Who Stands Tall For You?

Who is a rock in your life? Who do you count on for inspiration so you can be your best?

And, equally important, who do you provide solid ground for?

As many of you know, I became a life and executive coach nearly 20 years ago. After working as a journalist, a governor’s press secretary and a television executive, I entered this profession—which was unheard of at the time—because I believed passionately that people deserve support to live their big dreams and to fulfill their potential in the world.

Despite my enthusiasm for the new career, I faced a hard time in those early days explaining the fledgling profession to others. No, I’m not in sports, I’d say. No, I’m not a therapist. And, no, people don’t have to buck up, go it alone, and figure out life and work on their own.

At one point, I was so frustrated by the blank stares I received that I cried to my best friend, Jan Allen. She, of course, smiled and reminded me that this was a temporary problem, that someday people would understand what a life and executive coach was.  (You were right, Jan!)

There was another rock in my world back then who didn’t blink an eye when told of my newfound passion. In fact, when I said I was becoming a coach, his first words were “Debbie, that fits you like a glove.”

His name is Stedman Graham. You may know him as Oprah’s Stedman. But he is so much more than that, even though he is most assuredly a rock in her life, too.

Friends for more than 20 years, I treasure this “rock” in my life — Stedman Graham

I first met Stedman in 1992 when I was running a television production company and he owned his own marketing consulting firm. Since then he has become a best-selling author with 10 books to his credit, as well as a speaker, educator and philanthropist.

For more than 20 years he has always been that calm, quiet voice calling me to reach higher. He’s always believed in me and encouraged my growth and talent, even if I wasn’t sure of myself.

Last week, along with two Women on Fire, my colleague Meredith Schoenberger and life coach Jodi Salata, I spent the day in Chicago in the presence of this towering man. He is 6 foot 7 inches tall!

With Stedman, Meredith and I may be small…but we’re mighty!

The invitation-only event was a leadership development seminar for business professionals. It was a small, private group that also included Stedman’s daughter Wendy, a producer for OWN’s Super Soul Sunday.

Wendy Graham and Jodi Salata after our day with Wendy’s Dad

The day was rich with Stedman’s candor and teachings, and Jodi, Meredith and I want to share some of his nuggets of wisdom and inspiration so you can benefit from him, too!

First, here are a few Stedman quotes that stood out for me:

  • “You know what lonely is? Lonely is when you’re not giving anything. Because when you start to give, you can’t even accept all the gifts that come your way!”
  • “You must get up every single morning and ask yourself: How will I improve myself today?”
  • “Ninety-nine percent of people don’t know who they are. Do you? Are you conscious of your potential?”
  • “How deep can you go—physically, spiritually, emotionally and with your education?”
  • “What are leaders looking for? Not followers. They are looking for other leaders.”
  • “Do yourself first—and then serve the world. … You’ll take care of everybody else when you start to take care of yourself.”
  • “Want to be effective and impactful? Develop a strong relationship with yourself. Spend time with you!”
  • “You must have a life management and learning system that teaches you to organize your life and your identity around love and your skills, talents, passions and strengths.”
  • “You gotta own your own self every day!”

* This week’s Pinspiration*

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Check out more wisdom from Stedman Graham at debbiephillips.com

Here’s what Jodi wants to share with you:

Stedman is a wonderful example of leadership and integrity, so it’s not surprising that he teaches about these qualities so eloquently. The foundation of it all is the individual. To go out into this world and give of yourself, you first have to know yourself and be whole.

Get rid of the clutter in your life and only add things that bring value. Your principles and guidelines keep you on track. Develop your talents, gifts and a plan of action.

Become a lifelong learner. The world of business is changing, and you have to be flexible, innovative and creative. Vision structures your success and your life’s destination. You never get it done. Once you’ve reached one goal, set another and then another.

Everything is a process; If you find yourself in fear, focus on love.

This is what Meredith learned and loved:

Stedman Graham was more inspirational than I ever could have imagined. The way he is able to communicate and motivate people is incredible. He is kind, loving and thoughtful, and it was a privilege to spend the day with him.

Two moments really stood out for me. The first was on messaging. Stedman encouraged us to focus on just one message in order to have more impact in the world. It inspired me to think about a single message that could transcend both my work and personal lives.

It feels natural to craft a message to project to the public for business, and I am excited thinking about what my personal projection should be. Do I want to wake up every day projecting the message of love and positivity?

Or should I communicate the importance of living in the moment and savoring the present? Maybe, on a personal level, it’s something that changes each year, each month, or even every day. I love the idea of waking up and asking myself, “What’s my message to the world today?”

The second idea that resonated with me was on daily rituals. Stedman pointed out the difference between right- and left-brain thinkers. He encouraged us to dream and think from the right while operating from the left.

He helped me to realize that success is a lifestyle, not a single event. To be successful, we need to have systems, structures and consistent practices that allow our productivity to soar. Without daily rituals, we prevent our visions and dreams from turning into reality, and there’s no fun in that!

* * *

Stedman left us with a challenge: “A year from now, I don’t expect you to be the same person. I expect you to become 10 times better.”

Stedman Graham is a rock for me and for so many others who know him.  And I know he touched many of you at our Women on Fire retreat in Chicago in 2010.

His example in the world raises these questions:

Who are the rocks in your life? Moreover, who do you stand tall, strong and consistent for?

I’d love to read your comments and personal stories on our blog.

Have an amazing week!