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We can learn from The Ground Hog



Today is February 2, and this is Ground Hog Day. I know it is a silly holiday that very few even remember or even observe, but as business professionals we can learn from this little woodchuck.

The Ground Hog has one goal today and that is to predict the next six weeks. Is it going to be a long winter? Or is spring around the corner?

This little guy has a lot of pressure put on him one day each year. Just like the local and national weather people, if he gets it wrong he is in the dog house with a lot of people who really care about his prediction.

He is also a politician who has to make a tough decision, either way he is going to have a group of people mad at him.  How it works is that if doesn’t see his shadow, spring is around the corner, and the people who like winter will be mad at him. If he sees is shadow there will be six more weeks of winter, and the people who love spring and summer are mad at him.

So you can see that being a Ground Hog can be really stressful. Every year he has to believe in himself and stand up and say; “this is my decision, I know can’t please everyone, but this is how I see it. I hope that you will learn to respect my prediction.

“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.” Michael John Babar

In our businesses and/or in the workplace we are asked to get out of our comfort zone. Sometimes we are put in these Yes/No spots, which can be stressful. Like the Ground Hog we need believe in ourselves and our decisions even when there are staff members that disagree.  Great leader don’t try to please everyone. Like the Ground Hog we need to work through our fears and go for what we feel is right for your company, and our organization.

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.” John D. Rockefeller

Look at me  I stepped out of my box and I wrote a business article about the Ground Hog. If I can step out of my box you can too. Now go out there, make some predictions of your own and you will eventually achieve great things.

Thank You Dr. King!

When I present my diversity program at schools I remind the students how thankful I am for what Dr. Martin Luther King did for me too. Being a person born with a birth defect in 1957 was much better than let’s say being born in the 1920’s. Back then people like me would have never had any opportunities I have had in my life.



There were many times when I had my share of people with their own lack of knowledge assume things about me that weren’t true. My shop teachers in junior high school and high school for example, wouldn’t let me use the table saws because they thought it would be too dangerous for me, and assumed I couldn’t hold the wood in place with my shorter right hand. A driver’s education instructor that said I couldn’t drive a car because my right arm was too short for the shifter.  I also remember trying to get a shoe salesman job in the early 70’s only to be rejected several times.  Here I was demonstrating that I was a go getter, that I had the drive to be that store’s best salesmen, but store manager only offered me a stock boy job, even though the sign in the window clearly said they were only looking for a shoe sales positon.

Thanks to Dr. King he not only helped men and women of color but he also helped people like me too.

I now have all the opportunities and freedoms as anyone else with regular arms and ten fingers.

Robinson Photo shoot 2008 230

As I explain during my middle school and elementary school diversity assembly programs, there are still a few people out there who don’t know me that may still be making some assumptions about what I can or can’t do. Thanks to the civil rights movement, the civil rights amendment and diversity training in schools, students and adults are less likely to make judgment. Thank you Dr. King!

Student Charged in Transmitting Sexual Images


I was reading in the local paper about two high school students being arrested and charged in a sex photo case. As a Cyber Bullying speaker at middle schools and high schools I have explained to students that what you put up never goes away, and that it can hurt the person you are bullying and hurt you and your plans for life.


Young people need to be aware there are limits to what can be distributed and shared via social media avenues like Twitter and Facebook.” Sheriff Wickersham, Macomb County Sheriff  


In the new world of Cyber Bullying, and Sexting, I believe there are a group of students out there that think that they will never get caught or if they do get caught they believe they will get off with a warning. The truth is these two individuals are being charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct a 15 year felony.  One of the defendants is facing charges of sexual activity, a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison. Also if they are convicted they would likely be required to register as sex offenders and have their names and photographs entered on the state’s online database.


This is the real deal, a story that should be shared with your children and your students. If you put bad things up on Twitter or Facebook and are distributing explicit photos of someone that is clearly under age you may find yourself being arrested and charged like these two high school students. Cyber Bullying and Sexting is serious and in most cases against the law so don’t do it!

Copyright Richard Paul 2015

Who Are You?

Self Esteem

You are not black, yellow, white or red. You are not abled or disabled, not special or special needs, smart or at risk, you are a human being.

