A funny thing happened on the way to Dumas, TX…

After a bit of a hiatus, I traveled this week to Dumas High School in Dumas, TX to deliver a couple of presentations to the Junior and Senior classes.  I’ve been a presenter for Monster.com’s Making It Count Programs for about three years, a relationship I’ve had much fun with!  We had a great time, and the students there were fantastic!  ( CLICK HERE to link to the video montage of the presentation created by the folks at the local online paper, High Plains Observer-Dumas.)

Watching the video, I found myself smiling, laughing, and re-enjoying the time I spent there…at work!

Sure, when I headed to the airport the day before, it was just like one of those days when you aren’t looking forward to the commute.  Once in the air, though, I opened up the blank, leather-bound journal my wife gave me not two weeks ago on our wedding day.  With the gift, she’d included a note of instruction that I was to use that journal to capture the plans and dreams in my head, and begin putting them into action. So I started writing…

As the sun set over the horizon (it’s a beautiful sight to watch through the window of a plane at 31,000 ft), I was settled in with my iPod, pen in hand, and before I knew it, I’d written about 6 pages of ideas which have become the early draft of my business plan for the coming year.

The next time find yourself dreading your commute, turn up an old album you haven’t heard in a while, settle in for the ride, and open up your mind to ask, “How can I make today count?”.

Not Quite Bear Grylls or Steve Irwin…More Like Kevin Costner…sort of.

Today I:
(a) Woke up in a hotel room and realized I’d forgotten dress shoes and belt
(b) Went to WalMart before 7AM in slacks and running shoes while holding up my dress pants
(c) Spoke to students from 4 different High Schools (they all came over to Frederick High School to hear me)
(d) Hiked within 100 yards of an American Bison…in the same field….with NO FENCE between us
(e) Stood atop a dam built in 1933
(f) All of the above.

For those of us who stay on the go (like Peter Shankman), you have to take your recreation time when you can (Shankman skydives, I hike and run). Today, I had a few extra hours to burn in the afternoon, so I went exploring at the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.

This place is REALLY COOL! There’s a few nights sleeping in my tent to happen here real soon.

Enjoy the footage!

The next time you hit the road for work….steal some time and visit a museum, take a hike, or…reenact the “tatonka” scene from Dances with Wolves!

I'm No 'Sully' Sullenberger – but Tomorrow We'll Have Something In Common

Okay, NO. I’m not going to land a plane in the Hudson River on Tuesday, but I will grace the halls of now world-famous US Airways Pilot ‘Sully’ Sullenberger’s high school.

This just goes to show that great people CAN and DO come from anywhere!

I grew up and went to high school not too far from Denison, TX, just across the Red River in southern Oklahoma. We shared a television station (actually, two) in this area often referred to as “Texomaland”. Though, all those years ago, I never knew that much about Denison, TX.

According to the Dallas Morning News:

“It’s the birthplace of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And Thomas Vulney Munson, a horticulturalist credited with helping save the European wine industry, spent part of his life here. “

Tomorrow, I have the opportunity to speak to the Junior and Senior classes of Denison High School. As my readers will already know, I’m a speaker with Monster.com’s Making It Count Programs, and travel the country delivering messages of success to students who will be the leaders of tomorrow….some of them have already done some pretty good work today!

Hmmm. I wonder if these students know the potential they possess….This one should be special.

Ice Storms and Windshields – True Story!

Over the years, I’ve shared a few of my travel stories…this one is, perhaps, the scariest to date. In short, here’s a copy of the post I made to Twitter shortly after it happened: 70 mph + falling ice = shattered windshield. That was scary!

On my way back to Tulsa following a speech this morning in Van Buren, Arkansas, I was chatting with a friend (on my bluetooth headset) about a current project, when I heard a sudden POP and looked over to see the first image. After a startled shout, somehow I managed to maintain enough composure to end the call, pull over to the side of the road and figure out what had just happened.

As I looked back down the road toward where this had occurred, I noticed there was a huge power line stretched over the turnpike. The line, like the trees all around, were covered in a tremendous amount of ice left from the storm system that’s been working it’s way east over the past few days. Ice that was beginning to fall from a height of about 100′ to the ground. I never saw it coming.

When you look at the second picture, you can see the tremendous dent left in the support post on the passenger side of my SUV from the impact of the falling ice that actually hit the vehicle…Did I mention I was truly traveling at 70 mph when this occurred?

Fortunately, the impact was on the passenger side of the windshield and only blew glass into the seat NEXT to me, rather than in my face. And, despite not being able to use the wipers for fear of knocking an open hole in the glass that might rapidly cause the window to completely disintegrate, I made it back to Tulsa in about an hour.

