ICE BREAKER Super Bowl Predictions

Most weeks on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question on Fridays. 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.)

With the Super Bowl coming up on Sunday, this week’s question seems appropriate..

Question:  What’s your prediction for the Super Bowl?

My Answer:  I’ll make three predictions:

  1. The Anheuser Busch Clydesdales will make people cry.
  2. Peyton Manning will become the oldest quarterback in NFL history to throw a touchdown to both teams in the Super Bowl.
  3. Carolina Panthers will defeat the Denver Broncos 28-16.

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!

Don’t forget to sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:

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I had the best of intentions.

I had every thought of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post last night for you today, and then my plans kind of got derailed.

There have been a few things going on in my world the past few days that have caused a little higher amplitude to the normally steady, manageable waves I’m used to experiences.  Sometimes, life causes us to experience fear, anger, anxiety, disappointment, and fatigue.  I think I’ve felt a little bit of each of these things over the past few days.

Instead of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post, I’m left writing something with more rawness.  I hope you don’t mind.

I wish I could fix things.

I wish I could mend relationships.

I wish I could tear down walls.

I wish I could heal wounds.

I wish I could make scars vanish.

I wish I could snap click my heals together three times and be home.

I wish I could sleep soundly.

I wish I could just make it all better.

But I can’t.  I can’t do any of these things.  I wish it wasn’t so, but there are times when I need these reminders.  I need to be reminded that I can’t do it all.

But I know the One who can.

I know the One who can fix things (even if I don’t understand the remedy).

I know the One who can repair relationships.

I know the One who can tear down walls.

I know the One who can heal all wounds.

I know the One who provides the security of home we are all looking for.

I know the One who provides perfect rest.

I know the One who can make it all better.

And it’s this knowledge – it’s this One – that keeps me from being swallowed up by the giant waves of life.  And this is right where I need to be right now.

The nice, new “STRETCHY” post will have to wait for another day, because this is all I have for now.

In my distress I called upon the Lordto my God I cried for help.  From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.  Psalm 18:6

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.


If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.

John Wooden

If you were paying attention last week, you may have noticed that I made a mistake.

Yes.  I am not perfect.

Last Sunday morning, I was working on my Monday morning post (How to Respond When You Feel Buried).  After working on the post for nearly an hour, I put the final touches on the post by working the a graphic to go with what I had written.  I picked my background using (a site offering beautiful, free graphics).  I found a house buried in snow.  Perfect.  I downloaded the file, and moved over to where I do my final graphic editing.  I cropped the photo.  I added my text elements.  I saved the graphic, and I pasted it into my post.

As I was inspecting my post, I noticed I spelled a key word on the graphic incorrectly.  Instead of writing FEEL on my graphic, I wrote FELL.  I quickly made the changes, and I thought for sure I saved everything correctly as I scheduled the post for the next day.

Monday morning came, and my post went live at 5AM EST.  I was mortified a couple of hours later when I received a Facebook message from one of my friends pointing out the spelling error on my graphic.








I quickly went back into the post.  I made the necessary correction, and I updated the post.  Then I responded to my friend to thank her and to let her know of the fix.

I tried to let the mistake go, but I continued to be haunted by my error as people promoted the post on Twitter.  For some reason, the uncorrected graphic showed up on my Tweets.

Mistakes happen.

How we respond to mistakes is what really matters.

Here are five keys to responding when mistakes happen:

  1. Acknowledge your mistake.  We all make mistakes.  Accept it.  Admit your mistakes.  This is the first critical step in overcoming your blunder.
  2. Correct your mistake (if possible).  Do everything you possibly can to fix your mistake.  This requires humility and a resolve to make things better.
  3. Give yourself some grace.  We are our own worst critics.  We give others grace when they mess up, and we must learn to give ourselves a break from time to time.
  4. Learn from your mistake.  What can you learn from your mistake?  This is the question you should be asking yourself.  Mistakes and failures help us learn how not to do things.
  5. Move on.  You have a choice.  You can live in the past as you dwell on your errors, or you can move ahead making forward progress towards your goals.  What’s your choice?  I’m sure you can guess the better choice.

When was the last time you made a mistake?  How did you respond to your mistake?  What did you learn from your mistake?

Don’t forget to sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:

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ICE BREAKER Endless Loop

Most weeks on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question on Fridays. 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.)

