Ice Breaker – First Kiss

October 9, 2015 — 3 Comments

first kiss ice breaker

We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.

Eduardo Galeano

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Question:  Tell us about your first kiss.

My Answer:  Tomorrow is the 22nd anniversary of my first kiss.  The first (and only) person I kissed was actually my wife.  We shared our first kiss at McConnell’s Mills in western PA.  We shared lunch together on a rock along the creek that runs through the park.  The kiss happened after lunch.  (A year later, I went for an accidental, icy swim when we when to the same location to celebrate the anniversary of this momentous occasion.)

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!


success plan

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

Benjamin Franklin

Earlier this summer, I was elected to be president of my Toastmasters International club.  It was an honor to be selected for this position, but it also comes with a lot of work.  I have to kick-off and close our club’s bi-weekly meetings.  I have to plan and lead our club’s executive committee meetings.  And I have to interface with fellow officers, club members, and guests.

One of my responsibilities as the club president and member of the club executive committee is to create a Club Success Plan.  Essentially, this is a document to record the club’s current status, challenges, and goals for the coming term.  And the Club Success Plan provides a place to write down a plan for overcoming obstacles and achieving our goals.

This week spent time completing the Club Success Plan, and I’m excited for the results when we look back at the plan throughout the term and at the end of the term in June.

As I was working on the plan, I reflected on the importance of writing a success plan for other areas of our lives.

What do you want to accomplish this year?  What goals do you want to achieve?

Do you have a plan to get there?

Typically, we talk about goals at the beginning of the year.  Everyone gets hyped up on New Year’s Resolutions.  The enthusiasm lasts for a few weeks or even a few months before we settle back into our normal existence trying to survive the pushes and pulls of our busy lives.

By the time we get to this time of year, our resolutions and goals are long forgotten, and we are trying to make it to the next weekend.

As Benjamin Franklin said, many of us fail to achieve our goals because we fail to create a plan for getting where we want to go.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to fail.  I like to succeed.  I like to achieve.  I like to make progress towards my goals.

Writing a personal success plan doesn’t have to take forever.  You can write a success plan for yourself using these simple steps:

5 Steps To Creating A Personal Success Plan That Works

  1. Evaluate your current condition.  Self-assessment is critical to creating a personal success plan that works.  What is working well?  What isn’t working so well?  What changes do you need to make in your life?  Take time to evaluate you.  This may require time away from the things that normally distract you, and it may require feedback from those who know you best.
  2. Determine your goals.  Where do you want to be in one year?  What do you want to achieve?  There is no point in completing a success plan if you don’t take time to determine your goals.  If you don’t know where you want to go, you can be certain you will get there – no where that is.
  3. Recognize the obstacles and challenges in the way.  What is keeping you from achieving your goals?  Is it time?  Is it skill?  Is it lack of knowledge?  We all face challenges.  When creating your personal success plan, you have to know your weaknesses and challenges.  Being aware of these will help you make changes to get around, get over, or get through the obstacles in the way of achieving your goals.
  4. Write down a map for overcoming these obstacles and challenges and for achieving your goals.  Create a SMART roadmap to reaching your goals.  Be specific.  Have measurable check points along the way.  Make sure your goals are attainable and realistic.  Finally, determine the timetable for reaching your goals.  When you write down your road map, be as detailed as possible.  Who is responsible for reaching your goals?  What help do you need to meet your goals?  What specific steps will you take to make sure you succeed?  Write it down!
  5. Work your plan.  Finally, a plan does nothing without action.  Once you’ve created your plan for success, follow through.  Take the necessary steps to succeed.  Stop along the way to evaluate your progress.  Then keep going.  Don’t stop until you reach the end – SUCCESS!

What do you want to succeed in the next year?  What is your plan to succeed?

What measures have you taken to achieve your success goals?

challenge stretch quote

I like to take up something that is challenging. I like to STRETCH myself.

