Wednesday, November 17, 2010


It's 5:50 AM on Wednesday July, 21 2010. Why am I up so early? I've never been known for the saying "early to bed, early to rise." I woke up with an urge to write. Going back just a few short months to the early spring of this year, I can say that I was pretty content with life. I was mentally and physically healthy. Married happily for almost thirteen years and becoming closer to my quickly maturing eight year old daughter, I was in a good place. I was settling into a relatively new job, improving, and making some new friends at the office.

I was however, struck by a sense of apathy. It was nothing serious like depression, but there was a void. I could tell there was something else I needed to do to fill that gap, but had no idea what that was. Then, I started a very long chat on Facebook with a high school cheerleader friend of mine. I was intrigued with Teffanie before the chat even began. We were already "friends" on FB, but we didn't really communicate. I looked at her page and saw success, uniqueness, and variety in her. To use a British word, I "fancied" her style. How many African American, dread lock wearing, principals of a charter school do YOU know that date a farmer?

I have never looked at color, race, nationality or anything of the sort to pick my friends. I like to treat them all with positivity. If I seek you out and you give some of it back, that in turn fuels my fire. This was a lesson I learned from a former co-worker. I admired his ability to put a smile on almost everyone's face when he came around the corner.

My problem is I have to get to know you before I'm able to do that. I'm "shy" until I really feel like I know you enough to speak comfortably around you. As I've told many of my friends, I look down in the elevator. Why would I want to to talk to a stranger? I don"t even know them and would really just throw out a superficial hello.

I do however, have a strength that my former company would call "individualization." What is that? Here's the official definition: "People strong in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively." So in layman's terms, I am fascinated by the differences in people and love to sit down and really get to know you one on one.

Group talk is a whole other thing. Put me in a room with a bunch of people I don't know that are talking and I'll be the one that says nothing, but analyzes everything said......So back to me initiating a "chat" with Teffanie on Facebook. As I remember it, I reached out to her. I don't remember exactly what was said after that. The only thing I can tell you is that the chat had chemistry.

It went on for a good while. By the time it ended it she had convinced me to read a book and I had convinced her to do the same. Fortunately, she was faster to meet our agreement than I was. By the next weekend, she had read the short book and taken the accompanying "Strengthsfinder" test to go along with it. While I had bragged about the test and it's positive effect on my life, I didn't know how accurate she would feel it portrayed her.

The next time we chatted, I got my answer. She said it was spot on. It was after what she told me next, that I threw out a very vague proposal to her. She said, and I'm paraphrasing, "That was amazing. What was even more amazing is that one of the things the test told me was to partner up with someone who had certain strengths." (The test tells you what your top 5 strengths are). I had all 5 of those strengths. There are 34 official "strengths". I mean what are the odds of that?

I said well then let's put our heads together and think of something we can work together on. It could be philanthropic, a potential business, a book or whatever. Okay she said. Let's think on it. The next time we communicated, she threw out the idea of a blog. By the way, her number one strength is "Ideation." She's the idea woman. I asked her on what topic? Her answer: "I don't know." I did, however. I almost immediately came up with what has grown into A.E.S.O.P. "tells". I wanted to have a reality "text" that wasn't programmed or fixed. How about a forum for people to tell their story?

"EVERYBODY" has a story, just very few get to hear it. It didn't have to be your life's story, it could be an interesting story about something that happened to you or someone you know. You could be anonymous or up front with who you were. The potential material was absolutely unlimited.

And so it was. She began to work on the creative side (the look of the blog), which is her strength and I began to recruit people "individually", a strength of mine. Approximately four months later, we have had over 1400 people read our stories and a host of others submit theirs, be it solicited or unsolicited. It has at this juncture become a passion.

I may not get paid monetarily for this, but the stories, the lessons and seeing in text the raw emotion or the strength of people to overcome is ample pay. My void has been filled. My wife might argue that I have a second job now that brings in no money. However, I married Michelle for a reason. She sees the passion and encourages me, rather than complaining that I spend so much time on it. It's like a bush that grows very quickly. The branches are growing branches and it's fun to watch the flowers bloom.

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