With Groundhog Day coming up next week, this week’s question seems appropriate (if you’ve seen the movie, Groundhog Day).

Question:  If you had to play one song continuously non-stop for the rest of your life, what would it be?

My Answer:  Where The Streets Have No Name by U2.  I think I could handle it for a while.

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!

Don’t forget to sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:

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Why do you think employees leave?

More money?  A bigger, better title?  A more flexible schedule?

If you are a leader in your organization, this is a question you need to understand.  Employee turnover leads to additional hiring and training costs for the company and typically leads to a decline in overall team enthusiasm and productivity.

In his 2013 article (Six Reasons Your Best Employees Quit You), Louis Efron gives these six reasons your employees are leaving your company:

  1. No vision
  2. No connection to the big picture
  3. No empathy
  4. No (effective) motivation
  5. No future
  6. No fun

And in his 2005 article for The Center for Association Leadership, Leigh Branham lists seven reasons employees leave.  Two of these reasons include:

  • There is too little coaching and feedback.
  • Workers feel devalued and unrecognized.

As leaders, we have a challenge and responsibility to address these shortcomings.

Today, I will help you identify one of the key action steps you can take to positively change things.  By implementing my suggestion, your team members will get the coaching they desire, they will gain a greater feeling of value, they will feel like they are better understood, and they will experience a higher level of motivation.

Today, I challenge you to implement regular one-on-one meetings with your team members.  A regular one-on-one meeting will make all the difference in giving your team members just what they need to feel valued, appreciated, motivated, and excited for their future in your organization.

Here’s my story:

A few years ago, I started having monthly one-on-one meetings with my team members.

As an operations manager in the construction industry, I’m challenged to balance my time as I’m responsible to make sure my group is operating as planned. I meet with my team members monthly on an individual basis to review their projects from a financial, resource, risk, and customer perspective. These monthly meetings, which typically last about an hour, provide a pretty good snapshot of things from a business perspective, but they don’t provide a lot of time for diving deeper personally.

I’m also responsible for participating in other department and company meetings. Again, these meetings are important for certain aspects of our business success, but they typically don’t provide opportunity for connecting on a more personal level.

I’ve heard it said that “It’s business, it’s NOT personal.”  Well, I disagree.  As a leader in the workforce, I have a responsibility care for my team members.  For me, this means our relationships in the business world are meant to be personal.

How can we take time to connect with our team members with all the different demands on our time?

This is the question that rolled around in my head as first started considering the possibility of implementing regular one-on-one meetings.  I have so many things on my plate already.  One-on-one meetings just didn’t seem to fit into my already busy schedule.

But my friend, Matt McWilliams, challenged me with this question:

How can you NOT take time to connect with your team members?

And so…I took Matt’s challenge and encouragement to heart.  And I started holding monthly one-on-one meetings with my team members.

We talk about business and the challenges that they are facing on a project or assignment.  And we also talk about life outside of work.  I’ve learned about their interests, their passions, and their families.

For the most part, these meetings have been 30-40 minutes each.  I use a one-page outline to guide our discussion and to take notes which helps me capture details of our discussion.  I first ask my team member for an update on how they are doing and what has them busy.  After 15-20 minutes of catching up, I typically have 5-10 minutes of items I want to cover with them.  We finish our meeting with an opportunity for them to ask for help.  With 10 direct reports, these notes have been essential to helping me remember our conversations.  And it helps with my follow through on any action items that I have taken from our meeting.  (NOTE: You can download Matt McWilliam’s one-on-one meeting template here.)

What difference does it make if you know your team members?

It makes all the difference in the world.

The average working person spends 9-10 hours of their days at work – every day. (That’s two-thirds or more of their waking hours).  Most people work over 2100 hours every year.  If my math is correct, most people work about 80,000 hours in their life time.  However you do the math, we spend a lot of time at work.

We are relational beings.  We are made to connect with others and to be in community with others.

We are missing a huge opportunity to connect with others if we go to work, come home, get our paycheck, but fail to connect with our co-workers.

Intentional connections

My one-on-one meetings have helped me be intentional in connecting with my team.  It’s helped my team to feel more connected to me.  And it’s also helped my team succeed from a business perspective.

I’m so thankful I listened to Matt and started having one-on-one meetings with my team.

