Inspiring * Transformational * Courageous * Personable

E-Zine for March 2006

I would rather regret the things that I have done than the

things that I have not.

– Lucille Ball

“It’s March Madness baby!”

Anyone who has watched a college basketball game announced

by Dick Vitale will know exactly what that means: It’s time for

the 64 best college basketball teams to square off in the NCAA

tournament for a shot at the national title.

The coaches and players from these 64 teams prepare both

mentally and physically for what is known as “the Big Dance.”

But being invited to the Dance is only the beginning. Every

person on every team knows that every game, from this point

forward, could be the last. Every night, they fight for the chance

to stay at the Dance, one game at a time. They know they have

to leave everything on the floor. This is their chance to show the

world what they’re made of.

My husband has been a college basketball coach for nearly 12

years, so I can appreciate all the hard work and dedication it

takes all year long to make it to the Big Dance. As a slogan from

a Nike T-shirt once said: “Welcome to Bracketville! Stay as long

as you can…”

If you’re not familiar with March Madness, perhaps I can put it in

perspective for you. Imagine that in your job, you spend 40 to 60

hours per week, all year long, working toward one big meeting

where you hope to win a huge deal from your toughest client. To

win the business, you have to prove that your products/services

are better than the products/services of 63 of your fiercest

competitors. Anything that turns the client off to your

presentation sends you back to the drawing board for another full

year of hard work, competitive research, regrets and secondguessing

yourself over what you could have done differently to

win the business.

They don’t call it March Madness for nothing!

You don’t have to be a college basketball fan to be drawn into the

emotions of the tournament: the pressure the players and

coaches face, the split- second decisions they must make, the

buzzer- beating shots that make fans storm the floor, and the

Cinderella stories that capture our imagination.

You see, March Madness is really about dreams and about living

life without regrets. We all have dreams. But to actually see

someone else’s dreams being made – or heartbreakingly lost –

live in our living rooms is the ultimate form of reality television.

At the end of the game, the worst thing players can feel is regret

for the shots they didn’t take or the plays they didn’t execute.

Most often, it is the things they didn’t do that cost them their

dream of a national championship.

Lucky for us, the pursuit of our personal and professional dreams

aren’t broadcasted to millions of people. But if they were, what

would people see? When it comes to your dreams, are you

experiencing the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat? Are you

in the game, fighting for your dreams with everything you have?

Or are you sitting idly on the bench, afraid to go after your

dreams because of what might happen? If you’re on the bench,

ponder this month’s quote from Lucille Ball – it is full of wisdom

and truth.

When we decide to truly get in the game – when we find the

courage to go after our dreams, commit to doing the work to

make them happen, and play as if everything is at stake – we

can experience a peace of mind that comes from living without

regrets. John Wooden, the most successful coach in college

basketball history, defines success as “peace of mind that is the

direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to

become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

Your dreams are yours to pursue, to live and to enjoy. Whether

your dream is to run a marathon or to run your own business,

the worst thing you can do is to keep it a dream. Go after your

dreams with everything you’ve got. If you don’t, you may

find yourself in the final seconds of the game of life, filled with

regrets over the shots you didn’t take and the plays you didn’t

execute to win your dreams.

A Call To Action

Now that you’ve caught the March Madness bug, let’s turn it into

action. Take some time to think about the following:

Find a great coach

When it comes to achieving dreams, athletes have a huge

advantage- they have coaches who prepare them for the

pressures they will face, help them develop strategies for

winning, and keep them focused on what needs to be done to


If you truly want to pursue your dreams and live without regrets,

you need to find a coach or mentor (or several, for that matter).

A coach helps you reach your full potential and develop a game

plan for achieving your dreams. A coach keeps you motivated, on

track and focused on the important aspects of your life. With a

coach to support you and back you up, you’re more likely to take

measured risks in pursuit of your dreams.

There are countless professional career and life coaches out

there, but you don’t have to incur the expense of a paid coach

when you’re surrounded by people who are well qualified to

mentor you. Look around! Co-workers, church members, friends

and family members can all be great coaches. Once you find a

coach you’re comfortable with, share the following with him or


• You have a dream that you strongly believe in, and you

could use a coach to encourage you and guide you toward

achieving that dream.

