Daniel Seddiqui at Dillion Lecture Series

20151116-104webDaniel Seddiqui has been called the most rejected man in the world. Unable to find a job after college, he embarked on a plan to work in 50 jobs in 50 states in 50 weeks. He wrote a book about the experience and is now a speaker and film producer. He spoke at the Ray and Stella Dillon Lecture Series at Hutchinson Community College on Monday, Nov. 16.

In 2008 Seddiqui left his parents’ home in California and took off for an adventure of working jobs in each state that related to the main industries in that state. He was a stilt walker at Universal Studios, he worked in a coal mine in Virginia, made cheese in Wisconsin, got a modeling job in North Carolina, worked border patrol in Arizona and spent a week in a meat packing plant in Kansas. He said cheese making was the most physically demanding job he did.

In every case, he made a serious effort. “I tried to prove myself capable of every job I did,” he said. Only two of the jobs did not offer him a full time position after a week. One was in Las Vegas where he performed weddings, the other was on a lobster boat in Maine where he was suffering from sea-sickness. As he said at the luncheon, “They very politely fired me on Thursday,” and had him build lobster traps instead.

He gave a list of seven things he said everyone could do to lead an amazing life:

  • Fail more – He said he, “got rejected so much that he became numb to that process.”
  • Don’t care what others think
  • Always be willing to learn20151116-054w
  • Read to get a different perspective
  • Be curious
  • Ask questions
  • Face reality

He called his journey, “Living the map,” meaning don’t feel stuck. Don’t limit yourself because of your field of study. He said 88% of people don’t work in the field they studied in college. Also, don’t limit yourself geographically.

He said five elements made him successful:

  1. Adaptability – When he left, his father joking said, “We’ll see you in three weeks.” He said that motivated him to keep going. He asked himself, “What am I turning back to? Nothing.” So he kept going. He learned to go with the flow and overcame any excuses. He sometimes cold called hundreds of people to line up his next job. He said he had to be fearless, although emotionally it was a very difficult journey.
  2. Networking – “The more people you meet, the more opportunity you create,” he said. He stayed with host families in 49 states – only in his home state of California did no one offer him a place to stay. “People created all these opportunities,” he said referencing his trip. “People are the best resource,” he said. He also said what he remembers most about the trip are the people he met. “Never overlook a person or a place,” he said.
  3. Endurance – He said finding purpose gave him the energy to do the work. He would work during the week and travel to the next job on the weekends. It was mentioned during the luncheon that he only slept about four hours a night. He said it was really important in some of his jobs, such as when they called him at 2:30 a.m. to pull a mare in Kentucky. or put him on the air as a Cleveland weatherman at 4:30 a.m.
  4. Risk Taking – He said this was a financial risk. He got 45 paychecks. The five jobs he didn’t get paid for were all government-related such as border patrol in Arizona. It was also a physical risk sometimes, such as coal-mining. He said it took 90 minutes to get four miles into the Earth, and he realized some of the people slept underground for three days at a time.
  5. Perseverance – He said the other four relate to this category, but he had to be persistent. He finished the jobs, but wanted to turn the experience into something beyond that. He wrote the book and has developed a college course that allows students to go out during the summer and do 5 jobs in 5 states for 5 weeks. He said Southwestern College is the only one in Kansas doing the program as of now.

In addition to his speaking career, he is training as a long-distance runner for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. He and his wife, who he met in Massachusetts while doing his 50 jobs in 50 states tour, now live in Colorado. He said he finds the people in the Midwest to be the most genuine in the country.



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Go Gently Through the World

2015-11-02-13-35-57wTonight I’m reminded to try and go gently through the world. We are all struggling. I know I certainly am. Overall, life is amazing and I’m filled with gratitude. But sometimes I desperately need some gentleness. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don’t. I suppose that’s true for everyone.