Christine Lahti

Are you up for the challenge?  What are you doing to stretch yourself these days?

images for blog

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Over the past few months, I have standardized on the tools and general layout for the images that go with each of my posts.  An image can make the difference in whether a potential reader stays around to read your post or leaves to find something more interesting elsewhere.

Today, I share with you my method for making FREE, eye-catching images that will keep your readers around a little longer.  If you have a blog without images or with out of date images, you can use these steps to add flare to your blog.  To demonstrate, I will be updating the image for one of the more popular posts on my blog from three years ago – How To Respond To The Election Results.

My original post had a simple American flag at the top of the screen.  There was nothing to indicate the title of the post or other details that would cause image viewers to head back to my site.

Here are the steps I took to create a new image for this blog post:

STEP 1:  Go to is a great site for finding FREE images you can use for your blog.

STEP 2:  Type in a key word that goes with your blog post title.  For example, I searched for images based on the search word:  election.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.31.36

STEP 3:  Select an image to go with your post.  (When I look for an image, I look for an image with room for a title and other text.  I also look for an image that best represents the content of my post.)

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.32.54

STEP 4:  Once you’ve selected your image, click on the desired size (I almost always select the small size).  Then press “Free Download” to save the image in your download folder.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.33.12

STEP 5:  Go to is a FREE photo editing tool.

STEP 6:  Select you photo to edit from you download folder.  (Once you have the photo open, check out all the great ways you can edit the folder by utilizing the editor options on the left side of the screen.)

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.38.16

STEP 7:  Select the text editor option by pressing the icon “Tt”.

STEP 8:  Select your desired font.  (I consistently use Tahoma for my images.  I would encourage you to be consistent in selecting your font type as it helps bring consistency to your blog brand identity.)

STEP 9:  Enter your text in the text box.  (Note:  I typically type the blog post title along with a tag line (Jon Stolpe Stretched to help image viewers back to my site.)

STEP 10:  Edit the text for size, color, and orientation in the text editor box which will pop up on your screen when you are editing text.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.39.59

STEP 11:  Once you are satisfied with your image, select the “Save” button at the top center of your screen.

STEP 12:  Create a file name for your image which you can type in the left “File name” box.

STEP 13:  Press “Save to my computer” in the lower left corner to save the image to your computer.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 14.40.26

STEP 14:  Open your post editor to the desired post.

STEP 15:  Move your cursor to the desired image location.  (In my case, I clicked on the old image.)

STEP 16:  Select “Add Media” right below the title (and above the post).

Screenshot 2015-10-04 15.13.49

STEP 17:  Select “Upload Files.”

STEP 18:  Click on “Select Files.”

STEP 19:  Find your saved image, and select the image by double clicking on the image file name or image thumbnail.

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STEP 20:  Click “Insert into post”  once you have selected the file and added any desired information on the right side of the screen.  (I usually center my image and make the image approximately 600 pixels wide.)

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STEP 21:  Your new image will appear in the post editor.  Click “Update” on the right screen when you are satisfied with your changes.

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That’s it!  Just in case, I check out my post by selecting “View Post” to make sure everything looks good.

Screenshot 2015-10-04 15.16.49

I know I listed a lot of steps, but I wanted to make sure I detailed everything I do to create images for my blog posts.  I hope these steps will help you to brighten up your blog posts.

Do you use images on your blog posts?  Is so, what steps do you use to create your images?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


positive attitude

A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.

Wade Boggs

Is the glass half empty?  Or is it half full?

I work in the construction industry in the Philadelphia area.  The industry is known to be fairly rough.  The language and conversation content is often very “colorful.”  And sometimes it seems like people only know how to communicate with each other by yelling and screaming.  Philadelphia has a reputation for being somewhat negative.  If you don’t believe me, it was Philly fans who threw snowballs at Santa Clause.  And if you are still not convinced, try listening to Philly sports radio for an hour.  You would think the everyone does everything wrong, and there is no hope for positive change.  So much for being the City of Brotherly Love.

Despite these circumstances, I am known in my office for having a positive attitude (most of the time).  In fact, I have repeatedly been asked the following question:  “How do you stay so positive all the time?”

