When Your Parent Becomes Your Child

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Photo courtesy of istockphoto/manonallard

Ken Abraham is an author or co-author of more than 80 books.  Regularly appearing on the New York Times best-selling author lists, Ken is known as a master collaborator.  He writes with public figures ranging from One Soldier’s Story with Bob Dole to Let’s Roll with Lisa Beamer.  Ken and his wife are also good personal friends.  His latest book When Your Parent Becomes Your Child is a deviation because instead of writing someone else’s story, Ken writes about his mother’s dementia, and its effect on the family.  This moving story is one that will stay with you and give you a better understanding of what millions of families go through as they fight this disease.

Ken, this book is simply beautiful.  I may never have met your mom in person, but after reading this book, I most definitely know her.  Ken AbrahamWhat was it like writing such a personal story as opposed to helping tell someone else’s?    

Of all the books I’ve written, When Your Parent Becomes Your Child was the most emotionally difficult book to write, yet oddly enough, it was also the easiest book I’ve ever written.  The difficulty stemmed from the subject matter.  Watching my mom make the journey through dementia was a heart-wrenching experience.  But because I was simply sharing my own thoughts and feeling with readers, the words poured out easily.

In a real sense, I felt that I wasn’t merely writing about my mom, but I was expressing the emotions, questions, and concerns of many other people who could share similar stories, who might say, “That sounds exactly like what I have experienced with Mom or Dad.”  My hope is that this book will stimulate conversations within families and encourage hope within the heart of every person who is now grappling with the myriad changes that take place When Your Parent Becomes Your Child.

Your mom suffered with dementia.  Let me turn first to a few questions many ask about dementia. Is Alzheimer’s the same as dementia?

It’s not exactly a “chicken and egg” situation, and the lines do get blurry when we begin talking about Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Technically, dementia is more of a “catch all” term; there are all sorts of dementias, the most familiar of which is Alzheimer’s.

Vascular dementia, with which my mom suffered, is the second most widely reported form of the disease.  The symptoms of both Alzheimer’s and dementia are similar: memory loss, hallucinations, unusual fear, irritability, or suspicions.  Hoarding, uncharacteristic use of profanity, inability to follow a conversation or a story, losing track of possessions, confusion over days, dates, or sadly, even diminishing ability to recognize friends or family members.  All these can be indications that a loved one is developing dementia.

In my mom’s case, although I’m reluctant to admit it, part of the reason I wasn’t alarmed at her memory lapses was that I was clueless about the possible warning signs of Alzheimer’s.  I just thought she was displaying the natural symptoms of aging as she moved into her mid-eighties. Even after she was diagnosed, I remained in denial for several months until my own research convinced me that what her doctor was describing was accurate.DSC02123

Lead With Friendship (Bread)

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When we first moved to Nashville, someone gave us a “starter” for Amish Friendship Bread.

It looked like a Ziplock bag of liquid glue.  It came with instructions.  It was the “starter” for Friendship Bread.  Follow the instructions and mix in other ingredients, and you will end up with magnificent dessert-like bread.

We loved it.

And my wife loves to bake, too.

When you bake this bread, you end up with more of the “starter” mixture.  It seemed to be a mixture of yeast, flour and sugar.  Before long, my wife was baking this bread as if our kitchen was a commercial bakery.

If you visited our house to change the locks, you walked out with Friendship Bread.  Same for the plumber, the handyman, the electrician and the alarm salesman.  Basically, if you walked within one hundred yards of our house, you were going home with Friendship Bread.

 

 

Still, it kept growing.  Our kitchen counters were literally overflowing with this stuff.

Until, one day, we had enough.  My wife gave all the starters away, and we were finished.

(I’m not sure how much weight I gained during this period, but it was worth it.)

Friendship Bread really was named perfectly.  It was a great gift, a good conversation starter, and who wouldn’t immediately like someone giving them homemade bread?

The experience is a good lesson for leaders:

 

Leaders Give With No Expectation of Anything in Return

Innate Leadership: It’s Already Inside

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Image courtesy of istockphoto/chromatika

Robert Murray is an author, speaker, executive, chairman, advisor, and associate professor.  His book It’s Already Inside: Nurturing Your Innate Leadership for Business and Life Success is a terrific blend of storytelling, personal experience and wise counsel that will make you laugh, cry and learn.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Bob a few questions about a wide range of topics.

Cultivate Your Inner Leader

Bob, let’s start with the title.  It’s Already Inside gives us a glimpse into your philosophy.  You believe that leadership is innate, that everyone has the DNA to lead.  How did you develop your philosophy?