No matter what others may think, say or do to try to bring you down, be brave, keep your head up high, and be proud of yourself for the goals you have achieved, for the respect and kindness you have given others and for the many talents you have and will soon discover.

You are a gift to the world, there is only one of you, and there will never be another just like you.

Your thoughts your dreams, your abilities are yours. Only you can discover your life’s mission, create a vision and take the action to live out your dreams.

You are the author, the artist and the creator of who you are and what you want to be.

Copyright Richard Paul 2014

Setting Rules and Sticking to Them

Seven years ago I adopted a white German Shepherd mix from the Kalamazoo Animal Rescue. When we drove over to meet him he was an angel. I played with him, walked him and decided quickly without consulting my wife and kids to adopt the dog.

Needless to say when he came into our home he turned from this calm laid back dog into a monster. It got to the point where my wife said, “It’s either me or that crazy dog!”

I called some friends who knew a dog trainer and when I told him my wife gave me the ultimatum he said, “Do you like your wife?” Then he asked me a bunch of questions and said, “The problem is you have no rules and consequences. You need to figure out your rules, what this dog can or cannot do and enforce them. The dog needs to understand the consequences so he can begin to learn what is right and what is wrong.  Most importantly you need to be specific and stick to it!”  We did what he said and implemented positive training and overtime he has become great loving family friend.

Let’s be clear our children are not dogs, but there needs to be rules at school and at home that children/students can understand and know what will happen if they break those rules.

For example many children are involved in a sport. From day one they are taught what to do and what not to do. They’re given a set of rules or boundaries and if a player breaks a rule or steps out of the boundaries there are consequences. When my daughter plays softball if she gets three strikes she’s out.

At home and at school we need to discuss the rules and the consequences with our children and students. They need to know without a doubt that if you break a rule they will disciplined accordingly. There can be no second chance, or allowing even one child to slack off.  If this is done even once, they will take advantage of you or the situation.

I was at a restaurant a few weeks ago and I overheard a mother saying to her child, “If you do that one more time we are going home!” After eight more times the child was still aggressive and unruly and she was still threatening to take him home.

Like New Year’s resolutions if you don’t actually implement them then why even write them out or bother saying you are going to do something if you’re not going to follow through.

Here are some things to do:

Sit down with your children and create a discipline chart that they can understand.

Once a month or as needed go over the chart explaining behaviors you expect from your children,

Don’t write a bunch of rules or create them as you go along, instead write five or ten and stick to them.










You Can’t Reach Every Star

We are all afraid of something. I believe it’s ok to give in to your fears and turn around when it doesn’t feel right or comfortable to move ahead. I was in Florence, Italy my family and I purchased tickets to climb the famous, historic Duomo Dome. I have a fear of heights and I thought I could face it and overcome it just like the many stories I have read and heard. I climbed up 200 steps and there were two hundred to go, when we walked the hall inside the church dome I could not look out into the church below.  I was terrified, my heart was pumping and my body was shaking. I was numb, unable to think or comprehend what my wife and family were trying to say to me. The stress reduction breathing techniques went out the window and so did the laughter.  It was obvious to me that my fear had taken over my mind and body and the only thing that was working was my fight/flight senses telling me to get out of there.

When I came upon a break in the steps with an opportunity to exit and give up, I did. My wife felt bad and wanted to come down with me. I remember telling her to keep going. “Don’t give up because of me, just go!”

Going down the winding steps were even more terrifying. Slowly step by step I made my way down. No rails just walls to try to hold on to. You may be thinking that I am being dramatic, but for me this was one of the worst feelings I have experienced in my life. When I finally got to the bottom dizzy and still shaking I thought to myself I don’t care if I gave up it was my decision and it was the right decision for me.

From this experience I am reminded that we all get stressed out about different things; some we can easily handle and work through, other things we can’t. Others may push you to move on or offer their opinions but the final decision depends on you. Only you know what is good or bad for you and how much you can take before you lose it. Only you know whether or not it is worth it to move forward or to turn back.

