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By Greg Kozera–

My wife, Lynnda and I just returned from the National Speakers Association’s (NSA) Influence 2019 conference in Denver, Colorado. This is a conference for professional speakers who are in the business of speaking. Most of you have probably heard a keynote from professional motivational speaker at some time. You may have received training from a professional speaker or maybe been in one of my presentations. When I’m at a NSA Conference I feel like a midget among giants. Many of you have seen NSA members on TV or read their books. There was a breakout session for sports celebrity speakers.  After 5 days at this conference Lynnda and I were mentally worn out because everyone was so engaging. We slept on the plane coming back.

Eric Weihenmayer was the opening General Session speaker on Saturday. His topic was “No Barriers”. In 2001 Eric became the first blind person to reach the Summit of Mount Everest. His Team Leader pulled him aside on the way back down and said, “Don’t make Everest be the greatest thing you will ever do!” Eric hasn’t. His message was that there are quitters, campers (who like to stay where it is safe) and climbers who challenge themselves. He said that most challenges are mental not physical. Fear can cause us stop reaching when we encounter adversity. There are no barriers to our success. We need to have a strong vision of what we want to accomplish. Eric reminded us that the summit is the halfway point. In mountain climbing going down is as dangerous as the climb up. Once we reach our summit we need to use our gifts to elevate others.    

The closing keynote speaker on Tuesday was Carey Lohrenz, the Navy’s first female fighter pilot. She now runs a successful business and is the mother of 4. She had different barriers to go through than Eric to achieve her dream of being a Navy pilot. Carey said a positive attitude doesn’t guarantee success but a negative attitude guarantees you won’t adapt and leads to failure. A fighter pilot has to deal with chaos and make good decisions under stress when facing fear. Their training is designed to wash out people who can’t adapt and perform under extreme pressure. She said that we need to focus on our main purpose (or mission) and do the most important things that align with our mission first. Carey told us not to wait for perfect circumstances or permission to succeed. We must be tenacious. She said, “Sometimes we need to do what scares us in order to move forward.” These are times of chaos and rapid change. Whether we are launching a new business or transforming our current organization focus is key to sustainable success.

These are just two of many speakers we heard. The message of the conference was that we need to transform our thinking so that we can transform our abilities and our businesses. This is exactly what needs to happen to our Region. We went through a transformation from a prosperous   industrial and petrochemical center to become the “Rust Belt” when we lost our energy resources.  Jobs were lost. Wages went down. People slipped into poverty. Some turned to drugs. Others left including our children and grandchildren.

Thanks to our now abundant energy and feedstock jobs are coming back. Wages are increasing. We have a once in a generation opportunity to transform the Ohio Valley and our Region into prosperity. We can bring industry back and create high wage jobs. We can have a cleaner environment and improve the planet. We can create hope and solve our drug crisis. Our young people can choose to stay, buy homes and raise their families here.

We also heard in Denver that anytime there is an opportunity or successful people there will be detractors and criticism. These are the quitters and campers Eric talked about. Some people have given up and need to justify their failure. Successful people make them look bad. Others are fearful of change and are looking for safety. The world is constantly changing. We need to either lead the change or adapt to it. The only alternative detractors have is the status quo.

There are those who will oppose the change back to a prosperous manufacturing economy. Their opposition may be from ignorance, fear or a personal/ organizational agenda they have. Some may try to scare people into giving up on the dream of prosperity. Quitting or giving in to fear leaves good people without hope for the future and doesn’t solve our poverty and drug problems. Both Eric and Carey had people, some well-meaning, who tried to convince them to give up.  

How do we know who to follow? In Denver, Lynnda and I heard from great leaders like John Maxwell- International leadership expert, Willie Jolley- Hall of Fame Speaker/ author and Nido Qubein- successful businessman now President of High Point University. These leaders value people and care for people. They demonstrate trust. John Maxwell said, “A leader is there for their people not vice-versa.” These leaders strive to raise people up not keep them in ignorance and poverty. Transformation isn’t based on legislation it is based on values.

Let’s continue to work together to take advantage of the generational opportunity we have been given. We can transform our Region and raise people into prosperity. I believe in you.   

Thoughts to ponder.

© 2019 Shale Crescent USA

Greg Kozera, is the Director of Marketing and Sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a Masters in Environmental Engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. Greg is a leadership expert and the author of four books and numerous published articles.