Some people seem to be naturally disposed to having a positive attitude, but I think there may be a bit more to it.  Today, I’m giving you practical ways for you to develop and maintain a positive attitude even when negativity seems to surround you.  Here’s how I stay so positive all the time:

7 Ways To Develop And Maintain A Positive Attitude

  1. Recognize the positive side of having a positive attitude.  A positive attitude sees hope even in challenging circumstances (negativity only sees despair).  A positive attitude saves energy (negativity wastes energy).  A positive attitude is positively contagious (negativity spreads like cancer).  A positive attitude paves the way for future opportunity.
  2. Decide to pursue a positive attitude.  You have a choice to make every morning when you wake up.  Do you really want to have a positive attitude?  If so, you have to be intentional.  You have to pursue a positive attitude.
  3. Practice being positive.  In a recent blog post, Seth Godin talked about attitude.  He said attitude is a skill.  In order to improve our skills, we have to practice.  This is the same for our attitudes.  If we want to have a positive attitude, we have to practice having a positive attitude.  This may not always seem easy at first – especially when life throws us lemons.  We must practice turning lemons into lemonade.  The more we practice having a positive attitude, the more it will become a natural part of who we are and how we interact with others.
  4. Remove negative influences.  Negativity will drag you down.  It is important to stay informed, but we need to be careful with the “news” we ingest.  News media generally capitalizes on sensationalizing the negative.  There are a lot of “bad things” happening in the world every day, but there are a lot of “good things” that happen as well.  From a friend standpoint, learn to get rid of friends who are always negative.  They drag you down.  In today’s social media driven world, you may have to unfollow people who are always bring the negative to their Facebook or Twitter pages.  Turn the television off (or turn the channel) to avoid shows that negatively represent marriages, families, friendships, and work relationships.  When you come across something negative in your life, determine if it really needs to stay in your life.  If not, remove it!
  5. Surround yourself with positive influences.  Read blogs and books that are uplifting.  Listen to podcasts that come from a positive perspective.  Watch television shows and movies that reinforce the positives.  Intentionally seek out relationships with people who will influence you positively.
  6. Remember the positive.  Forget the negative.  Write down the positive things you encounter on a daily basis.  Use a journal to help you remember the positives.  The more you do this, the easier it will be to maintain a positive attitude.
  7. Become a “positive attitude” evangelist.  Develop a positive vocabulary.  Use words like:  fabulous, terrific, fantastic, and magnificent.  Your words are contagious.  By using a positive vocabulary, others will begin to reconsider their vocabulary and their attitude.  Smile.  Smiles are also contagious, and they promote a positive attitude.  (Learn to smile more by reading this great post by Matt McWilliams.)  Write thank you notes.  Gratitude is one of the easiest ways to promote positive attitudes.  Help others see the positive in the challenges they face.  Mentor others, and teach them to develop and maintain a positive attitude.

What steps have you taken to develop and maintain a positive attitude?  What changes do you need to make to become more positive?

not worth it

If you’re not really having a good time, it’s not worth it.

Kyle Chandler

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Question:  What job would you never do no matter how much it paid?

My Answer:  I’m not great with needles, and I’m definitely not great when it comes to blood.  I’m pretty sure I couldn’t handle being a surgeon no matter how much it paid.  I like the thought of helping people, but I don’t think I would be very much help if I was passed out on the floor.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

top 10 sept 2015

Here are the top posts from last month:

  1. A Chance To Promote My Wife
  2. The Discipline Of Pressing On (Even When You Feel Uninspired)
  3. How To Live A Meaningful Life
  4. The Discipline Of Self Assessment – 10 Areas For Self Assessment
  5. The Discipline Of Getting Feedback – 6 Steps For Getting The Feedback You Really Need
  6. 5 Ways To Represent Well
  7. 3 Ways To Honor American Workers – Labor Day Thoughts
  8. Ice Breaker – Losing Track Of Time
  9. How To Find Ideas To Write About Every Day
  10. Ice Breaker – Earliest Childhood Memory

Which post was your favorite?  What STRETCHED you the most in September?