Many years ago I talked to an autoworker who was taking advantage of the UAW/Ford Motor Company’s college Management program. He received his Master’s degree and was working toward his Doctorate. I was impressed with his willingness to want to learn and move forward in the company. He said he was offered his dream management position and after eleven months he realized he hated the job.  He explained that the books and tests never prepared him for the amount of stress he had experienced. He said the demands, long hours and paperwork was over-whelming.  He tried everything from meditation, breathing and even laughter but his fears took him over. He was stressed and getting sick all the time. He said, I remember one of my old co-workers telling me, “piece of mind is worth something.”  That’s when he made the decision to go back to his former position, pay cut and all.

Some may say he gave up but I say at least he tried. At least he knew how to monitor himself to figure out what is best his own wellbeing. Getting back to my Florence, Italy experience, did I get to the top and see what others describe as an awesome view?  No, but I made it up and down from 200 stairs and that works for me. Did my auto worker friend make it to the top or to a higher position in the company?  No, but at least he tried it out and realized it wasn’t for him.

From this experience as a speaker who promotes stress reduction and laughter I now realize you can practice your breathing techniques, your laughter and meditation, but if your inner fears take over your thought patterns the only logical thing to do is to follow your instinct and get the hell out.

Like my autoworker friend, take the steps go for it and when you get there if it’s too overwhelming follow your instinct move in another direction that fits you.  The point is, you may not be able to win at everything or get or hit every star, but at least you can say, “I gave it my all and did my best”.

I believe it’s so much better to try then not try at all or you will never find out what fits for you.


Richard Paul

Copyright Richard Paul 2014

Coach’s Need to Appreciate Every Player

I have listened to many talk shows and read articles on children who play sports and how we should only reward the players that try their hardest, give their all and display good sportsmanship.

Unfortunately there are many coaches that fail to see the quiet kids, the ones who are willing to go the extra mile if you ask, the ones who stay after and help load up the equipment and pick up the mess the other players left behind.

I remember when my son was playing soccer many years ago, the assistant coach’s boy and my son hardly ever played. Even though they both worked hard and went the extra mile at practice, the coach never gave them an opportunity to play.

As a parent you want to speak up and ask the coach; “why aren’t you picking my kid to play?” “He’s a good boy and tries really hard!” But that isn’t how it works. When it comes to sports the coach is the caption of the ship. She/he are the ones that have to make the tuff decisions for the team.

I have talked to many of my friends who have been coaches and they all said that the goals is to win, and we will do whatever it takes to win the game. They also added that we try to play everyone but unfortunately sometimes kids get left on the bench.

I understand that the goal is to win and that not every kid can be a winner. There are some kids that are gifted and others that are not. But I think we are forgetting that these kids are not professionals but rather kids that join the teams to learn the game and better their abilities. They can’t better themselves and help the team sitting on a bench.

I wish there were more coaches like my friend Mike who was willing to take the chance on the quiet kid. The one who would do his best and never complain. Here is Mike’s story of giving the quiet, reserved player a chance to better himself, build his confidence and to truly be part of the winning team.


The ‘Quiet and Reserved’ player:

I remember one of my soccer kids who was very quiet and not very confident.  He was always very timid during practices but would give his best, and never complained.  He was always respectful and did whatever I asked of him.

One day we were playing a big game, which we needed to win, and we were actually leading by a couple of goals.  We had a corner kick to make and I decided to take out one of our best players and substituted him with my quiet and reserved player.  Not only was my key player stunned, so was the rest of the team, especially when we had a chance to win and here I was sending in a non-aggressive player to make the play.  At first the quiet player was reluctant to go in he didn’t want our team to lose because of him.  I just encouraged him to go in and do his best and nothing more.  To our amazement the quite little boy scored many goals and thanks to him and his willingness to go the extra mile we ended up winning the game.  He was so proud, his confidence level rose to a higher level and his self-esteem improved.  As the season went on, he was more outspoken and aggressive and not afraid to play soccer to its fullest and enjoy it.

If we want to help the quiet kids from being bullied or isolated from other kids we have to not only give them a push but also appreciate what they do to help the team.

Coaches remember these kids will never forget you and your leadership. Especially if you are willing take the chance on the quiet kid, you may find like my friend Mike did, that it may or not pay off on the field, but in the long run depending on how you handle things you will inspire that child to raise their confidence and improve self-worth and self-esteem.