• Explain why you feel he or she will make a good coach. (Is

it his/her professional qualifications and experience? Is it

because of the respect you have for what he/she has


• You realize that only you are responsible for doing the work

necessary to achieve the dream, but you need someone in

your corner who can help you stay focused, energized and


A good coach reminds us that there is no time for regrets,

because the game of life is never long enough to make up for the

things we didn’t do.

“It’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for


When I was a software sales executive, my vice president told

me these words, and I’ve never forgotten them. He said, “If a

multimillion dollar deal is at stake and the client wants something

you think the company can realistically and safely concede, make

it happen. If you don’t, your competitor will gladly take the

client’s business while you’re stuck in the lobby, staring at your

PDA, waiting for corporate’s approval.”

Many times, we don’t go after our dreams because we spend too

much time thinking about what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s

like sitting in a restaurant with someone who can’t decide what

to order. It’s frustrating and it’s time consuming. You wonder, “If

you can’t decide, are you really all that hungry?” If you can’t

move forward toward your dream, is it really a dream to begin


Certainly, it’s important to weigh the risks and the benefits of

any endeavor. But you can’t sit around waiting for others’

approval before you decide to pursue your dreams. At some

point, you just have to make it happen. Making decisions, taking

action and living our lives in forward motion allows us to attain

our dreams without regrets. As long as you’re moving forward,

you’re on the right track.

How can you keep forward momentum? Consider the following:

• Ask yourself this question: Whose approval do I feel like I

need to have before I can follow my dreams? Write down

every name that comes to mind. Then, consider what would

happen if you decided to “ask for forgiveness instead of

permission.” In other words, what would happen if you

pursued your dreams against these people’s wishes?

Chances are, although it might cause some temporary

upset, your decision wouldn’t create any lasting negative

effects. On the other hand, not following your dreams will

leave you with lasting regrets.

• Once a month, check yourself to see how you’re

progressing toward your dream. (Doing this check-up with

your coach is even better.) Never regret any action you

took to achieve your dream, even if it didn’t produce

results. Forward motion of any kind is positive. If something

you did was ineffective, simply shift your focus, get back on

track and minimize any actions that might derail you again.

Community Inspiration

All of us have inspirational people in our lives who fuel our souls.

Please share with me your stories of those who have succeeded

against the odds or who make this world a better place. Every

month, we’ll share an inspiring story with the Wake Up Call

Community. Simply email your stories to Info

Once there was a tall, lanky kid who grew up in North Carolina

and loved to play baseball and basketball. He came from a

working class family that never took for granted the food on its

table. He and his older brother played one-on-one basketball for

hours on end – that was when his true love of the game began.

But in his sophomore year of high school, his dream of playing

varsity basketball came to an end when he was cut from the


Michael Jordan could have spent the rest of his life wondering,

“What if?” But he decided to put his pride aside and give it his

all. Some people might have given up after being cut from the

team. Instead of being discouraged, Michael used the cut as

motivation to work harder than ever on his game. On the days

when he felt like giving up, he’d visualize his name on the varsity

team roster posted in the gym.

With that drive to win, he achieved success on a dramatic scale

by winning six NBA championships, owning a professional

basketball team and running a multi-billion dollar shoe and

apparel line. He is widely regarded as the greatest person to ever

play the game of basketball and is one of the most recognizable

athletes in the world.

Michael Jordan exemplifies the principle in Lucille Ball’s quote. He

chose to take risks to follow his dream rather than risk living with

regret. I truly hope you will make the same choice. With a desire

to win and a focused attitude and heart, you will spend more

time celebrating the present and less time regretting the past.

Let Me Be Your Wake Up Call

What people are saying about Mercedes:

Mercedes’ presentation was heartfelt and inspiring. She

exemplifies our desire for service learning. She was a perfect

complement to the initiatives we have set in the Hansen

Leadership Program. -K.M., Doane College


Portions of Wake Up Call may be reprinted in your

organization’s newsletter, provided the following credit line is


Copyright Mercedes Ramirez Johnson. For more information and to subscribe

to the free monthly ezine, visit

About the Author
In 1995, Mercedes Ramirez Johnson narrowly survived a commercial airplane crash that killed 160 people, including her parents. As one of only four survivors of this tragedy, she vowed that she would make her second chance at life count…and that she has – not only for herself, but also for the tens of thousands of people who have heard her story and her message.

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