If you are a blogger, what was your top post last month?  Please feel free to share links.

stretching enough quote

I don’t STRETCH enough. I know I should do it more, and I’d like to do yoga, but I just don’t have time.

Raymond Kelly

Last week, I changed up my morning workout routine.  Instead of doing my cardio first (like running and biking, I am now lifting before I jump into the cardio portion of my workout.  As a result of this change, my muscles were a little sore for a few days.

Actually, if I had to guess, I’m also sore, because I didn’t stretch enough last week.  I knew I should have done it more, but I just didn’t have the “time.”

Seems like a pretty lame excuse.  Doesn’t it?

We will make time for what is important to us.  If you really want to stretch more, you have to make time.

What is your excuse for failing to stretch more?  Why aren’t you making more time to stretch yourself?

A Chance To Promote My Wife

September 29, 2015 — 1 Comment

LeanneCan you do me a big favor?

Can you head over to my wife’s site (, and say hello?  (Click here.)

Leanne is a Life Purpose Coach, and she is passionate about helping moms discover and embrace their purpose.

If you are a mom or you know a mom, you should check out her blog on the site.  She writes a new post every week.  Her post this week is 5 Keys To Keeping Your Identity When You Become A Mom.  (Click here to get right to the post.)

If you sign up for her list, she will send you a FREE resource to help you confirm your purpose – 5 Signs You Found Your Purpose.

LEANNE web header-updated

Leanne has a lot to offer moms who are struggling to find their purpose or who are struggling to make room for living out their purpose.

One more thing, could you send a message to some of the moms you know who might benefit from reading Leanne’s blog or talking to Leanne?


press on

Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.

George Whitefield

I almost skipped today.

I almost didn’t post on my blog today.

Life has been pretty busy lately, and I honestly didn’t feel all that inspired.

At work, I am in the midst of closing down our fiscal year which means I’ve been busy closing projects and making sure our financials are in order by September 30th.  At home, I am just as busy.  Our kids are very active (which is a good thing), but it often means I’m on the road at a cross-country meet, a football game, or a marching band show.  I’m also helping my wife as she works on building her life coaching business.

All these things are great, but I sometimes feel drained.  And there are times when I leave little margin for reflection and inspiration.

All this to say, I come to the keyboard today feeling a little worn out and a lot uninspired.

And yet, I’m sitting here writing my post for today.  I’m pressing on even when I don’t feel like it.


Some think I should just skip the day and wait for new inspiration tomorrow.  But I’ve learned that this isn’t necessarily the best choice.  I’ve learned that practicing the discipline of pressing on despite lack of inspiration and motivation is the best way to get the results I want.

I’ve finished three marathons and several half marathons.  In training for these races, I’ve learned to press on when it comes to my daily training runs.  One skipped training day would lead to another and another, and I would have arrived at the starting line unprepared.

I wrote a book.  The book didn’t write itself, and it didn’t come together in one day.  Writing the book took days and weeks of writing.  I had to write even when I didn’t feel like it in order to meet my goal.

My wife and I have raised two children.  We don’t always get it right when it comes to parenting, and they aren’t perfect kids.  But they are pretty good!  This doesn’t happen if we decide to take a break from parenting when we don’t feel like it.

Pressing on inches us closer to “the prize.”  I don’t know what prize you are pursuing, but it won’t happen if you don’t persist.

This is why I am writing today’s post.  I’m pressing on, because I’ve seen the benefit of daily blogging.  And I’m confident I’ll see more results because I decided to press on even when my inspiration wasn’t all there.

What “prize” are you pursuing?  What keeps you going when you don’t feel inspired?

How would your world be different if you made the decision to practice the discipline of pressing on?  How has persistence despite lack of inspiration made a difference in your life?

(Maybe I was a little more inspired than I thought.  I think the inspiration came as a result of pressing on.)