Need for Life Adventure Led to Renowned Spine Center

This is a story about a Bismarck, North Dakota collegiate soccer player seeking an adventure in life and finding his way to the largest specialized care hospital in the United States. The Shepherd Center is a private, not-for-profit hospital located in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center specializes in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain and other neuromuscular conditions. Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. Josh Zottnick is the Lead Exercise Specialist in the Center’s Beyond Therapy® program.

Education is Key

Josh, the second oldest of accountant Doug (deceased) and nurse Barb’s four children, was anxious to see more of the world after graduating from Bismarck’s University of Mary with a BS in Athletic Training & Sports Medicine. A chat with a childhood friend introduced him to the Exercise Physiology program at the University of Georgia (Athens) where he earned his Masters of Education in Clinical Exercise Physiology in 2003.

Car Wreck

A friend’s car wreck, that resulted in his traumatic brain injury, drew Josh to the Shepherd Center away from his cardiac rehab work. “After my first visit with him, I was working at the Center three months later.” July 2017 marks Josh’s 12th year there. “I visited my friend several times over the first couple of weeks and saw his dramatic improvement. He was one of the lucky ones; he made a full recovery.” Seeing his friend’s traumatic ordeal inspired Josh to want to do more.

Inspire & Trust

Every day his spinal cord and traumatic brain injury outpatients inspire him. He conducts intricate strength training regimens in the weight room, cardio sessions on apparatus, assisted locomotor training on body weight supported treadmills and functional training sessions. Each of these is intended for clients to process through their activities of daily living in a more efficient manner.

Not all rehab clients are equal. The most challenging type is one who is negative and lacks hope. “A negative attitude confounds the rehab situation.”

Josh works to build rapport and develop trusting professional relationships. “When clients trust you, they see the world from a different point of view. They trust where you are taking them is the right place.

Josh is a working example of the Shepherd Center’s Mission: Helping people with a temporary or permanent disability caused by injury or disease, rebuild their lives with hope, independence and dignity. “The worst and best part of my job is seeing someone struggle and then overcome those struggles. Helping clients unlock their potential keeps me going.”

Team USA

Josh’s commitment to his profession isn’t limited to an 8-5 workday. He recently returned from Australia. Here he supported Team USA at the Adaptive Waterski World Championships.  The team won the silver medal and seven members won individual medals. Australia won gold; Italy the bronze.

Afterwards he and his wife of nearly six years, Reagan, toured Australia-yet another life adventure.

Lawncare, Mutts + Pearl Jam

Josh, 38, isn’t all work. In addition to soccer, he still plays basketball and wakeboards. “I even try to incorporate these into some client sessions.” He met Reagan playing flag football in Atlanta. “She blew me away with how she had her life together. She’s beautiful, smart, kind, fun and independent.”

When not working or participating in a sporting event, Josh “loves to do lawn care.” He’s also somewhat of a Pearl Jam fanatic, seeing them 28 times. “Their lyrics are introspective and informative. They are saying something in their songs. The music affects me on so many levels. Seeing them live is amazing.”

He and Reagan also support a friend’s animal rescue nonprofit, Mostly Mutts. They volunteer time for fundraisers and foster dogs until adoption.

Magic Wand

Josh’s hopes and dreams for the future, which he thinks someone might already be working on, include invention of an implant that will bridge across the injured area of the spinal cord. This would help people regain all of the function they had before injury and allow them to walk again.

If he could wave a magic wand for the next 20 years of his life, he’d be retired and traveling to see his kids on their college campuses for Parent’s Weekend. And, the ultimate would be taking in a UGA Bulldogs football game with them.

That’s not much to ask for a guy from North Dakota giving his time and talent to restore quality of life to 100’s of clients of the Shepherd Spine Center. Is it?


Please Like and Share.

One never knows whose life can be improved by working with Josh and the Shepherd Center.


Copyright. June 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.














Insider Tips from Dads on Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. Click here to read about the history of Father’s Day.

Fathers are an important influence on a child life, no matter the age. Time is the greatest gift a father can give his child. Here’s the story of four outstanding fathers who share the joys of being a father every day, but especially on Father’s Day.

Darwyn & Jacob

“My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass.” “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising boys.”
– Harmon Killebrew
Darwyn leads his seven-year-old son Jacob by example in both his work and personal life, just as his father Leon did. He cares about role modeling a strong work ethic. “I want Jacob to know he can do many things if he’s determined, tries his hardest and pushes through adversity.”

Darwyn is self-employed and struggles with balancing work with the demands of a young family. “From my own dad, I learned that hard work does pay off in building a solid business for years to come. But, sometimes hard choices and sacrifices are required.”

Darwyn understands his son needs him to be there for him. So, he arranges his schedule to take him to athletic practices, play with him after work and go on hikes together. Jacob knows he matters to his dad; Darwyn follows through on his promises by showing up and telling him he loves him.

The two of them bond over sports and watching action movies. And, Jacob is always up for trying new things and giving them 100 percent. He’s taken up golf and baseball, often making his dad chase a long one down the street. He helps Darwyn fix things around the house “so we don’t have to buy new things every time something breaks.”

Jacob learns from his dad by watching him and spending time with him. He’s seeing how to treat others with respect, to own up to his mistakes and fix it for the next time and to be nice to his teammates on the baseball field, understanding everyone is there to learn the game.

The greatest lesson Jacob is learning from his dad, “Everything will fall into place if you know and serve the Lord.”

 Jim & Trenten

“The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty with the son who neglects them.”
– Confucius
Jim values time with his 12-year-old son, Trenten. “I hope he now recognizes the amount of time we spent together and the priority he is in my life.” The two share hunting, travel and dogs in common. The specific interest gives them time together to enjoy it while also talking about school, sports and life. Jim especially likes traveling with Trenten. “It’s amazing what I can learn traveling 8-10 hours in a vehicle with him.”

Jim learned a lot from his grandpa who spent time fishing and talking about farming and school with him. “He passed away in 1986, but there are many times I wish Trenten was able to meet him.”

Trenten, who comes across as shy, is described as funny and smart by his dad. Jim’s now speaking to him about growing into a man. Trenten’s learning not to make promises he cannot keep. He’s been taught his word is the only thing in life no one can take away from him. Trenten has seen that by working hard things will fall into place. He knows the world does not owe him anything and that he is capable of doing anything he wants, if he sets his mind to it.

Jim, a banker, teaches Trenten about money. “I like to present him with options so he understands real costs. Everything is about choices. For instance, if he buys something, what is he not able to do since he spent his money.”

At this age, Jim urges Trenten to have fun and find something in life he’s passionate about. “He will spend the rest of his life working and worrying. I also encourage him to make friends with everyone. One never knows when someone you meet might be in a place to help you out one day.”

