Last March Dan Nelms played his last game in a Davidson College Basketball uniform. This final game marked the end of the passion he had pursued for 8 years.

But beyond college, what was a college athlete to do?

“I always knew I wanted to start my own business afterwards,” he told me, “but with a liberal arts degree it was up to me choose what field to pursue.”

He sat down, gave it some thought, then wrote his first line of code his senior year of college. He had never taken a computer science course before, but since September he has written every line of code, the business plan, and the marketing plan for his first business.

Amzini, a social media navigator, launched its beta version on March 21, 2011.

“That certainly would have been difficult to perceive that at the end of my basketball career one year ago!” he admits.

So going from a stretching lay-up to a stretching business experience, Dan is well on his way to a new life.

Inspiring, isn’t it? Remember: I had never done an Excel chart before the chance arose to prove I could do it. We can do it. Sometimes all we need is the opportunity to try something new.

What are you resisting that is calling you? Don’t think you can do it? Think again. If Dan or I or any of our daily stretchers can do it, so can you!

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Terri Corcora has lived well outside her comfort zone for twelve years. Every day she has been called to stretch in ways she had not planned or ever imagined.

Within a month of her wedding, her husband started developing a neurodegenerative illness which over the years has impaired him greatly both physically and mentally. Within a few years, he could do nothing for himself. She has endured tremendous grief at the loss of her husband’s once-brilliant brain, and has undergone tremendous trials in caring for all his needs and every aspect of their lives with little help.

Her faith in God (and His grace) is what she has clung to all these years. But more than that, she has taken her grief and put it into action by becoming an active volunteer with the spousal caregivers organization, “Well Spouse (TM) Association“.

“I get through each day only by the grace of God – the faith I found and have hung onto over these years. I have truly been amazed at how I have grown and been able to build a new life as a caregiver and active volunteer for the Well SpouseTM Association.”

Terri’s endurance is both admirable and impactful. Instead of wallowing in her sense of loss, she has sought support, and lent it as well, to help others.

When we are other-facing, we enrich not only our own lives, but those of others as well. If you know someone in a caregiving situation, help them seek the help they need. Then, everybody wins.

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"The Great Wall of China" - 长城

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Angela Petitt has what I would call ‘time freedom’. She woke up one day, twenty years into her corporate career, took stock of where she was versus where she wanted to be, quit her job and went on a one-and-one-half year sabbatical. She reduced her debt to the point that she could comfortably live on her savings while investing in herself.

“I believe we all have deep-rooted desires that we want to accomplish, but we suppress them due to the daily grind of life and responsibilities.  We tend to think ‘One day I will do it’ or that they are pipe dreams and not possible.” She climbed the Great Wall in China, froze in Siberia, escaped the unfortunate earthquake and tsunami in Japan, learned how to fly a small plane and started working on her doctorate.”

Her adventures have been documented on her blog, Sabbatical Scapes. For her, the nineteen months she’s spent discovering the world brought her closer to herself.

Isn’t that what travel is all about? Travel is a stretching experience. Where will your life take you?

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Anyone who can run (or jump or skip, for that matter) has my full admiration. Mark Allen, a six time Ironman World Champion, is a record-busting triathlete with a great verve for life. In his recent book, Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You, he reveals how he moved away from beating the clock to expanding his spirit. He moved beyond his limits nNot only physically, but also spiritually. He writes:

“When I began my career as a professional athlete in 1982, I judged my sucess in terms of the minutes and seconds I could shave off my competitive times, and how close I could get to my body’s breaking point without breaking. For the first six years of my career, I won plent of races ~ but always fell short of my goal: the ironman world championship. After meeting and studying with Shaman-healer Brant Secunda, I learned how to channel the power of nature to make me calm, focused and strong. By expanding my idea of fitness to spirit and emotions, not just physical fitness, I learned how to harness courage, self-confidence, and self-love. I became free and humble. I saored when I cimpeted, and felt really happy doing it. Combining my athletic training with the wisdom of the Huichol shamans, I went to win six world ironman championship titles.”

There is something to be said for perception. Where your head and your heart are at informs where you are at. Imagine being in full alignment with yourself? I may never compete in a triatholon, but there are plenty of other competitions to win in life. How might you apply yourself today?