Good question.  I believe that over the years we have evolved with many characteristics that have helped human beings become who we are (the good and the bad!).  Buried in the soup we call our DNA are so many lessons that have enabled us to grow, innovate and thrive.  Leadership is one of those traits.  Some don’t know it or have had their confidence and competence squelched by the conditioning of their parents, teachers, coaches, society, etc. Cover Final

Leadership is not always about being the loudest, most charismatic or the most extroverted in the room.  Leadership comes in all shapes, sizes and conditions.  There are the traditional leaders that we are used to seeing in business and society. However, there are many leaders that silently toil away in organizations and use their abilities to influence decisions—or those that bolt from the office at 5:00 and go into the community to lead scout groups, volunteer organizations or little league teams.  They are moms and dads that lead their families, their neighborhood and the local school PTA.

Work Harder Than Anyone Else

Terry Fox is the famous one-legged runner who inspired millions.  You grew up with him and watched his struggle against cancer and his response.  Watching him taught you some powerful lessons.  For those of us who only watched or read about him, give us an inside view of what he was like.

Terry was the most determined and dedicated person I have ever met.  His energy was infectious, and he inspired everyone around him to be their best too.  You just couldn’t help digging deeper and working harder from his influence.

A man who does not think and plan ahead will find trouble right at his door. -Confucius

We’re often temporarily moved and motivated when we hear a story like Terry’s.  But, how do you take Terry’s incredible attitude and let it really grab you and change you for good?  What’s your best advice on cultivating such a daily attitude?

What I learned from Terry is forever imbedded in me as the person and the leader I am today.  However, on those dark and cold days when I wake up with the feeling of, “Oh crap, I just don’t have it in me today,” I think of how Terry dragged himself out of a warm bed every day at 4 in the morning and faced the fight head-on. Then I start moving and I get my head back into the game.

Terry was proof to me that everything in life that you truly want is gained through working harder than anyone else and having the discipline to stay on the road less traveled.

The Challenge of Trusting Leadership

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What’s really in the way of your success in leading others?

When others see you lead, do they see the real you?

Are you living your passion and living it with authenticity?

Do you lead transparently?

Are you as good as your word?

Scott Weiss is President and CEO of Speakeasy, Inc., a global communication consulting firm.  His book Dare: Accepting the Challenge of Trusting Leadership will be released April 2, 2013.  Dare is a challenge to leaders everywhere to be authentic, to understand your style, and to embrace your true inner self.

Scott, you start the book with a rather negative view of today’s leaders.  Chapter 1 is titled “A Crisis of Trust.”  You say that everywhere you look, you see signs of a systemic leadership problem.  You cite studies showing our trust in institutions has been declining for forty years.  You even label the Gen X and Gen Y youth as “Jaded Generations.”  How did we get here and how is this impacting today’s up-and-coming leaders?

I don’t know how trust got such a bad reputation, but we’re here, and we have to do something about it. There’s no one reason why, but I think it’s fair to say that nobody has stood up and said, “ENOUGH!” It’s become too easy to look the other way, to say “good enough.”LettersDustJacket.indd

The crisis of trust in this country is especially important to today’s youth. There was a time in my life when I could trust teachers, coaches, clergymen and executives. I experienced it firsthand. The younger generations have no foundation of trust from which to build, learn or be inspired, so their default position is a lack of trust. That’s a huge problem.

What led you to write Dare?

I’ve been repeatedly inspired by executives who take the dare in their own way. I have witnessed miraculous results from leaders who dare to adopt honesty as a business strategy. Seeing it work motivated me to want to broaden the reach of the message and to do the same for others.

In the book I chronicle a situation where a senior executive was talking about an issue with compensation at his company’s annual meeting. Rather than search for some deceptive way to deliver the news, he admitted to making a mistake and he vowed to make it right. That seven-minute conversation literally changed the course of the company forever. Why? Because he allowed himself to be vulnerable, transparent and empathetic. These are core principles we teach to every person who attends a Speakeasy course, which he did, and they’re at the heart of authenticity.

Quotes on Hope

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Photo by dailyjoke23 on flickr.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”  When I think of inspirational leaders, I can honestly say Napoleon was right. We admire people who plant the seeds of hope. We gladly follow the leader who is able to awaken a sense of expectation inside of us. And, whether we lead at home or at work, hope is an essential element of success.

Here are some of my favorite “hope” quotes.

A leader is a dealer in hope. –Napoleon

The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope. –Samuel Johnson

Before you give up hope, turn back and read the attacks that were made upon Lincoln. –Bruce Barton

Faith has to do with things that are not seen and hope with things that are not at hand. –Thomas Aquinas