 Michael & Noah

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”
— Billy Graham, Christian Evangelist

Michael and seven-year-old Noah have rituals, like the donut shop. Every Saturday morning, they head out to eat donuts while talking and laughing. Usually they leave with some for the girls back home-mother and younger sister.

They have other notable rituals. Their daily drive to school starts with a prayer followed by a game of guessing what types of trucks will be in the gym parking lot as they drive by. They celebrate their appreciation of superheroes like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers with Friday night pizza and movie nights, mom and sister included.

Their shared enjoyment of music has them singing and dancing along to Christian Hip-Hop songs. They play catch football and shoot hoops and enjoy watching NFL games. Noah has attended a Nebraska Cornhuskers football game, his dad’s favorite team, but has started rooting for the Iowa Hawkeyes, to get under Michael’s skin.

Michael knows it’s during these shared activities and rituals that he will get honest feedback on what Noah is going through. Michael loves talking to his son. “Noah’s laugh and sense of humor are infectious.”

Michael wants Noah to know he works hard to be a great role model to him. Like his father, Bill, demonstrated, Michael wants to show Noah how to be a good husband by showing affection for his wife and doing nice things for her. “I let Noah be part of this process too. He has good insight and it’s a great teaching moment.”

Michael’s greatest wish for Noah is to know who he is and to love others as Christ loves us. He’s also teaching him:

  • We control how we react to situations.
  • There are consequences for choices made (good and bad).
  • It’s okay to fail, do your best.
  • Protect and lead your family.
  • God is the ultimate Superhero.

 Ken & Alex

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”
– Jewish Proverb

Ken’s son, Alex, at age 22, is a young adult. Much of the way Ken parented was role modeled for him by his father, Lee, who was “an extremely kind and respectful man with a very strong work ethic. He was a leader who taught me how to overcome adversity and take responsibility for supporting my family.”

Ken strives hard to role model ‘integrity’ for Alex. “I want him to do things with honesty, the right way and live by the Golden Rule.” He wants nothing more for Alex than for him to be happy and to live a fulfilled life-on his terms.

“I want him to make the most of his life doing what he desires and knowing that he can, and more likely will, make adjustments along the way.” Ken also knows that if Alex chooses to be a husband and father, he will need to compromise and serve others to experience a fulfilled life.

Ken’s done his best to prepare Alex for adulthood by teaching him to:

  • Be accountable for his actions. Take responsibility and own it.
  • Be a good role model for others.
  • Be appreciative and thankful for the blessings he has in life. Much of what one attains in life comes through the help of others. Do not take people for granted and express your genuine gratitude. Be willing to give freely of oneself without an expectation of something in return.
  • Have fun. Life should be enjoyed. It is up to you to discover your own passion and create your own happiness.

Through the years, Ken and Alex have created a bond and enjoyed life through sports, household and yard projects and business ventures. They share an obsession with Louisville Cardinals team sports and watching sporting events on television and at games.

The two have painted many home interiors together and enhanced yards through landscaping. They have created and implemented business plans, some successfully, others not.  They’ve jointly discovered their passions, had fun and felt a sense of accomplishment.

Ken feels he’s raised a genuinely good and caring son who has a “great head on his shoulders and makes wise decisions.” He’s proud that Alex has “stayed out of trouble” and shown he knows the difference between right and wrong. “I feel confident Alex has an extremely bright future ahead of him, both personally and professionally. It has been fulfilling and rewarding to be Alex’s father. He has brought more joy into my life than I could have hoped for. He is an incredible son whom I love so much.”

  A Dad is

Respected because he gives his children leadership.
Appreciated because he gives his children care.
Valued because he gives his children time.
Loved because he gives his children the 1 thing they treasure most-himself.

Happy Father’s Day to fathers everywhere.


©Copyright. June 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.










Want to Be Promoted? Get a Pioneering Mindset

Automotive Executive’s Pioneering Mindset

Want to understand automotive executive Ron Meier? Grab a copy of Willa Cather’s My Antonio-a 1918 published novel that’s stuck with him for decades. In the late 1800’s story, Jim and Antonio’s families settle on the Nebraska prairie. Though their lives take very different paths, they remain lifetime platonic friends. Throughout the book, Cather captures the great American spirit, portrays the vast landscape and reveals the mindset, determination and willpower of the pioneering people. “The characters and setting bring North Dakota childhood memories back to me and remind me of the many who’ve come in and out of my life over time,” reflects Ron.

Natural Pioneer

Ron’s attraction to pioneering stories comes naturally. In the fall of 1966, the Meier family of seven relocated from rural south central North Dakota to Ypsilanti, Michigan. Worn out by farming, Mr. Meier boarded a train for Michigan where he secured a Ford Motor Company job. After finding housing, he sent for his family who moved the day after Thanksgiving, pulling a small rental trailer behind their car.

Ron is adaptable to relocations. To date, he has lived in eight places, mostly for work advancements. Today he and Karen, his wife of 35 years, reside in southern California. They are the proud parents of five sons and a daughter. Their lives are blessed with two grandchildren and two more are expected in 2017. Theirs is a full and rich life created by the personality traits Cather used to describe pioneering Midwesterners: hardworking, faithful, persistent and determined.

Rising through the Ranks of the Automotive Industry

Ron worked his way up the automotive industry career ladder using these pioneering traits. In 1978, he started as an hourly employee in the Hydra-matic transmission factory (a division of General Motors). Today he is the Western Executive Regional Director for Chevrolet in Moorpark, California. He’s responsible for sales in 13 western states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

His path was anything but a paved highway. Along the way, he was an apprentice powerplant mechanic and a Journeyman (skilled tradesman) powerplant mechanic at Hydra-matic. He paid his own way through night school, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration (Accounting and Finance) degree in 1984. He then was a salaried cost accountant at Hydra-matic. His MBA in International Business followed in 1990.

General Motors World Headquarters then offered him a staff assistant role in the GM corporate accounting and finance department. In 1995, he became a GM administrator working in numerous staff functions as a people leader. Four years later (1999) he was relocated to the field staff as a financial administrator supporting the GM Sales, Service and Marketing staff.

Ron became a Buick and GMC Zone Manager (OH, MI, PA and KY) in 2007 and was promoted to Senior Zone Manager (IL, IN and WI) in 2013 before promotion to his current role of Western Executive Regional Director.

“I’ve stayed with GM because I’ve developed a passion for what I do. Additionally, I work around some of the best and brightest people in the industry. GM has evolved into a well-run, innovative and dynamic company in a dynamic industry.”

Recession & Celebrity at GMC

Ron’s most memorable career experience is the 2008-9 economic recession. “These were troubled times filled with high anxiety. No one knew how things would turn out. In times like these, it becomes abundantly clear how important faith, hard work, focus and the values instilled in childhood are in overcoming adversity.”