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The Nature Conservancy: Protecting nature. Pre...

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You are what you eat, and how you eat it. Locally grown produce, also known as Slow Food, is not only good for you, it’s good for the environment, too.

On this Earth Day, I pose the question about agriculture because the food industry is an enormous one with a huge lobby behind it. Reducing the need for food transport alone by shopping at our local farmer’s market instead of big chain food stores can have an impact on the Earth.

Nature Conservancy is working with various groups to ensure sustainable food for us all. Here are some of the top stories I’d like to share with you.

1.     Grass fed beef in Arizona

An Arizona beef cattle rancher saves millions of gallons of water by switching to native grasses. Something as seemingly simple as planting native grass is actually part of a paradigm shift for the Mercers. Not only is it a change in how they operate, but also who they work with. (TurfMutt would be so proud of this shift! His children’s plat science education program supports the notion of native plants over imports to sustain the natural habitat and surroundings.)

One change is the market for their beef. By feeding their cattle native grass, the Mercers are tapping into the grass-fed, locally grown beef market. The Mercers sell their beef—under the name Sombrero Butte Beef—at local farmers’ markets and at a gourmet Tucson restaurant.

2.     Sustainable Seafood in California

In Morro Bay, California, The Nature Conservancy worked with local fishermen to to establish 3.8 million acres of no-trawl zones off California’s Central Coast. Historically, groundfish — species that live close to the sea floor — have served as the backbone of fisheries in this region. But the overreliance of traditional bottom trawling — a fishing method that drags nets along the sea floor — led to habitat damage habitat, harm to other marine species and a decline in local fishing income.  The partnership is now pioneering innovative ways to catch fish, and this work has already improved the environmental and economic performances of the local fishery.

3.     Texas Rice Farmer

The Clive Runnells Family Mad Island Marsh Preserve is located near the midpoint of the Texas coast. For more than twenty years, the Franzen family has leased land on the preserve to grow rice, which creates feeding and roosting opportunities for native and migratory birds. The arrangement has benefited their family, the Conservancy and the human and wildlife communities of the Texas coast.

4.     Oysters in Massachusetts

Cape Cod’s Wellfleet, Massachusetts was literally built on shellfish. A century ago, wild reefs bustling with life were so huge ships had to navigate around them, but by the 1970s wild harvesting, pollution and disease had chiseled away the last wild reef.
Now, the Conservancy, Mass Audubon, NOAA and the Town of Wellfleet are experimenting with different structures on which oyster seed can stick, with the goal of rebuilding a reef that would bolster local populations of shellfish and provide benefits like clean water and defense against rising seas.

Happy Earth Day, Ya’ll! Now go hug a tree and bow to the Mother that holds us all!

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Like the comedian Jim in the last post, Manhattan Life Coach Julie Melillo moved to the big city with only a suitcase, knowing no one.

Having moved from her home state of Arizona, she had always wanted
to move somewhere else, but was terrified. Her big stretch involved answering the question — how on earth do you just pick up and move? Then one day, she decided to just do it. Though she, like Jim, knew no one in New York City, and had no apartment there, she sold all her worldly possessions, including her car and bought a plane ticket to the Big Apple. The only thing she brought with her was one small carry-on. At the time she only owned one pair of shoes.

Ladies, are you listening? It is possible!

For three weeks, she stayed in hostels for with bunk beds that hosted up to 10 strangers. It was what you could call a humbling experience. Finally, she
found her first apartment in the East Village.

It was very challenging to not know anyone there and walk the streets at night in the rain and have no idea which way was north. But overcoming those challenges — meeting lots of friends, expanding her business, finding her way around, helped her realize she can overcome any challenge she sets my mind to.

“You don’t go into an experience knowing everything,” she admits. “You learn it as you go. That gives you confidence.”

Now she lives on Wall St. with my husband whom she met in Manhattan. She uses what she learned in her ‘daily stretch’ to coach CEOs, financial traders, entrepreneurs and actors to help them cope with the intensity of their challenges and build their foundation of strength.

“I realized that anyone can become anything they’d like to,” Julie concludes. “Regardless of how terrifying or impossible it may initially seem. Anything is
possible.”
And that’s the truth, ya’ll.

