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!

Fun Video: Women on Fire Recap 2010

Hello to you and to 2011!

Here’s a quick look back on 2010.  These video snippets are but a fraction of the fun we had at Women on Fire in 2010. Especially check out the wisdom of Janette Barber and Stedman Graham!

I hope you see yourself in this video. You are the reason I personally enjoyed a phenomenally inspiring and exciting year!

Super talent Jamie Eslinger, Women on Fire’s marketing and communications director, created this video. She and I had so much fun going to the beach in Naples, Florida to film the last scene in it.

Of course, I could have talked for an hour instead of a minute.  I have so much to say to you about living your life full out!  Your gifts, strengths and talents shared are changing the world.

Enjoy the video and feel free to comment on anything you want to say about your experience with Women on Fire.  I love, love, love hearing from you!

Congratulations for everything you’ve accomplished, created, achieved – and survived! – in 2010.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of our Women on Fire community. You are – and we are together — changing the way women connect with each other and feel supported to stay strong on our paths to succeed.

Lots of new plans, programs and events ahead in 2011 to inspire your extraordinary life!

With love and excitement for all your possibilities ~


We’ve Got Mail!

After a very fun visit, we just packed up our niece Margaret, 13 and nephew Sam, 7 and put them on a plane — along with ALL of their Easter candy — to return home to St. Louis.

(I hope the people sitting next to them on the plane — and their mother picking them up — will forgive us!)

Your SPARK! this week is a personal letter written to me that I have permission to share with you.  The letter reveals what happens when we  embrace our gifts and take action.  The result is feeling alive and passionate, which is one of the 20 aspirations and principles to becoming a Woman on Fire.

Before we get to the letter, I want to congratulate the co-authors of the book Women on Fire: 20 Inspiring Women Share Their Life Secrets (and Save You Years of Struggle!) who opened their hearts and shared their dreams, struggles and pain — and strategies for success to benefit other women.

And, now I want to celebrate Nina Donath of Huntsville, Alabama who so clearly, beautifully, boldly is transforming herself into a Woman on Fire!

Hi Debbie,
A year ago or so, a dear friend told me about you and Women on Fire. She gave me your book in which you wrote a very nice personal message to me in the front.

I first put the book in my stack to read. I finally started it, got a few stories in and laid it down for some reason.

I decided if I was going to pick it up again, I really needed to “study” it, write notes and learn what these amazing women have in common that made them Women on Fire, and to discern some “secrets” that could make me one, too.

And so I did pick the book back up and wrote notes about each story in my journal. I learned that many of the women are where they are today not only through hard work and persistence, but a dream and belief in themselves. Some of the stories are more relatable to me than others but I enjoyed each and every one of them.

As for me, I have worked in a technical field for the last 25 years, which has not been very fulfilling. I have struggled through the years to figure out what I could add to truly feel passionate about my life.

Your book and an unrelated event that happened recently have caused me to no longer struggle.

For years I wanted to apply to be a Huntsville Times (Alabama) community columnist and never did (lack of confidence). Last November the day before the contest deadline for 2010 columnists, I decided I didn’t want one more year to pass by without trying, so I threw together the two required submission entries and hand-carried them to the Huntsville Times office the next day.

Out of 78 entries, I was chosen as one of five columnists, and my column is published the 4th Sunday of every month. This is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me!

I have always loved to write and have probably 50 journals I’ve written since I was 14. I have also written poetry and some short fiction. I never thought of writing as something I could do for a living or do successfully at all. Writing the column has given me energy and a passion and happiness I have not had for a long time, as well as a confidence in myself and my writing abilities.

Your book made me realize that anything is possible if you have a dream. I would like to eventually do freelance projects, both in my technical field and writing assignments — independent of where I happen to be living at the time. I especially would like to write travel-related stories and work on a novel. Now, I really believe I can attain that dream!

Thank you for your book and your energy and passion to help others. I hope to meet you one day and especially to attend a tea party.

God Bless 🙂

Nina Donath

Congratulations to you, inspiring Nina!

(And thank you to Nina’s dear friend — and mine — Mary Remer who started this lovely chain of transformation by giving Nina the book.)

When I began Women On Fire® in 2003 and then several years later invited the co-authors of the book to talk about their lives and struggles, one of the goals was to provide a forum of positive connection, inspiration, strategies and support for women to live the lives they dream of.  It almost always involves taking action on a gift or talent of yours.

When you read Nina’s letter what goes through your mind?

Good for her? Excitement? Fear? Wow, it’s time for me to get going? I’m inspired, but I don’t know what to do next?

The key is to notice your thought, whatever it is, and use the information to move toward what you want.  Your weekly SPARK! and our gatherings, book, CDs and DVD are all designed to help you get there.

So, what are you thinking now?

What’s one thing you don’t want another year to pass you by on?

Let me know in the comments section below.  I love reading what you have to say… and until I get to see you in person!