Regular one-on-one meetings with our team members leads to reduced employee turnover, more satisfied employees, a better culture in your business, and greater business success.  I have also discovered that one-on-one meetings provide an excellent place to discuss employee development.  My team members have pursued advanced educational opportunities as a result of our discussions during our one-on-one meetings.  They’ve also taken steps to advance further on the road to achieving their career goals.

Call to Action:

  • If you are leading a team, it’s time for you to implement regular one-on-one meetings (if you’re not doing this already).
  • If you are not leading a team but you feel disconnected from your boss or your organization, it’s time for you to ask your boss to start having one-on-one meetings with you.

Do you have one-on-one meetings with your team?  If so, how have they made a difference?  If not, what are you waiting for?

Do you have one-on-one meetings with your boss?  How have these meetings helped you?

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Blizzard of 2016 – Snow Storm Jonas

I live right in the path of the major snow fall that took place along the east coast this weekend.  I don’t know the exact number, but I’m fairly certain we had over 2 feet of snow fall in our area.

We have a long driveway.

How will I move all that snow?

This is the thought that went through my head when I woke up to the reality of the work ahead of me.  I felt overwhelmed.

How often do you have this feeling – the feeling of being buried?

We add too many things to our responsibility list.  We start out with the best intentions, but we get behind.  Before we know it, we are buried by a long list of things we need to address.  We quickly move to a level of paralysis that is the result of not knowing where to start.

What should we do when we get to this point – when we feel buried?

Today, I want to help you answer this question.  I’ve identified seven essentials to moving ahead when you feel buried.  Here they are:

7 Ways to Respond When You Feel Buried

  1. Take a deep breath.  Actually, you may need to take many deep breaths.  Studies show that deep breathing actually helps to alleviate feelings of stress.  I recently downloaded a new application to my phone called Calm that helps users learn the deep breathing and meditation techniques.  Taking a deep breath gives you the opportunity to re-center yourself.  Before I went out to shovel, I took a deep breath.
  2. Do a brain dump.  When you feel buried, you need to get all that stuff out of your head.  Take time to write down the list of things that are causing you to feel buried.  Keep the list handy, so you can add to it later.  I use Wunderlist and Notability to help get the stuff out of my head.  You don’t need a fancy software application to make this work.  Go get a piece of paper and a pen, and get that stuff out of your head.
  3. Prioritize your list.  Look at the list you created when you did your brain dump.  Prioritize this list.  What things are important?  What things aren’t so important?  What things are urgent?  What things aren’t so urgent?  Determine which things really need to be addressed, and determine what things can wait or be forgotten all together.  You may want to assign a number to each item on your list – a 1 for the most important things and a 5 for the things that can wait.
  4. Schedule your list.  Use the list you created and assign a deadline for each item.  Plan out your days over the next week or two or three to tackle your list.  I’d recommend spending 15 minutes each day to plan your day.  Obviously, you have things you need to address for your work and for your family.  When you plan your day, you can see the gaps in your schedule.  Use these gaps to intentionally tackle the items on your list.
  5. Focus on one thing at a time.  Don’t try to do it all at once.  John Lee Dumas uses tells the listeners of his podcast to F.O.C.U.S. – Focus on One Course Until Success.  When you focus on too many things, you end up focusing on nothing.  The feeling of being buried returns, and you settle back into paralysis.  Get more traction on your list by focusing on one thing at a time.  Shoveling out from the storm, I had to focus on one area of snow at a time.  Once I completed that area, I could move to the next.  Overtime, my driveway was cleared.
  6. Get ‘er done.  Just do it!  You can’t accomplish anything on your list by sitting around.  You have to get up and get moving.  Decide today to tackle your list, and take action today.
  7. Get help.  Help comes in many forms.  My kids helped me shovel the snow, and I hired someone to run their snow plow up the driveway.  The snow plow couldn’t get everything, but this was a huge help.  Get someone to hold you accountable to take the above steps.  You don’t need to tell the world, but you may need a friend or two to check in with you to make sure you are making progress.  If you need help prioritizing your list and scheduling your list, I’d love to help.  Don’t be too proud to get the help you need to dig yourself out!

How do you respond when you are overwhelmed, buried, or stressed?  When was the last time you experienced this feeling?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Don’t forget to sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:

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Ice Breaker – Special

January 22, 2016 — 4 Comments



Most weeks on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question on Fridays. 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 makes you so special?