Because of what Ron does professionally, throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to meet many public figures like Peyton Manning, Shaquille O’Neal, Erin Andrews, Fred Couples, Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan, and more. Meeting these individuals makes him realize that people generally have the same hopes, fears, concerns, etc. no matter how famous they are. “They just perform on a larger stage.”


Ron’s first leadership role was drum major for his high school marching band. “Back in those days one was chosen based on musicianship, physical ability and leadership. I realized then that people do not necessarily follow you because of your title, but they will follow you if you lead them.”

Traits of a Good Leader

  1. A good leader sees diversity of his group as a strength and finds ways to extract the best thinking from its members. “Over the years, I’ve found when people understand how what they do fits into the overall success of the organization and they feel they’ve contributed to that success, I’m on my way to developing an engaged, high-performing team.”
  2. People relate to leaders who are comfortable in their own skin and show some humanity.
  3. A good leader is also a good teacher.
  4. A good leader is a powerful and prolific communicator who not only focuses his group on what needs to be done but also the “why” behind the “what.”
  5. A good leader defines what success looks like and effectively conveys how this success benefits the entire group.

Selecting Leaders

Ron looks for several characteristics in leaders. “You don’t need to be a leader of people to possess these characteristics. Each is important in business. You are more likely to succeed if you can build an organizational culture where these are valued.”

  1. Personal Capability
  2. Results Oriented
  3. Acceptance of Responsibility
  4. Accountability for Results
  5. Strong Interpersonal Skills
  6. Being a Change Agent through Innovation
  7. Strong Character and Integrity

Principles & Values

“The dumbest mistake I made in my early life was thinking that reaching out to others for help or guidance was a sign of weakness.” Through conversations with others and a lot of self-reflection, Ron’s realized reaching out to the right people at the right time can be a smart move. “It enables you to get a fresh perspective and resolve a lot of issues, perhaps more quickly.”

Live By

  1. Be Responsible– “Own It”- Doing so helps one acknowledge his mistakes, take corrective action and learn from mistakes rather than pointing fingers at others or circumstances.
  2. Be Self-Motivated-No need to wait for an invitation to do what needs to be done…do it!
  3. Put Others First-Be part of something bigger than yourself. While some self-indulgence can be healthy, the majority of time should be spent in service of others.

UpSide of Downs a 501(c) (3) Non-Profit Organization

Ron and Karen put these principles to use in 1996 shortly after their son Steven was born with Downs Syndrome. They created UpSide of Downs in response to a lack of helpful information for parents and caregivers of these children. “We wanted current and less depressing information.” Initially they assembled materials into a booklet but today have a website that has branched into an informational source for caregivers of special needs children, adults and captives of dementia disease.

Not on the Golf Course

One’s not likely to find Ron on the golf course. “If pressed into service because of work, I’ll go and have a good time. But, the amount of time needed to become decent makes me turn away from the game.” Instead Ron spends as much time as he can with his family, attends church regularly and works on projects around the house, whittling away his “to-do” list.

Ron’s greatest joy comes from the blessings of seeing what wonderful people his children have developed into and the fine people they’ve married. Seeing the legacy being passed on in the parenting of their children is an added bonus.

Happy and Proud Influencers

If asked, Ron’s three cited influencers would likely list the same source of personal joy. Each of them possesses pioneering traits similar to the characters in Cather’s My Antonio. His dad Steve had a strong work ethic, a deep Catholic faith, a sense of humor and was known for how well he treated people. His mom Margaret taught him the skills for living and values that kept him on the straight and narrow. And, his wife Karen, the mother of their six children (two with Down Syndrome), has been a gift to his life. She managed their family life while he completed two degrees, primarily through night school; navigated many corporate relocations and supported him through his own life’s journey.

Share this with others who will learn from Ron’s journey and approach to life, especially those seeking to be leaders with a pioneering mindset.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who has hired and developed  teams of professionals. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. Today she consults and writes for organizations and conducts undercover visits to improve guest and visitor experiences.

© Copyright. April 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

How can I help your organization grow?













Who Wouldn’t Want to Do This in Southeast Nebraska?

Southeast Nebraska is a land of plenty with something for everyone. This area-one hour south of Omaha-is filled with history, unique festivals and events, and picturesque landscapes.

Here’s an overview of 4 communities we recently visited.

Website links are provided to help you plan your own adventure.


Brownville (pop. 132)-a quaint village on the Missouri River-is on the National Register of Historic Places. Put on your walking shoes and check out the museums, the riverfront, the theatre and the concert series. Take a dinner cruise. Shop Memorial Day weekend and each fall at the Annual Brownville Flea Market. Stay overnight-perhaps at the River Inn Resort.

There’s plenty to see and explore.

60th Annual Flea Market

Helpful Hint: Call ahead if there’s a particular business or museum you’d like to visit. Most weren’t open during website-posted store hours on our Easter weekend visit. Brownville is an event-based community. Plan ahead if you are visiting during an event. Lodging sells out.

Sweetwater Brooms & Engraving- Broom Maker
Brooms made by hand-last a lifetime.

Whiskey Run Creek Vineyard & Winery

Every once in a while one encounters someone who leaves a forever positive impression. Matthew Heskett did just that. Matt is a sixth-generation farmer and son of proprietors, Ron and Sherry. He’s a 20-something entrepreneur with some of the savviest customer service skills we’ve encountered in Nebraska. He knew his community and his industry like a seasoned pro. Matt is an outstanding ambassador for both his business and Southeast Nebraska. Go meet him at the winery.

We toured the historic 1866 cave (year-round 55 degree temperature) and the 100-year old barn. Inside we sampled wines, checked out the gift shop and viewed the event location upstairs. Matt even showed us the production facility and explained the construction where a distillery is being added. We will return for more award-winning wine and old-fashioned hospitality.

Helpful Hint: Friday nights May through August they host live musical performances. Weddings can be held on location by the gazebo and waterfall.


We drove a short distance on Highway 36 west to Auburn for lunch since none of Brownville’s restaurants were open. Two restaurants were consistently recommended: Hickory Road BBQ and El-Portal Mexican Restaurant.

We chose the former. The food quality and service were both outstanding.


This town of just over 800 is home to Nebraska’s first college (1867). Back then it was known as the teacher’s training school. Today Peru State College has around 2400 students.

Walk the historic, picturesque campus. Be sure to see the Little Red Schoolhouse

Drive to the Mt. Vernon Cemetery and see the historical grave markers. This hilltop location is also a Tri-State Observation Area (Iowa, Nebraska and Missouri).

Pack the bicycles and ride the Steamboat Trace Trail (found at north end of 5th street) between Brownville and Nebraska City. You can also hike it and enjoy birding along the way.

Stop in for a meal, a cool drink and a game of pool while in Peru.

Peru boasts a number of attractive city parks, including Sid Brown Memorial Park. Young children enjoy the splash pad during warm summer months.

A boat ramp to the Missouri River is accessible at 5th and Olive Street. The Peru Bottoms Wildlife Management Area (The Bottoms) is along the route, and beyond, and is available for hunting, fishing and birding.