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New York City-based Australian actor/comedian/screenwriter Jim Dailakis is living the American Dream. But it took that one step into the unknown to get him there.  As a result, he has gone well above and beyond his own aspirations.

Originally, he was invited to the US for a three month three state comedy tour. Fifteen years later, that tour continues. In fact, he has played in comedy clubs, at corporate events and in theaters in the US (43 states so far), Canada, the Cayman Islands, the Eastern Caribbean, the UK and all of his native Australia including the Outback.

He has appeared in national commercials, done voiceovers and now is looking to establish himself as a motivational humorist (while writing screenplays, and selling them!, on the side). Optimism is definitely a faith which has led to his success. He encourages anyone who is not happy with their current state to make the move now because the rewards are endless. As he says, “You’re only middle-aged once!”

Diane Johnson and I are in the same age bracket so for those of you who don’t remember when there was no Internet, you may snicker at the following stretch. But believe you me, when it comes to persistence, Diane Johnson has it all.

Recently charged with establishing a Facebook fan page for her $10 million heavy client, she was reminded of the time she was challenged to kill a snake her daughters had found in the garden.

“I’m a divorced mom of two. There was nobody else who could do it,” she remembers, wanting not to harm the snake, but knowing her dog might get hurt if they tussled. So, shovel in hand, she muscled through the scariest day of her life, whacking the snake with her garden tool until it slipped into eternal slumber.

“That was the scariest day of my life…until the moment I had to set up my client’s Facebook page.” Once again she was stretched beyond her perceived limits, literally learning the ropes by doing it. She learned:

  • You need 25 fans to register a username.
  • Her client didn’t have 25 fans.
  • She had to come up with a marketing email requesting people to get them to ‘like’ their existing page.
  • She even had her daughter ‘like’ it.  Her daughter asked Diane to tell her when they hit 26 fans so she could unlike it—she didn’t want her friends to see that on her Facebook page.
  • Then once she obtained the fan count, the username registration process was a whole new can of worms she had to untangle.

And she did. While her learning curve was steep, she carries a new confidence about her. “I did it. I really did it!”

Soon after, another client made the same request of her. And you know what? She said, “No problem!” Only this time she meant it!

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In this series, we’re taking the 30-day challenge. Every other day I will post what someone has done to stretch beyond their perceived limitations because after all, the power of slow is about mindful living; it’s about moving beyond what we thought was possible to live out our days while feeding our highest purpose.

When we move beyond our self-imposed limits, we free up enormous energy and bring ourselves closer to our truest selves.

Today I am going to share my own story because, quite frankly, I’m still shaking with excitement at my newfound discovery.

I can be analytical. Yes. Me. The dancer/actor/writer/free spirit who breathes in pixie dust on a regular basis. The tree hugging fanciful funny woman who’d rather do a two-step than clean her house, do taxes or anything boring like that.

I’ve always thought of myself as a creative astral surfing type with little talent for anything that involves graphs or Excel. That is, until I was assigned with writing a full-blown analytical report for a client. To be honest, I was the ‘last resort’ candidate in our team, the one assigned to the job because everyone else was too, er, busy. So I took it on with a feverish brow, a heavy heart and a blend of thrill and fear.

Sure, I breathed weakly into the phone at my associate who begged asked me if I was available.

Yeah. *cough* I can, uh, do this.

And then the survey results started pouring in. We had an amazing response rate and I grew more clammy-handed as each day passed. I grabbed my husband by the lapel and asked him to teach me how to make graphs using Excel. He showed me in ten minutes. And I caught on quickly when it came time to interpret the data. Pretty soon I was changing out colors, switching to 3D modus and whipping out chart titles like the best of them. Never mind that the graphics department will change them around to look uniform and all that. I provided a visual representation, made sense of tons of data and put it into full sentences.

I blew my own mind.

And that is what The Daily Stretch can do for you, too. So come on. Share your story. What border did you bust for yourselves today?

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Good Housekeeping is one of several periodical...

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Good Housekeeping, that housewife’s magazine that’s been around since 1885, is keeping with the times by developing a new green Good Housekeeping seal for products its new environmental advisory board considers ‘green’.