My Answer:  When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I had a T-shirt that said “I know I’m somebody, ’cause God don’t make no junk.”  I guess that’s the number one thing that makes me special.  Besides that, one of the things that makes me so special is that I’m an engineer who has actually learned to enjoy writing and speaking to others.  I have a story that is different from your story, and I’m the only one who can share it from my perspective.

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!


Don’t forget to sign up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:






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So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Jesus Christ

Can I ask you a question?

To late, I just did.

Learning to ask questions is the key to opening the door to countless opportunities, experiences, and relationships.  Kids typically do a great job asking questions.  If you have ever been with a young child, you’ve heard this question over and over again:  “Why?”

Kids are curious.  They want to learn.  They want to grow.  They want to try new things.  And they seem to know that asking questions is the key to getting what they want.  Kids also don’t let the fear of sounding stupid stop them from asking questions.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, most of us forget the power of asking questions.  We lose our curiosity.  We don’t want to appear like we don’t know all the answers.  And we’re afraid we might be told “No” when we ask for something.

I’ve learned something recently:

The answer will always be “No” if we don’t ask.

This is why we must learn the discipline of asking questions.

In the writing and speaking world, there are many opportunities available to those who ask.

If I want to speak, I have to ask.  If I want to write on someone’s blog or platform, I have to ask.  If I want to be on someone’s podcast, I have to ask.  Sure I may get an invitation from time to time without asking, but this is not the norm.  In the last few weeks, I made three asks I want to share with you:

  1. I asked to be a guest on Rocco DeLeo‘s podcast, And Dad Makes 7.  Tonight, we’ll be recording the interview for his podcast.
  2. A couple week’s ago, I asked if I could speak at the 2016 Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers Conference in September.  I have been in touch with the person coordinating these opportunities, and the conference committee in charge of selecting presenters is meeting next week.  My proposed presentation is one of the things they will be considering.
  3. Two week’s ago, I filled out an application to write an article for  I haven’t receive a response yet, but I’m not losing hope.

You may not be a writer or a speaker, but you still have a lot to gain by asking questions.  When you practice the discipline of asking questions, many things happen.

  1. You get to know people better when you ask questions.  Where were you born?  What do you like to do in your spare time?  What do you want to accomplish in the next five to ten years?  What’s your favorite color?  How did you get to where you are today?  When you ask questions, you get to know people.
  2. You come across as more interesting when you ask questions.  Questions are the gateway to great conversations.  And when you have conversations, you automatically increase your “I’m interesting” factor.
  3. You show people they matter when you ask questions.  When people ask me questions, I feel valued.  When you ask questions, you show others they are valued.  By asking questions, you have the opportunity to show people they matter.
  4. You learn new things when you ask questions.  Be curious.  Questions will take you to all kinds of new places and new information.  I’ve learned a lot about blogging as a result of the questions I have asked other bloggers.  In my career, I grown a lot and seen new opportunities as a result of asking “How can I do this better next time?”
  5. You clarify your path forward when you ask questions.  Sometimes we get stuck.  We develop a type of paralysis, because we aren’t sure how to proceed.  Asking the right questions can give us clarity on the direction we should be taking.
  6. You can move more quickly when you ask questions.
  7. You become a better leader when you ask questions.

One thing worth noting, once you’ve asked your question(s) make sure you stop to listen.  The real learning happens when we listen to what others have to say in response to our questions.  And if you’re asking yourself the question(s), make sure you take time to reflect and process your responses to your own questions.

What Are You Pursuing?

January 18, 2016 — Leave a comment


It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.

Denis Waitley

What is pursuit?

When I looked it up on Google, this is what I found:

Pursuit is “the action of following or pursuing someone or something.”

Synonyms include:  striving toward, quest after/for, search for

What are you pursuing?

Better yet, are you pursuing anything?

People pursue happiness, success, and wealth.  They pursue the American Dream.  Or they pursue inner peace.  Are these the right things to pursue?  I suppose you could argue either way.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a note to myself in my journal:

“Am I pursuing safety, or am I willing to take risks and to be dangerous to live a life that matters?”

If I’m honest, I pursue safety, and this has been my pursuit most of my life.

When I was a little kid, I was the cautious one.  My brother and my best friend (both named David) were the adventurous ones.  They were willing to go off the high dive.  They were willing to swim to the bottom of the pool.  They weren’t afraid to do anything.  Me on the other hand, I was chicken.  I remember crying when my swim teacher tried to get me to go off the low diving board.  I was absolutely terrified I would drown in the deep end of the swimming pool.