The last few months, I’ve been more in need of gentleness than usual. A kind word, a generous deed, a thoughtful gesture – they take on even more meaning when you’re hungry for them. They help build you up when you feel depleted. Once you’re in that place, it seems there’s never enough. You reach out to people, hoping to find a morsel of gentleness, and maybe offer one as well. Sometimes your actions are rewarded and sometimes they’re rebuffed. I constantly remind myself to be kind to others whenever possible. Sometimes when you, yourself, are longing for gentleness it’s hard to find the reserves to extend it to others. But, like everyone else, I do the best I can at any given moment. We can only offer what we have to give, and no more.

I haven’t had a lot to give the last few months. My mama used to tell me that no one was pretty when they cried. Good heavens, truer words were never spoken! Shedding tears takes a lot out of a person, but it’s also cleansing. You can wash away a lot of sins with tears –  if you can let go of them. Sometimes gentleness for ourselves is the most scarce.

During a conversation tonight, a friend mentioned she appreciated my Facebook feed, which is where we’re most connected. She wrote, “You are such a kind person. I’ve found myself thinking when I’m completely exasperated with someone, what would Patsy say or do.” I thanked her and told her she was giving me too much credit. I’m always pleased, but shocked, when someone mentions I’m kind – maybe because I’m privy to all the unkind things that run through my head. That happens to everyone, right?

What prompted the conversation was the death of a mutual acquaintance. I didn’t know her well, but she was always gracious whenever I saw her. I thought about how this conversation probably never would have happened if it hadn’t been for her death. As we were talking about how difficult this would be for her loved ones it occurred to me that even in death she had delivered kindness to me through this mutual friend and her sweet words.

There it was – gentleness – just when I needed it.

And a reminder – just when I needed it – to try and go gently through the world.

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People Hurting

20141014-007wMany people in my world are hurting these days. Unfortunately, there’s not much I can do help them. I also realize they are representative of many more people who feel the same way.

I have friends who are writing their final wishes, who are struggling with work situations that seem impossible, and who are just downright lonely. Even though I want to help, I can’t.

I can help form the sentences that convey the final wishes, but I can’t address the underlying concerns – the reason that needs to be done soon. I can suggest ways to talk to a boss, but I am not the one living through the degrading ways people use power and the devastating effects it has a person’s psyche. I can offer encouraging words or suggest a gathering, but I can’t really address a loneliness that has settled into your bones and makes you feel hopeless.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been stunned at how affected I am by seeing others suffer. I think it’s that I feel so helpless, yet desperately want to do something. But sometimes all I can think of to do is acknowledge the situation and say, “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”

I am continually reminded, in a hundred different ways, of what a charmed existence I lead. I wish others could experience the same joy and gratitude on a regular basis.

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Derreck Kayongo of Global Soap Project at Dillon Lecture Series

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Derreck Kayongo started the Global Soap Project, which recycles soap and sends it around the world to places where it’s needed. Millions of people die because of poor sanitation. Soap is literally life-saving. The Global Soap Project takes donated, melted, purified and reprocessed hotel soap and redistributes it to vulnerable populations around the world. Tuesday morning he spoke at Hutchinson Community College as part of the Dillon Lecture Series.

Kayongo grew up in Uganda with parents who were successful entrepreneurs, including a father who made soap. They were witnesses to brutal killings and eventually became refugees fleeing a civil war when he was 10.

When he came to the US to go to school, his first day in the hotel he noticed there were three bars of soap. He used one and – like most of us – stashed the others. The next day he was surprised to find they replaced all of them. He asked what they did with all the used soap and was told it was thrown away. During a phone call, his father encouraged him to do something about that.

20151006 035wAlthough it was a process, more than 1,500 hotels now participate. They have recycling centers in Las Vegas and Orlando, because those are where the clusters of hotels are. He said during the luncheon today that Las Vegas is the major supplier. Initially owners were hesitant because they didn’t want to add more work for housekeepers and they didn’t want any liability. His organization takes on the liability and housekeepers were eager. “Housekeepers understand the power of soap,” he said. They are willing to save the soap for recycling because many of them are from the areas that are benefitting and they know they’re making a difference.