It’s an interesting concept that shows how far our consciousness has come. But not all green things are golden. As my friend, who works in a consumer advocate’s office herself, once said, “Just because it has a seal, doesn’t mean it’s good for you or the environment.”Organic cookies? They contain sugar, too.

Sigh.

I had proudly swept my hand across a drawer of organic products to show her what a good green person I was! She peered inside, then frowned. I realized how many of them were contained in plastic, with wrapping or had travelled from afar to land in my cupboard.

To quote Kermit the Frog: “It’s not easy being green.” But Good Housekeeping‘s efforts (see below) are admirable and it’s a sign of our ever-changing times. We’re trying, folks. Really, we are!

GOOD HOUSEKEEPING CREATES AN ENVIRONMENTAL ADVISORY BOARD TO PROVIDE INSIGHT FOR THE GREEN GOOD HOUSEKEEPING SEAL

A Special Environmentally-Focused Good Housekeeping Research Institute Tour is Open to the Public on Earth Day

Good Housekeeping has created an Environmental Advisory Board consisting of leading sustainability experts from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia, and media to provide insight for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal evaluations, pinpointing areas of biggest concern, and educating the magazine’s more than 27 million print and online readers through interviews for editorial articles.

Inaugural members of the Good Housekeeping Environmental Advisory Board are: Laurie David, producer (An Inconvenient Truth) and award-winning, bestselling author; Wood Turner, Executive Director for Climate Counts; Suhas Apte, Vice President Global Sustainability for Kimberly-Clark; David Bennell, Executive Director, Textile Exchange; Pamela Brody-Heine, Product Stewardship Manager, Zero Waste Alliance; Jill Dumain, Patagonia; Sally Edwards, Sc.D, Research Associate at the University of Massachusetts Lowell Center for Sustainable Production; Katie Galloway, Earth Fund Manager for Aveda; Reid Lifset, M.S., M.P.P.M, Associate Director of the Industrial Environmental Management Program at Yale University; Erin Meezan, Vice President of Sustainability, Interface; Ursula Tischner, Program Coordinator Design for Sustainability at Savannah College of Art and Design; and Mary T’Kach, Energy and Sustainability Coordinator, Ramsey County, MN.

In celebration of Earth Day, at 10AM on Friday, April 22, Good Housekeeping will host a special environmentally-focused tour of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, the magazine’s state-of-the-art product testing laboratory (I’ve never been, but boy! Would I love to go!).

Visitors will have an opportunity to meet the engineers, chemists, nutritionists, and all of the Research Institute’s expert staff, learn more about the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, and visit the famous Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen to hear about the increasing interest in vegetarian recipes and participate in a taste test.  You can sign up for the special Good Housekeeping Research Institute Earth Day tour here.

Good Housekeeping created the Green Good Housekeeping Seal to set a mainstream bar for consumers who want to live a greener lifestyle.  The scientists and engineers at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute worked with Brown & Wilmanns Environmental, one of the nation’s leading green consultants for businesses, NGOs and governmental organizations to establish criteria for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal.

Before being considered for the Green Good Housekeeping Seal, a product must pass evaluations for the primary Good Housekeeping Seal, which evaluates claims and measures efficacy to ensure it performs as promised.  If the product passes, it is then reviewed using more in-depth environmental criteria, including the reduction of water use in manufacturing, energy efficiency in manufacturing and product use, ingredient and product safety, packaging reduction (see my post on plastic), and the brand’s corporate social responsibility.

And it seems their evaluations have fairly rigorous standards.

Products that have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal and the Green Good Housekeeping Seal carry a limited warranty: If the product proves to be defective within two years of purchase, Good Housekeeping will replace the item or refund the consumer.  You can get more answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Green Good Housekeeping Seal here.

Continuing to establish a leadership role within the environmental industry, Good Housekeeping is co-sponsoring with The Daily Green the Good and Green conference, a two-day conference on May 11 and 12 featuring a series of environmental-themed sessions, keynotes, case studies and roundtable discussions.  I will actually just miss it as I’m leaving NYC on May 11, but for those who are interested, Good and Green will be held in the Hearst Tower, the first LEED-gold certified office building in New York City. You can register to attend the Good and Green conference here.

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