Lied Lodge at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City

Nebraska is the proud home of Arbor Day. Founded in 1972 by J. Sterling Morton (whose son founded Morton Salt Company), Arbor Day encourages citizens worldwide to plant trees.

The 140-room, award-winning Lodge at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City is a sought-after gathering place for those who care deeply about the natural world and its future. It features the Timber Dining Room, a spa, sauna, exercise room, Olympic-sized pool, bar and conference center.

Like most lodging facilities, it is only as good as the guests staying there. During our rainy, holiday weekend stay, families crammed the pool with over-sized floats, leaving little room to enjoy the facilities in the naturally peaceful setting. Floors outside the pool area were wet and slippery. Under-aged, unsupervised guests occupied the sauna. (Safety concerns were reported to front desk staff.)

Helpful Hint: Stay mid-week or on a non-holiday weekend if you are seeking a peaceful retreat.

Visit the Arbor Day Farm website for things to do and trails to walk.

Get a ticket to the Tree Adventure. Educational and fun for all ages.


Walk the trails; listen to the forest

Include Indian Cave State Park on your list of things to do in Southeast Nebraska. The park has 3000+ acres and is southeast of Nemaha, along the Missouri River. Check out the large sandstone cave in the park.

Get out and explore Southeast Nebraska.

Create your own family memories and enjoy all that Nebraska offers.


Linda Leier Thomason is the founder and former CEO of  a Charleston, SC based event production and publication corporation. Today, she resides in Omaha, NE  where she writes about her undercover visits to towns and communities, among other things. To learn more about Linda, click on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Contact me to have your town or community featured.

©Copyright. April 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.





Insider Tips for College Graduates on the Job Hunt

You’ve achieved a major life milestone. You earned a college degree and are ready to join the workforce. Congratulations!

As you begin searching for your first career position, keep these insider tips in mind.

Make a Schedule & Show up Daily

Looking for a job is much like having a job. It requires commitment, dedication and perseverance. Create a schedule and stick to it. Get up each day knowing what you need to accomplish and prepare a list of things-to-do for the next day. Part of those tasks should include networking, prospecting, completing applications, going on interviews and creating and updating a spreadsheet to keep track of all activity by employer.

Try not to get discouraged. Finding a job is hard work. Finding a job that fits into your ideal career path is even harder. Put in the work for the best results.

Do a Personal Inventory

You’ve likely taken a career-ready course in college. There you identified your strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you listed industries or companies you’d be interested in as a career. Sit back for a few moments (not days) and do another personal assessment. Think about a career, not just getting a job. Reflect.


Are you pursuing a certain job because it’s your passion? Or, did your parents guide you into this career field? Is money your primary motivator? Should it be? Are you only looking in a particular industry because you completed an internship there? What job functions excite you enough to hop out of bed each morning looking forward to work? You must know yourself, your interests and your skill set well before you can realistically sell yourself to an employer. Don’t use the excuse that you’re too young or inexperienced to do this inventory or you will be hopping from job to job rather than settling into a focused career.

Understand Your Brand & Review Your Public Image

Understand you’re marketing yourself to prospective employers as a brand. What kind of impression are you making online? Quickly check. Do a Google search on yourself. What will an employer see? What photos of you are on Facebook and Instagram? Do you have endless juvenile sounding or drunken rants on Twitter? Do you participate in high risk activities that a recruiter or company will see as a liability?

You’ve graduated. Now it’s time to clean up your social media sites. Remove all party, beach and prom photos. Put a professionally dressed image of yourself on your LinkedIn profile. Don’t shut down your sites. Employers want to see that you have personality and creativity and know how to use these marketing tools. Just keep them clean and professional. Read everything. Make sure you don’t have grammar and spelling errors and that all content and dates are consistent.

Brag about It

Today every employer will log on to see if your public profile is a good fit or match for their organizational culture. Keep or put things on these social media sites that don’t necessarily fit on a resume. Did you win a huge award or invent something remarkable? Post a photo and description. You know they will be looking. Let them see how great you are and what an ideal fit you’d be with their company.

Network Online

More people network today online than in person. Add connections to your LinkedIn profile. Search out professionals who have a job you’d like to have. Connect. Ask them about their job and seek their guidance on how to be successful in that job and industry. Maybe they will invite you to visit with them at their office or on the telephone. Depending on how well you relate, this LinkedIn connection could become a career mentor.

At a certain point, it might be appropriate to ask for introductions to hiring managers within the company. Usually referrals from employees within a company are given greater weight than unknown candidates. Find someone to advocate for you within the company you want to work with. LinkedIn is a great way to achieve this.

Customize Your Resume

Most college students graduate having written a resume. If not, there are plenty of online sources for help. Take yours and review it and update it with these tips:

  • You have 6 seconds to make an impression on the first person reading your resume.
  • Think like the boss. What part of your work or internship history would (s)he be most interested in or care about? Feature these.
  • A boss cares about meeting company goals and objectives, first and foremost. Focusing on what you can do for the organization will make you stand out.
  • Get to the point quickly with a summary of your tops skills and achievements. Highlight what you’ve done that matters most to the employer and how you’ve been recognized for that skill or achievement.
  • Read each job description carefully and make a list of keywords. These are words you see repeatedly in the posting under “qualifications” and “requirements.” Make sure you meet all of the job requirements. If so, include these keywords in all documents (cover letter, email, resume, online application, etc.) submitted to the company.
  • Customize your resume to the position. This requires extra time but shows you know what an employer is seeking from a qualified candidate. Remember, you have 6 seconds to make an impression.

Write an Impressive Cover Letter or Email

Most companies require you submit a cover letter and resume through their website. Fewer ask you to send an email and resume. Either way, make a great first impression with a cover letter. Keep it to one page. Do not repeat what is already on your resume. Instead, highlight the skills and talent you will bring to the company on the first day. Make these stand out by using 3 or 4 bullet points on the page. Always check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Research and find a name to address your communications to. It shows initiative and greater interest.

Create and Practice an Elevator Pitch

An elevator pitch is a 30 second commercial about you. Remember, you are a brand. Sell yourself like you see a product being sold on TV. Write your pitch out. Rehearse it enough so you can recite it in a conversational manner. Avoid being cutesy or folksy.

Stick to the facts. Focus on skills that set you apart. List what value you’d immediately add to the company. Add a line about why a company should hire you. Like your resume, this pitch needs to be tweaked by organization. Anytime a friend, family member or referral source asks, “What are you looking for?” or “Tell me about yourself,” you should be able to readily give your rehearsed pitch. Be clear, concise and focused.

Practice Answering Interview Questions

You can find endless lists of interview questions online. The following 10 questions have been trending recently. Practice succinctly answering each question aloud. Ask a trusted friend, parent or mentor to give you feedback. Recent college graduates should use group project, internship and part-time work experiences to answer questions.

