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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Power of Positive DOING: An Interview with BJ Gallagher

BJ Gallagher is a sociologist, author, and speaker. She writes business books that educate and empower, women's books that enlighten and entertain, and gift books that inspire and inform. Whether her audience is corporate executives, working women, or college students, her message is “The Power of Positive DOING.” She motivates and teaches with empathy, understanding, and more than a little humor.

BJ's international best-seller, A Peacock in the Land of Penguins (Berrett-Koehler), has sold over 350,000 copies in 23 languages. Her business books include: YES Lives in the Land of NO (Berrett-Koehler) and Who Are “They” Anyway? (Dearborn). Her latest career book is It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been (Viva Editions).

BJ is a regular Huffington Post contributor. She has been featured on CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer, the Today Show with Matt Lauer, Fox News, PBS, CNN, and other television and radio programs. She is quoted almost weekly in various newspapers, women's magazines, and websites, including: O the Oprah magazine, Redbook, Woman's World, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, Orlando Sentinel, Financial Times (U.K.), Guardian (U.K.), MSNBC.com, CareerBuilder.com, CNN.com, Forbes.com, among others.

In addition to writing books, BJ also conducts seminars and delivers keynotes at conferences and professional meetings across the country. Her corporate clients include: IBM, Chevron, US Veteran's Administration, John Deere Credit Canada, Volkswagen, Farm Credit Services of America, Raytheon, US Department of Interior, Phoenix Newspapers Inc., the American Press Institute, Infiniti, Nissan, Atlanta Journal Constitution, among others.

I first met BJ in 2006, when she did me the honor of writing the Foreword to my first book. I was so thrilled to catch up with her and hear about all the wonderful things she's been up to lately!

Shelly Rachanow: Last year was a busy year for you, with SIX new books out, making up what you’ve called your Inspirational Stimulus Package. Tells us about a few of them.

BJ Gallagher: Actually, I published SEVEN new books, but who's counting? ;-)) Most people hunker down when times get tough but I do just the opposite. Rather than take fewer risks in business, I believe in taking more risks.

Wherever this is chaos and change, there is also opportunity, so I go out there looking for it. Also, my work is about service and contribution, so whenever people are in pain it is my job to see if I have anything to offer that might help them. My gifts are teaching and writing and my mission in life is to give my gifts away. So that's what I do. I write books and teach seminars that help people help themselves.

For the past couple years, the economy has been in such terrible shape, and I was inspired by Obama's Economic Stimulus Package ... so I decided to offer my own Inspirational Stimulus Package. People need financial support to get through hard times ... but they also need spiritual and emotional support. That's what I offer with my books. I published three more new books this year, and I have three more coming out next year. My mission statement is: "I am a laptop in the hands of God."

Shelly Rachanow: As someone who left a legal practice when I was thirty, I especially love the title of one of your new books, It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been. As you tell people, “Don't just seize the day - seize the rest of your life!” What are some things people can do to move towards the life of their dreams?

BJ Gallagher: Probably the first thing people need to do is make friends with fear. Fear is what keeps most people from following their hearts and living their dreams – fear of failure, fear of looking foolish, fear that it's too hard, fear that their loved ones will not be supportive, fear of losing money ... their list of fears is almost endless. So coming to terms with fear is the first thing task.

One of the tools I use to deal with fear is self-talk. Whenever fear shows up, I have a conversation with myself. "What's the worst that can happen?" I ask myself. "I might run out of money," is usually the answer. "OK, so if you run out of money, what will happen?" I ask myself. "I'll lose my house," is the answer. "OK, and if you lose your house, will anyone die from that?" I ask. "Well, no," is the answer. "OK then, if nobody dies, then losing your house won't kill you." "Right." And that almost always makes the fear manageable. If my fear is not about a life or death issue, I can talk myself down and go on with my life.

The other important thing I rely on in living the life I want to life is my FAITH. 92% of Americans believe in God. Many of those people consider themselves spiritual but not religious – which is fine. Whatever form your spirituality takes, I encourage folks to tap into spiritual beliefs and practices to live their lives to the fullest, finding happiness and fulfillment along the way. Faith is especially important in hard times like these.

Shelly Rachanow: I also love your book, Learning to Dance in the Rain: The Power of Gratitude because, as you note, “For many people, gratitude goes right out the window when Life doesn't show up the way they want it to.” I think we’ve all experienced that at some point in our lives. What are some things we can do to be grateful when our lives aren’t going the way we want them to?

BJ Gallagher:  The Taoists believe that we humans can never really know whether something is good or bad. A tragedy happens and later on it turns out that the "tragedy" was really a blessing. And vice versa ... sometimes wonderful things happen that turn out to be not so wonderful after all. Here's an old Taoist parable that's a good reminder of that:

There is a Taoist story of an old Chinese farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away.

Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"Maybe," the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.

"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.

"Maybe," replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg.

The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

"Maybe," answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by.

The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

"Maybe," said the farmer.

Shelly Rachanow: One of the big themes in your books is the “Power of Positive Doing.” Tell us more about what you mean by that.

BJ Gallagher: Much has been made of the Power of Positive Thinking. Many gurus and spiritual teachers tell us how important it is to harness the incredible power of our minds in order to get what we want in life. What they're teaching is true, no doubt about it. But thinking isn't enough ... we must take action. It may be just a single step in the direction of what it is we say we want – that's enough to get the ball rolling.

You might call this "active faith" or "living with intention" or "acting as if." Whatever you call it, it's about movement – it's about doing something.

Even Norman Vincent Peale, the wonderful minister who wrote "The Power of Positive Thinking," talked about that – but that part of his teaching seems to get lost sometimes. Here's what he said: “A lot of people misunderstood the power of positive thinking … they thought that all you have to do is think positively and everything is going to work out. ... No, you have to also take some action, learn some skills – you’ve got to DO something.”

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

BJ Gallagher: Ha! What a great question! OK, let me think for a minute .... I would run the world with unconditional love, compassion, non-violent conflict resolution, kindness and forgiveness ... just as the Dalai Lama runs his community, as Gandhi ran his, as Jesus ran his, as Mother Teresa ran hers ... as all great spiritual leaders run their communities, that's how I would run the world. To quote Gandhi: I would BE the change I wish to see in the world.

BJ can be reached at http://www.bjgallagher.com/ or bbjjgallagher@aol.com.

Follow her on twitter: @BJ_Gallagher and find her on Facebook: BJ Gallagher

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