Thank you Mike Rother for contributing to this article.

Copyright Richard Paul 2014

Funny Story

At my dad’s place of residence he got in an argument with the head cook over a pickle.

There wasn’t a pickle on his plate for lunch and he demanded a pickle.

The cook came out and told him there is no pickle on the menu.

He said he wanted one and she came back with a whole jar full and screamed.



All that anger and stress over a pickle.

Somebody Needs to be Willing to Quit!

A couple weeks ago I was waiting in line eaves dropping on someone’s conversation. One woman was talking to another about a disagreement her daughter was having with one of her friends. It was apparent that the two girls were involved in a pretty bad conflict over a boy in school.  The woman telling the story kept saying “her daughter’s friend was bullying her daughter.” But is sounded to me more like a bad conflict.

At most schools and conferences I have spoken at many teachers and parents really don’t understand the difference between conflict and bullying.

Here is the brief definition:

Conflict is basically two people in a disagreement and no one is trying to overpower anyone.

It is not serious, accidental and only happens occasionally. In most cases it is face to face or texting privately between the two individuals. 

 Bullying is when someone is over powering another, it is purposeful, it is a repeated action and can happen quickly. It is when someone crosses the line and spreads lies, rumor and gossip to other people online or directly in front of the person being targeted. In some cases there are physical violence and threats.

 Bullying is bad and it can bring darkness to all involved but a good conflict can actually strengthen a relationship.

 Most people instinctively avoid conflict, but Margaret Heffernan says good disagreement is central to progress. She argues the best partners aren’t echo chambers, and how great teams, relationships and businesses allow people to deeply disagree.”  (NPR/TED Staff- “Is Conflict Good For Progress”)

 Think about the disagreement you may have had with a friend. In time you were both able to work it out and find some kind of common ground.  I know I have had many disagreements with my friends, but in the long run we both learned why we value each other’s wisdom, and friendship. 

 Getting back to the two moms I overheard in line at the checkout one of them said these words that I thought could help you with your students or child, “somebody needs to be willing to quit!

 There is good conflict that can help strengthen a relationship and there is bad conflict, where each party hits below the belt so to speak. (but this is not bullying) They may regret what they said to each other and it could end a good friendship.  This kind of conflict may need mediation, someone outside of the two parties involved to help them realize that “somebody needs to be willing to quit”.


 Most schools and some churches offer mediation for student to use to help work out their differences.

Check with you school counselor or church office for recommendations.

 There is a difference between conflict and bullying and I welcome your comments and your stories.


Presidents Day Bully Prevention Blog

This past week I have been watching the Thomas Jefferson documentary on PBS.  When they talked about the Declaration of Independence and how Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were the three men elected to be the committee to write the document, Ben Franklin didn’t want to write it because he didn’t like people editing his work.  John Adams said “too many people don’t like me.”  This left Jefferson to write the entire document.

In the Declaration of Independence it talks about Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It made me think of schools that have aggressive students bullying other students, in essence taking away the way they want to live their life at school, the freedom to feel safe, and their fears that take away any chance of happiness while at school.

I think that like our nation’s forefathers administrators, teachers, parents and students need to come together to draw up their own Declaration of Independence from aggressive, bullying behavior. Including a set of strategies, policy reinforcement and procedures that remind all students that aggressive bully behavior is no longer tolerated.  Letting it be known that a team of students, parents and staff are committed to making sure every student will have Life, Liberty and Happiness.

“Efforts to create a safe and supportive school for all students will be optimized when the school functions as an aligned system where all members, programmatic components and policy and procedures are coordinated, guided by the same underlying principles, and working toward the same goals.”   Bully Free Schools: Circle of Support Resource Guide for Trainers

Have selected students read this document weekly on the announcements, at assemblies, in the lunch room and parent night events.

Like Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson you are the chosen one to speak up for those who are afraid to say STOP IT.  But instead of making excuses like Franklin and Adams, be committed to work as a team to draw up a school declaration that students, staff and parents will be proud of they will abide by.


Copyright Richard Paul 2013