Many interviewers use the STAR method when asking behavioral based questions. They want you to first describe the situation and task(s). Then identify the actions and give the results when you answer their questions. If this concept is new to you, practice it. Knowing how to answer questions in this manner is expected of new graduates.

  1. Name one function you’d like to do every day at work for the remainder of your working days.
  2. Describe a time you failed, what you learned from it and how you made life or work changes from that failure.
  3. Explain Twitter to your grandparent in 140 characters or less.
  4. Describe the story of your career to date.
  5. What 3 metrics do you use to measure your own success?
  6. What 5 things do you expect from an employer?
  7. On the first day of work, what value will you immediately bring to this organization?
  8. If you had to do college over, what 1 thing would you change?
  9. Give an example of how you react when a team member isn’t doing his or her fair share of the project work.
  10. Describe your proudest moment in life to date.

Nail the Interview

Each interview method and process may be different. Some companies have a human resources staffer call and ask screening questions before inviting you to meet in person. Some prefer video conferencing as an initial screening. Others will invite you in to meet with the team you will be working with.

Treat all interviews with respect. Dress professionally for video calls. Don’t sound like you are sleeping when on a telephone screening call. Smile when on the phone and walk around, if it helps project more energy. You must make a favorable first impression to be invited for an in-person interview.

Always get the name and title of the person or people you are speaking to. It may seem dated, but it’s still appropriate to send a thank you note after each interview. Express your appreciation of their time and interest and remind them again why you are the best candidate for the job.

You may follow up with the employer after the interview, but do not send endless emails or make dozens of phone calls. Employers hire based on qualifications and interviews. Being a pest will turn off an employer.

Be sure to:

  • Research the organization and the people you will be meeting with.
  • Prepare questions you’d like answered. For example, is there a leadership training program? Do you pay for advanced education? Will I have to travel? How often? What do you like best (and least) about working here?
  • If it’s an out-of-town interview, ask about travel reimbursement before going. If they don’t offer reimbursement, find out how serious of a candidate you are before agreeing to travel.
  • Eat a nutritious meal before the interview. You don’t know how long the interview may last.
  • Try to get appointment scheduler to explain the process to you. Many companies now ask candidates to take personality and aptitude skill tests. Some interviews are progressive, meaning if you pass one test you proceed to the next part of the process. This can take hours, or even a full day. Be prepared before you go.
  • Dress appropriately. If in doubt, overdress. Never show up with pet hair on your clothing or a smoke odor.
  • Take your time answering questions. Pause. Ask for clarification. Speak clearly and loudly. Don’t become so long-winded the interviewer becomes bored. Think about the question and how your work history, skills and experiences can best benefit the organization.
  • Show interest. Ask questions throughout the interview. Remember, interviews are a two-way street. They are assessing your fit and readiness and you are determining if you’d like to work there.
  • Show some personality. It’s okay to laugh and to get to know the people you are meeting with. Afterall, you want to spend at least 8 hours a day with them.
  • End each interview knowing what the next steps in the process are and when they will be making a hiring decision.

Address the Elephant in the Room

The loudest complaint of recent graduates is employers want someone with experience. You must address this head on. In your personal inventory make a list of reasons you are prepared for the work place. Prove it by submitting a strong resume and cover letter. Deliver a polished elevator pitch and show up fully prepared for your interviews.

Extrapolate specific college group project experiences that relate to the work environment. Be able to describe the specific situation, action or task and the end result. Then relate this experience to the employer’s environment, keeping in mind they care more about what you can do for them and how you will advance their company.

Don’t be afraid to sell your soft skills like writing, communication and organizational skills. Highlight your technical skills like Microsoft Office Suite, statistical analysis, etc. and identify if you are advanced or efficient in each. Prove how you are a great team player and give examples of your learning style and business acumen.

Ask college professors, volunteer organization advisors and work supervisors to post a reference for you on your LinkedIn page. Be sure they highlight your work readiness and professional skills.

Keeping it Real

If you have no prior work or internship experience and only a college degree, you are at a definite disadvantage. Your resume will rank low. You won’t have key words to use or real life experiences to share. Always be truthful on your resume and in interviews because employers will verify your information before hiring you.

If this is your situation, do not infinitely prolong the job search. While searching, secure a job of some sort and prepare yourself for your ideal job.  Use the workplace as your laboratory of learning. Keep notes of examples you can use when talking with future employers. Ask for greater responsibility and prove you are workplace ready for your next job.

Share with recent college graduates seeking their 1st career position.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who has hired and developed  teams of professionals, including interns. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government and small business. She is the mother of a  December 2016 business college graduate who just landed his first career position.

Have a question about finding a job, writing a resume or drafting an elevator pitch? Need coaching?

Contact me.

©Copyright. April 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

















Midwestern Values Led Tomlinson Straight to the Top

Sales Executive Reflects on 36 Year Career

Mike Tomlinson became a member of Aflac’s prestigious Hall of Fame in December 2015. This honor recognizes individuals who’ve had a significant career impact on Aflac’s 62-year existence. Currently, Mike is the youngest member admitted into this elite group of 17.

How did a Detroit Lakes, Minnesota  native and 28-year resident of Watertown, South Dakota reach this level in a Fortune 500 corporation that regularly lands on the annual 100 Best Companies to Work for list?

It wasn’t luck or connections. It was hard work, dedication and Midwestern values.

Father’s Influence

Mac on violin with Amazing Rhythm Aces in MN in 1920’s.

Mike’s father Mac (Marion) had the biggest impact on his life. “He was my business role model. He instilled a strong work ethic in me and extremely optimistic attitude toward business opportunity in America.” Mac founded two successful businesses and purchased another. His father, who was 72-years-old when Mike was born, retired from the day-to-day management of Tomlinson Lumber in Callaway, MN in his late 70’s. “One of the hallmarks of the lumber company’s success was treating the 50+ employees so well that they stayed long-term and performed very well,” recalled Mike. “Dad also became a Christian later in life and this had a profound impact on the business values he instilled in us.”

In retirement Mac developed a large tract of lake property that he owned in Detroit Lakes MN. Mike and his brothers and sisters worked shoulder-to-shoulder with their dad to improve and sell these lake lots, all the while learning valuable life and business lessons.

Values Guiding His Life

Mike is led by three values that guide his everyday life. They are:

  1. Tell the Truth. As his dad used to say, “Tell the truth and you only have to remember one story.”
  2. Under Promise and Over Deliver. Always meet or exceed expectations. Be careful not to overcommit.
  3. Listen More Than Talk. Ask good questions and really listen. “I was really impacted by Stephen Covey’s advice in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to ‘Seek first to understand and then to be understood’.”