Some things I learned today:

  1. Yes. Freak things CAN happen to ANYONE when driving. Stay alert, and be calm if disaster strikes.
  2. It is CRITICALLY important to keep your mechanic’s phone number in your cell phone. I called mine right after my insurance agent (who couldn’t help) and he referred me to a glass local, family-owned auto glass shop. I scheduled an appointment within 15 minutes after impact and about 3 hours after arriving back in town, the windshield had been replaced…at a VERY reasonable rate!
  3. Wiper fluid that includes Rain-X creates a helpful water shedding effect when driving on a wet highway if you are unable to use your wipers.
  4. Windshields are surprisingly cheap.
  5. Act quick when you need to get something done. By the time I arrived at the shop (about an hour after the incident) they were already pushing off work until next Monday (4 calendar days later). If I hadn’t called, I wouldn’t already have the glass replaced. [Hmmm. Anyone know a good body shop?]

God has a plan for me, and I must still have something important to do here on this great earth, so I’m going to continue making every day count! I’d encourage you to do the same.

Cooksey Connects with Duncan High School

From the Duncan Banner (Click here for the link to this article on their website):

Learning the ropes

by: Derrick Miller
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN January 09, 2009 11:10 am

Learning doesn’t end with high school graduation. But what is learned in high school can have an impact on what comes after.

Duncan High School continued its Making It Count program Thursday by providing seniors with information on how to be successful in college and in the career field.

This is the second time this school year an individual from the Making It Count program has talked to DHS students. The first time was a discussion with the freshmen to help them figure out how to be successful in high school.

For both programs, it was Scott Cooksey doing the talking, and during Thursday’s program, Cooksey talked about figuring out career choices and how to achieve the goals set.

“There are two things successful people have: Desire and know-how,” he said. “Today, I cannot give you the desire to succeed. That’s up to you.

“Today, I’m going to give you the tools needed to get the know-how.”

He said everyone has different career aspirations. Some people go to college, while others elect to join the workforce immediately following high school.

Cooksey said some of those who go immediately to work realize the limitations they face when they don’t go to college.

“My job today is not to twist your arm and tell you ‘you have to go to college,’” he said. “That’s a choice.”

Regardless of when someone chooses to enter the workforce, there is a career path set that could help him or her be successful in getting the job he or she wants.

The three steps to the career path outlined by Cooksey were looking at strengths, interests and the future job market. By assessing one’s strengths and interests, people can find jobs they like and are good at.

When a job is selected, developing characteristics essential to the job is an important step, he said. Seven characteristics mentioned include communication skills, organizational skills, leadership skills, logic, efforts, group skills and entrepreneur skills.

In addition to capturing these characteristics, people should have examples to display these qualities, Cooksey said. One skill that applies heavily to college and work is time management.

“Time is the most valuable thing you have,” he said. “If you don’t manage your time effectively, you’ll run out of time for the important things.”

Time management isn’t the only thing that students were told to work on in college. Cooksey said they should also develop test taking skills.

He mentioned things students should pay attention to when learning the material that could help them on tests. These include vocabulary, lists, formulas and equations, and anything highlighted by the instructor as a test possibility.

“When a professor says ‘This is going to be on the test,’ write it down,” Cooksey said.

You Can't Take It Back

As many of you know, I have the privilege of speaking, literally, to thousands of high school students each year as a presenter for Monster.com’s Making It Count Programs. During these programs one of the nuggets we caution students about is the importance of managing your personal image ONLINE.

Always curious about where my own “internet fingerprint” may turn up, I have a Google Alert set up to comb the web for sites where my name shows up. Over the past year, I’ve learned there are a handful of us around the globe who share the name “Scott Cooksey” (including one “Scott Cooksey” whose brother has the same name as MY younger brother-VERY unexpected.) There is a (retired?) soccer, goal-keeper in the U.K., a Dallas, TX area tattoo artist, and a fellow at Texas Tech University who seems to have a good reputation. I digress…

My latest Alert, which I received in an email this morning, linked to an entry I’d sent to the Tulsa World’s Opinion page back in 1997. I’d forgotten ALL ABOUT the post:

Trim elsewhere
Woodward Park is a gem, and deserves the love and care it has earned over the years as a wonderful, beautiful place in our city. Reckless acts of an arborist with an itchy chain-saw finger are simply that: reckless.

As an alternative to this condition, might I suggest the arborist look to more obvious eyesores such as the weed/trees standing tall along the train track in the middle of the Broken Arrow Expressway. While he’s at it, head on toward downtown to the south side of the Inner Dispersal Loop and consider doing some trimming of those “trees” growing up the retaining wall on the sides of the highway. They look awful.

As for spending city money for beautification, let’s fund those mowers to keep our roadsides looking good all the time; not just mowing them a week prior to a major golf event. It’s nice that the visitors get to see how nice our city looks once or twice a year, but if we could keep it looking good for the residents, that’s even better.

Scott Cooksey, Tulsa

Re-reading the article reminded me that no matter HOW or WHERE you post your thoughts, rants, opinions, and more on the ‘net, once you’ve published it, there’s no taking it back.