Kayongo graduated from Tufts, and during the lecture said his tuition was paid for by a man he didn’t know. “He gave me a chance,” he said. He then asked the audience, “How many of you have been given a chance?” He said this generous spirit is part of American life. “Don’t forget who you are. You’re an American. Americans give back.”

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I’ve been to many, many Dillon Lectures and Kayongo was one of the best speakers we’ve ever heard. Aside from his inspiring project, he delivers his message in an engaging, delightful way. Anyone who wasn’t there missed out. Such a great morning!

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Mass Shootings Are Just Part of American Life Now

20130725-026wYesterday there was another mass shooting. Every time it happens, I notice fewer and fewer people are concerned about it. Today at lunch, one of my companions said, “Was there another shooting yesterday?” I never even went and read a real news story about it. I saw bits and pieces. I read the President’s comments. We are generally well-informed professionals, so how can this be.

Because we, and millions of other people, have just accepted this as part of our normal.

When I watched parents grieving their kindergartners after Sandy Hook, and saw that we made no changes as a result, I just accepted periodic, senseless shootings as part of American life. It’s just something we, as a group, have decided we’re okay with. It’s a risk we’re willing to take. We are willing to accept random mass shootings are part of the fabric of our society. We’ll take our chances. You can argue that’s not the case, but people would vote differently if they truly cared.

I live in a state with conceal/carry with no training. Although I live in a very safe little mid-western town of 40,000, there are now just places I don’t go in town – that I view as too unsafe. Why? Because I’ve accepted that the chance for a random shooting is just part of living in America now.

I’m not happy about that. It seems to me we should try to stop making so many people who want to kill other people. Why are we doing that? How are we doing that? I don’t know, but it’s clear we are. White, male loners are dangerous people, is the logical conclusion. This has been clear for decades. It seems like something we should figure out, but we have no interest in that either. I don’t know why.

I can guarantee you from personal experience that people with no training do not need to have guns. I grew up around guns. I’m pretty good with a gun. I don’t own a gun. I don’t want to ban all guns. But we do need to apply some logic to who has them and if they know what the hell they’re doing with them. Guns can kill a lot of people very quickly. There’s a reason wars are fought with guns and not knives.

Oh, there’s a lot of lip service paid to these events. We celebrate the heroes and swear we won’t glorify the shooters. And then we just keep doing what we were doing before. The things that, as a society, somehow led to the shooting.

It horrifies me to accept that mass shootings are just part of American life now, but it is clear that is the case. When we won’t do anything after kindergartners are shot, we’re not going to do anything when anyone else is shot. It’s sad, but it’s true.

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Words That Soothe

20140510-002wOccasionally I run across a quote or verse that really strikes me. Maybe it’s because of where I am in my life at the moment or maybe it’s just the beauty of the words. But, I’m finding this particularly meaningful these days.

I will soothe you
and heal you,

I will bring you roses.

I, too, have been
covered with thorns.
— Rumi

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Broken People

2015-05-27 16.26.37In yoga class Wednesday night I had a real spiritual experience.

Near the end of class, I was lying where I could see out the windows at the back of the yoga studio. There are small windows up above that act almost as a frame. The clouds were moving quickly and morphing from one thing to another. There was nothing but blue sky and clouds in my field of view.

As I watched the clouds go from one shape to another a story unfolded in front of me. It probably wasn’t a story anyone else would have seen or cared about, but it was clear to me. The message I took away from the experience was not uplifting, but important.

We are all just broken people, wandering around with pieces of ourselves, looking for someone who can help us put them together. Sometimes we have someone help us who forces them together like puzzle pieces that don’t really fit. Eventually that becomes clear, and we have to rip them apart again. Then, there we are, broken people, wandering around with pieces of ourselves, looking for someone who can help us put them together. Again.