Family + Music Man

Mike’s greatest joy comes from having a great family. He and wife, Michelle, have been married 40 years. They are the proud parents of three sons-Jeremy, Jesse and Jackson-and grandparents of five girls and eight boys. An ideal day for Mike, now retired from his 36 year Aflac career, is spent traveling and experiencing God’s creations and relaxing with his family.

Mike also enjoys music as a guitar player. He’s been a church worship leader for more than 25 years and played in the successful country rock band, Sagebrush, in the 1970’s. This northwest Minnesota band opened for and toured with national acts such as Black Oak Arkansas, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Bellamy Brothers, Alabama, and others.

His all-time favorite song to perform is Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. Why? Because, of course, “it epitomizes having a positive attitude and pursuing your dreams.”

Cancer Experience Begins Insurance Career

Mike’s mother Ozella passed away from a nine-year battle with cancer just three months prior to his first insurance agent interview. It was the cancer policy that drew him to a long Aflac career. “Even though my parents had excellent health insurance, I could see a clear need for a cancer policy to provide additional cash benefits to cover the multitude of non-medical (travel, lodging, meals, loss of income, etc.) expenses caused by this disease.”

As a 22-year-old, Mike was astute enough to recognize a company with great opportunity for growth and advancement, if he delivered results. And, once aboard, he applauded Aflac’s commitment to fairly and quickly paying claims and thrived in the pay and promote for performance culture. “I never really considered taking on or switching to any other companies or careers.”

Rising Through Aflac Ranks

Mike’s work ethic and business savvy led him to rise quickly in Aflac. He was a District Sales Coordinator (DSC) for five years before becoming a Regional Sales Coordinator (RSC) for three. It was during this time that his favorite Aflac memory happened. His NW Minnesota Regional Team broke the Aflac all-time production record (Wall of Fame) by coordinating a complex take-over of a block of Medicare supplement business in MN. This achievement required extensive collaboration and was one of his most challenging and gratifying leadership efforts in his 36 year career.

For nearly 20 years Mike was the North and South Dakota State Sales Coordinator (SSC) before becoming the Vice-President of the Central Territory (8 states in the upper Midwest)-a position he had for six years.

He then held several senior leadership positions at corporate before his retirement, including Senior Vice President and Director of U.S. Sales. Here he oversaw 70,000 U.S. associates and coordinators (independent contractors) and a team of 225 sales employees while managing a $125 million budget and a $1.5 billion annual sales quota. Predictably, sales positively turned 10.2 percent during his tenure.

During 35 years of leadership and management Mike’s teams achieved quota 27 years, or 77 percent of the time. When he retired, U.S. President, Teresa White said, “Mike has the admiration and respect of all of us. He is an outstanding leader, not only achieving 36 years of record-breaking sales but more importantly serving as a true role model of excellence in ethics, values and performance.” Chairman and CEO Dan Amos added, “Mike is a top performer and I’ve never known a finer person or better role model. His has been an impressive and motivational journey. Along the way, he has had a direct and positive impact on thousands of lives, including mine.”

 8 Life Lessons from Leading & Managing

For nearly four decades Mike had led and managed people and organizations. He shares these observations and lessons learned during this time.

  1. The #1-character trait that leads to professional success is persistence. It trumps talent, education and intelligence, though these are important too.
  2. Most people get sidetracked by working in their business instead of on their business to reach success. It’s good to step back and enlist the perspective and help of others and assess one’s business.
  3. Once an employee has been taught his job, stand back and let him learn from hands-on effort and results. Edge them out of the nest to fly earlier on their own.
  4. Think big. Don’t let your past limit your future. And, don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of it is small stuff.
  5. Invest heavily (time and money) in developing your people. Care enough about them to be honest and candid. Identify simple metrics (skills or activity) for improvement and monitor and discuss regularly. Praise progress as people respond much better to positive feedback than negative.
  6. Count your blessings regularly and work and live your life with passion. If you can’t enjoy the majority of your work, find something else to do.
  7. Integrity is important. If someone cheats on small things like golf or a sales number, they likely will cheat on bigger things. When I find people I can give a blank check to, I will give them the utmost responsibility.
  8. Work/Life balance is important. I suffered a serious heart attack at age 46 and now work hard to balance work with an appropriate amount of exercise, sleep and relaxation. The older I’ve gotten the more important my relationship with Christ has become. It’s easier to see through a mature lens that this is the ultimate “long-term planning.”

The Near Future

Mike considers himself to be exceptionally good at developing and executing strategy and staying calm and rational in tense situations. No one who’s worked with him would argue against that self-assessment.

Now, after almost two years of retirement and travel, he plans to continue to use his years of winning business skills as a consultant in the near future.

And, how he’d like to eventually be remembered, well that’s easy: “Being a loving husband, father and grandfather.”



Share with others who’ve had the pleasure of working with and learning from Mike.

©Copyright. March 2017. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

What can I write for you? Contact me.








5 Ways to Test if a Neighborhood is Right for You

Quality of Neighborhood as Important as the House

You can remodel a kitchen or replace the family room flooring. Fixing a neighborhood is much more challenging. When searching for your ideal new home, pay close attention to neighborhood features that matter to you and your family.

Your real estate agent will ask you to be clear about what makes a difference in your daily life. For example, do you want a short commute to work? Do you need to be on a public transportation route? Does the grocery store or child care center need to be close? Do you want mature trees lining the street?

Answers to these questions are important. They direct where you search for your ideal home.  After narrowing down the list of ideal homes, drive through the neighborhoods. What’s happening there during the day and at night? Does the tone of the neighborhood change after dark or in the summer?

Do you sense that you’d enjoy the neighborhood as much as you love the home?

5 Ways to Test if a Neighborhood is Right Fit:

1. Convenience

Is convenience important in your daily life? If so, look around the neighborhood you’re thinking of moving to.

  • How far is the home from your place of work?
  • What are peak commute times like? Are the roads congested and noisy?
  • Would you be able to come home for lunch, or to let the dog out?
  • Is the grocery store fairly close? How about other retail shopping centers?
  • Where is the library, gas station and convenience store?
  • Are there restaurants you like nearby?
  • Is there a Farmer’s Market within a comfortable distance?
  • Where’s the Post Office?
  • Can you get to a dentist or doctor appointment quickly?
  • Where is the nearest Interstate?

 2. Social

Does it matter to you that you’re near family and friends? If you’re new to the community, do you rely on neighbors for socialization? When you drive through, are they outdoors interacting? Are children playing together? Also, consider:

  • Is the Home Owner’s Association (HOA) active? Do they plan social outings so you can meet other families and neighbors?
  • Depending on your age, are there activities for retirees within a comfortable driving distance?
  • Where is the nearest fitness center or swimming pool?
  • Is there anywhere close for art classes?