The lesson today, reminds me of some critical advice I’ve learned which can best be summed up as a three step plan for voicing your opinion:

  1. Be relevant – Make sure the issue you are raising is clearly articulated and one which truly matters.
  2. Provide a solution – No one likes a person who simply complains. Make suggestions on how the issue might be resolved. Even if your recommendation is not taken, it may still push efforts to implement a successful remedy in a productive direction.
  3. Listen to others – When you are the one in position to influence change, remember how appreciative you were when someone at least took the time to hear your ideas out before taking action. It’s an easy way to become known as a concensus builder – a powerful leadership trait.

For those of you curious, about 7 months after the above Opinion column was printed, Tulsa fell under the spell of Mother Nature’s response to the tree issue with an ice storm of disastrous proportions which took months to clean up. The park still looks great, but even previously healthy trees suffered severe damage. I guess it goes to show, you can’t prepare for everything!

What's in YOUR Bullseye?

You never know from where a nugget of inspiration will come. This past weekend, I participated in a training session for speakers of Monster’s Making It Count programs. These sessions are much like a speaker boot camp, in that we cover a tremendous amount of information in a relatively short amount of time. Just like so many who travel to Las Vegas, the mantra is typically, “Hey, you can sleep on the plane.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, but it is also a very focused weekend.

The program we were certifying on this weekend is one geared for high school freshmen. Can you remember your freshman year? At my school, we were called “fish”. We’d gone from being the top dogs of the middle school to the bottom feeders of the teenage experience…but I digress.
At the beginning of the presentation there is an interactive exercise where audience members are directed to simply shade in the bullseye on a target printed in the workbooks they receive when they arrived in the room. Then, having them close their eyes and turn head toward the ceiling, we ask them to shade in the bullseye of the second target, which is printed just below the first one. The point: “It’s much easier to hit the bullseye when you can see it!” Then we tell them, “Your bullseye is whatever you want it to be.

Take just a minute to ponder that idea. “Your bullseye is whatever you want it to be.”

Too often during the span of our lives, careers, relationships, even days, we are often asked to “fill in the circle” of someone else’s bullseye. When was the last time you truly worked toward a significant bullseye of your own that was on a target much farther away than next Friday?

Tonight, just before you drift off to sleep, I encourage you to consider your own long-term goals. Attaining those goals often may take a number of intermediate and short term goals to fully achieve, but really think about the center of your own target.

Define your own bullseye, and begin setting a plan in motion focused on hitting the bullseye somewhere in your own future. Be relentless in your pursuit of hitting your bullseye on Your Terms.
Bonus: Be accountable toward achieving your goal. Post it in a reply to this blog. Be sure to include a target completion date, too.

Presidential Failures

For those of you hoping to find some sort of commentary on the race to become the next President of the United States, you are going to be disappointed. Today, it’s a history lesson.

Last week, I was in Colorado to speak at Wheat Ridge High School’s “financial aid” night on behalf of my client, Monster’s Making It Count Programs. While looking around the room where my breakout session was to be held, I spotted a poster on the wall featuring four past Presidents.

Titled If At First You Don’t Succeed You Are In Good Company the poster offered the following examples:

  • Abraham Lincoln’s first business as a dry goods store was a flop. He was later appointed Postmaster in his township and had the worst efficiency rating in the country;
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt began his career in public service after flunking out of Columbia Law School. He then decided to run for Governor of New York;
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower was rejected three times for command positions before being appointed Supreme Allied Commander in 1942 and, finally;
  • Harry Truman opened a hat and shirt shop at age 35 that went bankrupt after just two years. Truman worked 15 years to pay off the debt.

Nobody sets out to “fail their way to success”. With tenacity, patience, and a little bit of luck, all things are possible!

Chicago in Winter Just Like Caribbean!

To you, Chicago, IL in winter may not be your idea of warmth. For me, however, this week brings me to the point that winter in Chicago makes me want to slap on some sunscreen and dip my toes into the surf. Let me explain..

Sunday night, severe icy weather in my hometown of Tulsa, OK put me smack dab in the middle of the worst power outage in Oklahoma’s 100 year history! At it’s peak, nearly 600,000 customers (read: households, businesses, cities, etc…) were without power. At this writing, the numbers in the Tulsa area remain around 150-175,000 without electricity…and that’s just from ONE electrical provider!

Should you find yourself reading this in the next few days after it is published, try this link to find out the latest: TULSA POWER OUTAGE.

My house (no, that’s not my house or car in the picture) is somewhere near the intersection of the four “quadrants” of the city…which likely means it’s effectively in “no man’s land” until each quadrant is sufficiently restored to “normal”. That means it may STILL be 3-6 more days before I have electricity restored!

On the bright side, my car is safe (currently at the local, off-airport secured, covered parking garage), my house is looked after, my next round of utility bills will be cheap, and I can finally toss that lasagna that had become a permanent fixture in my freezer when I moved into my bachelor pad after my divorce was final two years ago.

So you see, warmth is where you find it! Thanks, Monster.com’s Making It Count Programs for sending me on the road this week to a hotel with internet, electricity, and a bed I can sleep in – sans sleeping bag.

Early tomorrow morning, I return home….likely to finish cleaning out my fridge.