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A Satisfying Sunday

20150809-060wThis day has been spent working around the house on the typical computer projects, but also on a couple of other projects I’ve put off far too long. I can spend more time dreading doing something than it would take to just do it. I’m not sure why I do that. It’s not like I’m unaware of it, but nonetheless, it happens.

At dusk I went out for some dinner and then decided to drive out and see if I could get a nice sunset photo. It had sprinkled rain a couple of times so I thought the moisture in the air might give us a pretty sunset. It was nicely intense.

As I was coming back into town, I drove past a bull calf in a fence row, not with the rest of the herd on the other side of the fence. I started to stop at a nearby house, but then got concerned he might get on the road. So, I turned around and went back to where I could see him. I looked for a gate but didn’t see one.

The calf was going up and down the fence, sticking his head through here and there. Not knowing what else to do, I called 911 and asked them to send a deputy. I was afraid to leave him because I didn’t want him to get on the road. Only once did he move that direction, but it was getting dark and I thought that was a disaster in the making.

So, I turned around, back and forth, to keep him in my headlights. Eventually I was just sitting in the road, my hazards on, watching him, when the Sheriff’s Deputy arrived. He pulled up beside me and we were watching the calf. Then, as we’re talking, the calf finds the spot and jumps back into the field. So, problem solved.

Except, of course, the calf can come and go as he pleases, apparently. I don’t know if his people know that. But I don’t know who his people are, so I can’t help with that.

I had hoped one of the half dozen or so cars that went by would stop. I thought maybe they would know who owned the herd. But, for the first time ever, no one stopped. I’m really puzzled by that.

But, at least for that moment, the calf was back with the herd. No one driving by was going to hit him in the dark, which would have been bad for human and calf. No one was going to lose a chunk of their livelihood.

I’m not sure how my days get weird, but they do.

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Busy Saturday

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These two lovely people got married today!

I was fortunate enough to be invited to their wedding reception. It was at my friend, Trish’s house, which is a great spot for such things.

Jill and April are wonderful folks. We don’t know each other well, but they were generous enough to include me in their reception.

The day the marriage equality decision came down. I was joking all day, “It has been four hours and no one has invited me to a wedding!” Then, “It has been six hours and no one has invited me to a wedding!” Finally, “It has been a whole day and no one has invited me to a wedding. I just ordered a dress last night that would be perfect for a wedding. But no one has invited me to a wedding!” (That was actually true about the dress.) Anyway, I think they finally felt sorry for me and said, “Just wait, the invite is coming. Soon!”

So, the invite arrived. And I was delighted to be there to celebrate with them!

In the evening I went to hear the Vogts Sisters at Stage 9. They have those wonderful sister harmonies that are so pretty. I had stopped in at Brewed Awakening around noon when they were doing a little preview. Their concert was a nice way to wrap up a Saturday.

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Food Prepared With Love

20150807 - 2015-08-07 19.00.37A friend invited me to a lovely dinner on Friday night to celebrate his birthday. There were 10 of us total and it was a wonderful evening. I’m so lucky to have such fantastic friends. Jon has brought a number of terrific friends into my life and I hope his 50th is one he remembers for a long time! Happy Birthday Jon!

Later I was telling another friend about the evening, and he said he had also had a fabulous dinner. His mom had prepared a dinner he enjoyed. It made me suggest to him that he fully appreciate how wonderful that is.

Having someone prepare food for you – with love – is something many of us don’t get very often. My mom always loved to cook my favorite things when I was home. I loved that, but knew it was a temporary situation. After my mom died, my sister in law cooked for me sometimes. Now that she’s gone, it’s pretty rare for me to enjoy food prepared by someone else with love. I eat out a lot, so I do eat food prepared by others, but restaurants are not the same as having someone who cares about you cook for you. It’s also a gift to prepare food for those you love.

If people cooking for you is something you have in your life, enjoy it and appreciate it. The friend I was visiting with tonight said he suddenly realized he had been cooked for a lot in life and hadn’t appreciated it fully. As he put it, “Please wait. Maturity is buffering: 51 percent.”

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