 3. Community Services

What community services do you rely on most? Research the availability and locations of:

  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Entertainment venues
  • Places of worship
  • Parks
  • Bike and walking trails
  • Police stations
  • Fire stations
  • Ambulance services
  • Child care
  • Cable television
  • Trash and recycling pick up

 4. Safety

It can be sort of deflating to discuss safety and crime rates while searching for a dream home. But, it’s a reality that needs to be examined. Consider these items:

  • Street lighting
  • Posted speed limit signs
  • Availability of sidewalks so people and vehicles don’t share the roadway
  • Neighbors home during the day
  • The Sex Offender Registry
  • Crime Reports Check for what crimes have been reported in your area
  • Posted Neighborhood Watch signs
  • Are local businesses boarded up or do they have bars on windows?
  • Air and water quality
  • Flooding potential
  • Steep hills-icy roads

 5. Appearance

Do you prefer living in a neighborhood where all the homes are constructed by the same builder and/or all painted natural muted colors? Or, do you like variety? Do you prefer new construction or a neighborhood with older homes? Do cars parked on the street bother you? Do you mind seeing a school playground or neighborhood park from your kitchen window? Also, think about:

  • How well homes and lawns are kept up?
  • Are HOA covenants enforced consistently?
  • Are the streets well maintained, or are there potholes?
  • What type and quality of trees are in the neighborhood?
  • Where are vehicles parked?
  • Is the neighborhood park clean or is it covered with pet waste and litter?

Are you ready to find your dream home in a fantastic neighborhood? Contact Megan.

Megan Owens, Realtor

“Delivering extraordinary care for extraordinary clients.”

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate

Phone | 402-689-4984     Email |

©Copyright. March 2017. Linda Leier Thomason. All Rights Reserved.


Why This Woman is Obsessed with March Madness

March Madness isn’t just for guys.

I’m a closet sports junkie. March Madness is my addiction. I study, watch and fill out multiple brackets; and historically win a few. I’m highly competitive by nature and for these 18 days, my drug of choice-competition-is all consuming.

I hunker down in the family room and watch endless hours of collegiate young men bounce and loft basketballs. Their sweat-coated coaches roam the sidelines as rabid fans experience wild mood swings during 40 minute games. There are winners and losers. There certainly are upsets. I root for underdogs, always.

It’s thrilling when lower seeded teams triumph and heart-breaking when my household’s team favorites-Iowa State Cyclones and Louisville Cardinals-are beaten. It’s been reported that companies lose millions during this time period. Apparently I’m not the only one obsessed. My approach to completing brackets and picking winners is more gut than analytical. However, one variable always gets the greatest weight-the head coach.

I pay attention to Bracketology with Joe Lunardi.  I study variables like season record, outstanding players, injuries and tournament location. But I never stray from what I consider the greatest determinant of winning teams-the coach.

Perennial Coaches

Rick Pitino

There are well-known March Madness perennial coaching favorites like Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. His absence was clearly felt this season while he was recovering from a recent surgery. He has this certain something that attracts great talent and makes these players deliver outstanding basketball. Then, there’s Rick Pitino from the Louisville Cardinals. Loaded with coaching skills and bravado, Pitino leads the favorite team of both my husband and our son. According to them, he’s a near basketball God.

Another tournament constant is West Virginia’s Bobby Huggins. Who doesn’t want to hug Huggins? He’s so teddy bear like. He sits on a sideline stool and ends every game toweling off like he’s just laid everything out on the floor for 40 long minutes. I’m not fooled. He coaches against my Alma mater Iowa State in the Big 12 Conference. He might look like a teddy bear, but Huggins consistently has winning teams with oppressive defense. Seems more like a tiger, perhaps, than a teddy bear.

Coaches I Miss on the Sidelines

I have to admit that come March I miss watching the gracefulness and steadiness of Fred Hoiberg. Coach Hoiberg was both a legendary player and coach at Iowa State who now coaches the Chicago Bulls.  He never seemed to overreact. He stood steadfast with arms crossed,understanding a game doesn’t end until the final buzzer sounds. Cool and collected, almost always.

I certainly miss one of the greatest and most loyal basketball teachers ever- Dean Smith from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I admired the fact that he was always dressed like he was going to work and spoke so eloquently about his players. He understood that they were “just imperfect kids.” I secretly wanted him as a coach. I longed to meet or shadow him. Oh, the many things I could’ve learned in person not just about basketball but about life from Coach Smith. Will there ever be another one like him?

I’m old enough to remember Jimmy Valvano from North Carolina State University.  In the mind of my five foot tall body I see this larger-than-life man with wet-looking, dark hair running up and down the sidelines. He always appeared to be hailing a taxi cab or signaling to an approaching ambulance. His hand gestures were that large and urgent. He was intense, but with a gentle giant sort of kindness about him. The world did lose him too early.

Lute Olson

Former Indiana Coach, Bobby Knight, and Georgetown’s John Thompson taught me a few choice words during March Madness and often had me repeating a threat from childhood, “Do I need to wash your mouth out with soap?” Meanwhile Lute Olson appeared like a statesman on the sidelines. Lute, a fellow North Dakotan, coached at Iowa-the fierce rival of Iowa State.  I forgave him. Afterall, there aren’t that many North Dakotans on the national basketball stage. Well, there’s Phil Jackson-who attended high school and college in North Dakota and famously coached the Chicago Bulls during the Michael Jordan era. Next he coached the Los Angeles  Lakers before taking the presidency of the New York Knicks, where he is today.

Impressive, Lesser Known Coaches

Everyone knows Kansas and Kentucky are perennial favorites. These teams will remain such with their stellar records and recruiting abilities led by Bill Self and John Calipari, respectively. It’s not that I don’t think they are great coaches. It’s just that they are two or three steps ahead of other teams because of these factors. What I really respect and take notice of are those coaches who aren’t universally known. Those who dig and lead less talented teams to the top. Here are 4 college basketball coaches who’ve recently left a lasting impression on me. There certainly are many impressive collegiate coaches, but these 4 stand out to me. I wish them each well as they continue to teach young players and build teams that give us memorable March moments.

  1. Ron Hunter: Georgia State.

    Some say Coach Hunter gained national acclaim by falling off his sideline stool in the March 2015 tournament. But, like most who’ve risen to prominence, Coach Hunter has been working at coaching for decades. He’s put in the sweat equity. Every March I look forward to his tournament commentary, which is always unfiltered and insightful. There’s nothing like hearing it from someone who does it. And, I like hearing it from Coach Hunter…who by the way…has a son, R.J., currently on the Boston Celtics roster. I know Coach Hunter would rather be on the sidelines than in a broadcast studio or booth, but when he isn’t, I’m glad he’s on the air.

  2. Shaka Smart: University of Texas via Virginia Commonwealth University

I have to admit I was first drawn to Shaka because of his surname, Smart-a Zulu warrior name. How blessed can one man be to have the last name, Smart? It fits. He is smart and was quite young when he led his Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) team to the Final Four in 2011. He’s another sideline runner with demonstrative hands and a loud voice. But, what overshadows all of this is the respect the players seems to have for him regardless of the school he’s at. Shaka has been coaching at the University of Texas (Longhorns) since 2015.