Sometimes I wonder if my childhood tendencies to avoid danger traveled with me down the road into adulthood.

I still seek the safe choice more often than I take a chance on doing something that might be dangerous.

I pick the safe choice when it comes to my investments, my career steps, and in other areas of my life.

Am I missing out because of this tendency – this desire – to stay safe?

I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life that matters.  I want to make a difference, and I want to bring glory to God by the choices I make and the actions I take each and every day.

On this day when we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I thinks it’s safe to say that MLK did not pursue safety, and he lived a life that matters.

The only place we will really find safety is when we are in the arms of God and when we are following Him.

Chuck Swindoll said it well, “The world has changed and it’s going to keep changing, but God never changes; so we are safe when we cling to Him.”

Finding safety in God doesn’t mean we were meant to avoid taking risks.  In fact, I think there is a certain aspect to risk taking that gives us the opportunity to fulfill our purpose.  I’ve mentioned it here before, and it’s worth mentioning again.  Several years ago, sociologist Tony Campolo responded to a survey taken by people in their nineties.  Campolo concluded that the survey respondents which they had taken time to reflect more, to risk more, and to take actions that would leave a legacy.

I’m not in my nineties yet.  There is still time for me to live differently.  I want to make a difference even if it means doing something a little dangerous.

In his commencement speech to the class of 2014 at Maharishi University of Management, Jim Carrey challenged graduates to take a risk:

“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please! (applause) And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order. It’s party size! (laughter)

My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

I love these words.  If you’re like me, your fear of failure is keeping you on the safe path.  Perhaps, it’s time to take a leap of faith so you can do something that matters.

(One thing worth noting, pursuit implies going after something or someone with all you have.  Whatever you are pursuing won’t just be handed to you.  You have to go get it!)

Are you missing out on something because your pursuit is too safe?  What can you do about it today?

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Winston Churchill said, late in his life, that he had always “wanted to make a difference” in the world. Any student of history would have to say that Winston Churchill made a difference. He kept the free world from folding as England resisted the determined aggression of Germany in World War II. He buoyed the spirits of the English people at a time when rational thought would have concluded it was time to give up. He became, as much as anyone, the symbol of our refusal to let freedom be traded for fascism.

The interesting thing is, almost everyone has a desire to make a difference in the world. Even when it has not surfaced in that formulation, no one wants to see their life as “meaningless.” On the one hand, it seems so futile to live and die without impact. One the other hand, it changes the very nature of our life to be involved in something of transcendent value.

There are nearly as many ways to make a difference as there are people in the world. We certainly don’t have to make a difference in the same way our neighbor does, or our brother, or our best friend from high school. How we choose to make a difference has a great deal to do with where our most important priorities lie.

There is a couple living in my home town who discovered they would not be able to have children. But they wanted to make a difference in the lives of children. There were a lot of things they could have done to achieve that goal. They chose to adopt an orphan from Viet Nam, left homeless at the end of that tragic war. Then they adopted a child from Korea. Then one from Brazil. And so on. At this point, they are past retirement age, and still have teenagers in their home. They have adopted 21 children, many from desperate situations in foreign countries.   Their choices have brought them great pain and great joy. However, no matter how you view the situation, it is clear that they have made a huge difference in the world, especially to those 21 children.

Your efforts don’t have to be heroic to bring you happiness. Sometime simply helping the elderly in your area have companionship they would otherwise lack will do the trick. Or you may find satisfaction in the Big Brother program, or in helping bring cultural experiences to youth who would otherwise never experience them. Or you may make a difference by helping your neighborhood come together in friendship and uplifting association.

How do you know you are making a difference? Other than the obvious fruits of your efforts, you know because you are happier when it happens. You spend less time dwelling on what you lack, and more time enjoying what you do. There is no single secret to happiness in this life. But I am assured that whatever formula you suggest will have “making a difference” as an integral part. It changes an existence into a life.


Hyrum Smith is a distinguished author, speaker, and businessman. He is the co-founder and former CEO of FranklinCovey®. For three decades, he has empowered people to effectively govern their personal and professional lives. Hyrum’s books and presentations have been acclaimed by American and international audiences. He combines wit and enthusiasm with a gift for communicating compelling principles that incite lasting personal change. You can visit him on the web at


You can read my review of Hyrum’s new book by clicking here.

Do you want to make a difference?  What are you doing about this desire?