorite Motivational Walt Disney Quotation:

"When your values are clear, your decision-making is easy."
Walt Disney

Okay, put that in in your repertoire. I love that quote and what it represents. I hope you pull something from this posting.

Have a great day,

PS: Vilis' Motivational Challenge: Indulge me! Submit your favorite motivational quotation.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Best Business Leadership Speaker I Know

I eliminated myself from this category, but even if I had included myself I'd still be a distant second to Mark Sanborn, the best business leadership speaker I've ever seen.

Mark Sanborn is simply the best. I first encountered Mark while I was still working in the corporate world, and he was so good at that time 14 years ago, that we hired him to present upwards of 40 presentations to our corporate audience in a single year. He would be the guy that would open and close (the headliner) and then I'd be the corporate "dud" that would do all the technical and company stuff.

Mark Sanborn is an amazing business and leadership professional speaker. One of the bonuses of having hired Mark in those early days is that I got to learn from and emulate the best. If I'm perfectly honest with myself, seeing Mark all those times, spawned the desire in me to become a professional motivational speaker.

I could tell you all the incredible accomplishments Mark has achieved, but I'd still miss a bunch of them ... he's done that much (so you can check out his website to get more info). But the highlights include that he's the international best-selling author of The Fred Factor, he is known as "the high content speaker who motivates," he presents over 90 programs each year on leadership, team building, customer service and mastering change and his client list includes Exxon, BMW Financial, New York Life, Costco, ServiceMaster, and HP. Add to that he's been elected to the National Speakers Association CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame and he's a Past President of the National Speakers Association.

The coolest thing about Mark is that ... well ... he's cool! He is the "James Bond" of professional speaking. He is the true epitome of professionalism; handsome, clean cut, a true business profession. ... And then, on top of that, he rides a Harley, he loves fine tequila, and he is one of the most disarmingly funny people I get to spend time with. On top of that ... (I know, it's almost like "enough is enough" already) he's a great Dad of 2, a consummate husband and a committed spiritual "family man."
Motivational Quote: One of my favorite motivational quotes by Mark Sanborn is:

"Focus and determination beat brains and intellect every time. If you focus on
the right things, and work at them often, you will achieve exceptional results."
Mark Sanborn

If you ever get a chance to hear Mark Sanborn speak ... well ... jump at it. His "Fred the Postman" experience is one of the classic platform presentations of the speaking profession (and the foundation of the best selling book he authored).

Have a great day!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The greatest motivational speaker I know ...

One of the questions that I get asked fairly often is: "Who's the best motivational speaker you have ever heard?"

There are a lot of close second-place answers to that one, but the person that in my mind is the best I have heard, is a professional motivational speaker named W Mitchell. You can check out his web site yourself, and do your own background research, but, put simply, if you ever have a chance to hear Mitchell ... jump at it. I'd also highly recommend reading his book, "It's Not What Happens to You, It's What You Do About It",

In a nutshell, he has overcome two life-threatening and life-changing accidents-the first a fiery motorcycle accident and the second an airplane crash. In one of the greatest motivational quotes ever Mitchell says: "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left." His remarkable message inspires audiences to shed self-imposed baggage and obstacles that prevent them from achieving their goals.

Motivational Phrase: "Before I was paralyzed there were 10,000 things I could do. Now there are 9,000. I can either dwell on the 1,000 I've lost or focus on the 9,000 I have left."
W Mitchell

One of the coolest things about being a motivational speaker is the opportunity to get to hear great speakers present their "stuff" a lot. Even better we get to interact with, and count as friends some of the greatest motivational speakers in the business. W Mitchell certainly is that. I first met Mitchell in 1994 when I got to speak at an event that he was the headliner for. I'll never forget how gracious he was, how accepting and complimentary, and how talented from the platform he is. But when it is all said and done, the thing that I really value about Mitchell is what a fine human being he is. He is the same person on the platform as he is off of the platform, and that to me is as fine a compliment to a professional speaker as there is.

Have a great day,
Vilis Ozols

What are you thankful for?

As a former elite athlete, I had to deal with my share of injuries. Anyone who's been injured, whether they are an athlete or not, knows that feeling of helplessness when a body part doesn't work the way it is supposed to. It's probably human nature, but when we're not injured, we can't imagine not having use of our parts, and when we are injured, it's hard to remember what is was like when everything worked properly.

I remember when I had been injured in the past, whether it was walking around on crutches, or with a shoulder in a sling, I swore to myself that I'd appreciate it more when my parts were working again. Then when the shoulder had healed, or the ankle or knee was operational again, I remember experiencing such joy at simple things, like being able to throw a ball, or spike a volleyball or being able to jump and run.

I guess here's the point. The fundamental assumption above is that when you hurt something it will eventually heal. The reality is that this isn't always the case.

Here's Your Motivational Challenge: This week is the Thanksgiving celebration. Here's my suggestion/challenge to you. When you sit down to the feast, look beyond the food for a moment and appreciate the people sitting around your table. Our tradition at the Thanksgiving Day meal, is to have everyone take turns saying what they are thankful for. The first time was a little stilted, but we've been doing this every year for years now, and everyone has come to prepare for it and to expect it.

Maybe this tradition helps us appreciate, even just a little bit, something or someone that we have in front of us. Maybe the thing you are thankful for is a "someone" or maybe it is "something" that someone does or is doing for you, maybe it's an "unappreciated contribution," someone is making, or maybe it's a "circumstance" or current event that you are appreciating, or maybe ... well ... that's for you to determine.

We all get so caught up in our hectic paces of life, that this Thanksgiving ... slow it all down, look around your table, and appreciate what you truly have ... and hopefully, you can appreciate and linger on a positive that you are recognizing you have, while you still have it, and not have to wait till you've experienced a loss to really appreciate it.

Joy does not have to be reactive. Through recognition and appreciation, it can be proactive. You don't have to wait for joy to find you, create your own joy this Thanksgiving.

What are you thankful for?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Yes, Mom or Dad, they are listening to you!

Have you ever noticed that every once in a while God has a way of teaching you a lesson at the time and place that you need it the most, and often from a source that maybe you least expect it? For me, lately, it has been my audiences teaching me a thing or two. I guess that's not that unusual, except that it seems that the last little while I've been getting the same message from different audiences, in different ways, enough so, that I've sat up and taken notice.

I inadvertently talk about my kids and parenting during my presentations, and as a result, I have the good fortune of attendees coming up to me afterwards and sharing wisdom they've gleaned. I have to admit that some of my best material is the result of an idea I have presented in front of an audience that then gets discussed, caressed, molded and congealed through discussions with members of the audience afterward. The message has more of their experiences and insights incorporated and it seems to create messages that have a more universal and "gut-level" appeal.

Okay, so much for the preamble, the message that I've been getting is this. I tell a lot of stories and share experiences in my talks. I can't tell you how many parents have come up to me with a version of this message: They say, "Vilis, I can't tell you how frustrating is is raising my kids, particularly when they were pre-teens and teenagers, because the communication became so difficult and strained and you think that no matter what you say as a parent, that they don't hear a word of what we say to them."

That's not the lesson .... here's the lesson. Then the parents say: "And then this is what happened. One day, when they're older and more mature, you hear your kids saying the stuff that you had been telling them, and the stuff that you had been saying, and particularly the stuff that you were so sure that they hadn't heard and that you were sure wasn't getting through to them. ... And, it is immensely gratifying."

But that's not the message ... here's the message. "It's immensely gratifying, but then there's this immense sadness, too. Because all of a sudden (and almost every parent who shared this experience with me, and there have been a few, said the same thing) you have this incredible wish ... and that wish is that you wish you had talked to them more, shared more, and told them more ... because all the time that they where giving you more than their share of that "I am a too cool teenager" attitude, deep down inside THEY WERE LISTENING WHEN YOU DIDN'T THINK THEY WERE LISTENING."

"Have you stopped sharing your message?"

I really believe that values and morals are often forged through the telling of stories, particularly in a family setting. I know as a professional speaker, I can share a truly "great concept" and it may, or may not, hit the mark. But if I can illustrate the concept or message with a story, the concept and the story will hit home with an audience member at the "gut level" and will be remembered long after I've left the platform.

Don't ever stop sharing your stories with your children, regardless of how old they are, because even when you think they're not listening ... they're listening! (okay you may have to get them to tune down their iPods) ... but they'll be listening!

Here's my motivational challenge to you: Share your values and stories with your kids. I guarantee you won't regret it!

Have a great day!
Vilis Ozols

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Motivational Phrase or Quotation:

"The only goal you can't accomplish is the one you don't go after!"

by Vilis Ozols

Every once in a while someone says something that sticks with you for your entire life. If you're lucky you've had that experience where someone you respect says something so profound that you never forget it. In my case, what they said became "who I am" and what I'm all about. It is the secret to whatever success I might have enjoyed, business-wise, sports-wise or in the speaking profession. It defines me. It is the the quote up above.

This is how it happened for me. I was attending my first formal volleyball clinic up in Toronto as a 13 year old, and I was precocious enough to tell the seminar leader that I aspired to play on the Olympic Volleyball team. At 6'3" I was (and still am) considered short by international volleyball standards, and the instructor told me that the only way I'd make it was by being a great defensive player. He told me the secret was to play with the attitude, "that the only ball you can't get is the one that you don't go after."

Well, to make a long story short, I became a defensive "wild man," ended up playing international volleyball on the Canadian team, and have evolved that advice to a more global perspective.

I seen a couple of situations where someone has received advice like this, has had it impact them dramatically, and, interestingly enough they, in retrospect, maybe didn't even recognize the significance it had on them.

Today's Motivational Challenge:
1. What's the best piece of advice you ever received?
2. Who gave it to you?
3. Have you ever thanked them or let them know how it affected you?
4. Are you passing it along to others?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

This is the inaugural posting for my new motivational speaker blog. I'm planning on posting an eclectic mix of contributions including recommended reading resources, favorite motivational quotations, insights and reflections from the world of professional speaking and probably more than my share of ramblings.

My web site is located at http://www.ozols.com and while I may repeat some of what is there over the course of my blogging, if you have any interest in seeing a little more background about me and my speaking, that would be the place to start.