  1. Bob McKillop: Davidson

Must be something about North Carolina men’s basketball coaches and me. Here’s another gem I respect and admire coaching a NC school. I fan crushed on him so much that in 2008 I sent him a handwritten letter after his team’s legendary tournament run. Yes, that was the year the world became aware of Stephen Curry as the Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight. His mannerisms, humbleness and overall coaching style inspired me to write and say, among other things, that if our son ever wanted to play basketball I wanted him to play under the guidance of someone with his character. Impressively, he contacted me. It wasn’t a recruiting contact. Rather, he acknowledged that the behavior, words and antics of coaches do matter, privately and publicly.  Simply, he was glad I saw him in a positive manner and acknowledged it. Class. All class for 25+ years.

  1. Andy Enfield: University of Southern California via Florida Gulf Coast University

I’m a woman with eyes. And in 2013 Coach Enfield initially caught my eye more so for his All-American looks than his coaching style. That year he brought the Florida Gulf Coast team to the tournament, leading them into the Sweet Sixteen. As his team took down powerhouses like Georgetown, he became less about eye candy and more about grit and style. He’s now leading a very talented USC team and teaching his up-tempo offense to a group of players who seem to be adapting well to Coach’s style.

Coach McKillop was right. Coaches and their antics, teaching style and behavior matter both publicly and during practice. To me, it matters most in my tournament team selections.  I have no way of knowing if the public persona these coaches present is real or true. All I know is I’ve watched each of them over time and each consistently produces winning teams and teaches great basketball skills. I’m inspired by not only their wins but also their leadership skills and style.

Share this post with others who’d enjoy a trip down March Madness Memory Lane.

Here’s wishing every team much success in the tournament. And may you prevail in your brackets!

Enjoy 5 Great March Madness Moments.

2010: Gordon Hayward comes oh so close to winning the National Championship from half court for Butler. Duke prevails.


2016: “Jenkins for the championship!” Villanova wins 2016 championship on buzzer beating 3.


2016: Texas A&M comes from 12 points down with 34 seconds left to shock Northern Iowa.


1993: Chris Webber’s infamous travel and timeout call when there was not a timeout left.


2015: Georgia State ends game on 13-0 run including a deep 3 with 2.5 seconds left to shock Baylor 57-56. Meanwhile, Coach Hunter falls off his stool.


2 Day Trips & Kosher Sex Make a Great Weekend

You won!

Sex or 2 day trips-it doesn’t matter why you opened this story. Your life is enhanced by both. You won already.

Instead of roaming out of the state or region consider a Staycation-a period of time where you stay home and participate and support communities and events within driving distance of your home. Or, at least, take 2 day leisure drives to discover hidden gems surrounding your community.

Here are 2 day trips my husband Ken and I made recently from our Northwest Omaha, Nebraska home. Click on the links for more information to plan your 2 day trips.

Day Trip #1  of  2 Day Trips

Olde Towne Elkhorn, Nebraska 

Located about 14 miles Northwest of Omaha in Western Douglas County, Olde Town Elkhorn provides both vintage charm and a contemporary spirit to visitors.

On a near 70 degree February morning, we walked  at Elkhorn’s Ta-Ha-Zouka Park. This multi-purpose park has trails, a skate park, tennis courts, soccer, baseball and football fields as well as a well-used playground area.

Then we drove a short distance to the  historic square, literally visiting each shop. We enjoyed a cup of coffee and cookie while chatting with Little Scandinavia shop owner, Leona Anderson. Her shop brims with unique and fun Scandinavian items, including Dale of Norway sweaters and uncommon food items.

Fine artist, Jane Kathol, at Main Street Studios and Gallery is an outstanding ambassador for not only the Main Street Studios and Gallery but also Elkhorn. We enjoyed learning about the history of the building that houses the Gallery, the work of the artists within it and about upcoming events, including the “Ladies’ Day Out” event from 10-5 on Saturday, March 25, 2017. Who knew there was so much artistic talent on display in Elkhorn, Nebraska? Do yourself a favor and visit Olde Towne Elkhorn.

We were lucky enough to meet Megan Thomas when stepping into Two Birds Bakery before their noon closing time. They are only open to the public on Saturdays. Stop in and get a fresh cup of coffee and a homemade treat.

Other Places We Visited in Olde Towne Elkhorn, NE

Garden Gallery

Andrea’s Designs

Kimba’s Touch Pottery

Fala’s Treasures & Coffee House

Other businesses we saw included:

Bellissimo Salon & Spa

This & That & Other Stuff

Whistle Stop Country Store -opening again March 4, 2017

Restaurants in Olde Towne Elkhorn, NE

We tried Boyd and Charlies BBQ and sat in a window seat overlooking the meat smoking outdoors. We look forward to going back to try the others, including:

Bella Vita an Italian Bistro

Shevy’s Sports & Steaks

Maximo’s Cantina

Fala’s Treasures and Coffeehouse

Kosher Sex

We found Rabbi Shmuley’s Kosher Sex movie on Amazon Prime Video purely by accident that Saturday evening.  I’ve always admired and appreciated Rabbi Shmuley’s Jewish wisdom, though I’m Catholic. I’ve been a fan of his relationship common sense and bluntness since seeing him decades ago on an Oprah show. This movie ends with his discussing SANER sex-Sensuality, Attraction, Nakedness, Eroticism and Romance. It’s worth watching regardless of your religious beliefs or marital status. We’ve been married nearly 25 years and each felt we gained something and that it was time well spent. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can see Rabbi Shmuley here:

Day Trip #2: Southwest Iowa

Plan ahead for Sunday drives. Some businesses may be closed.

We took out the Atlas and literally chose 3 towns at random to visit. Glenwood, Malvern and Mineola, Iowa.

I visited Chamber of Commerce websites for each location and had a list of restaurants and recreation areas that seemed interesting. What surprised me most was the number of boutiques and galleries in these small communities.

Glenwood, Iowa

Over 5000 people live in this Loess Hills town that we easily accessed off I-29.

Tom & Tiff’s Family Restaurant in Glenwood, Iowa has been in business over 20 years and, according to online reviews, is known for their onion rings and broasted chicken. We had both, and agree! Every seat in this place (One street off the main highway through town) was occupied the entire time we were there. The pies also looked wonderful, but we had no room left. The service was efficient and polite, reminiscent of small towns where owners appreciate and value one’s business and hard earned dollar.

On our next visit we hope to visit Mitzi Mo’s Boutique, Second Helpings Boutique and the Vine Street Cellars.

The 45 acre Glenwood Lake Park is a sunny day treat. In addition to the beautiful waterfront grounds it has a 750-seat amphitheater and a museum. Stop in. Walk. Swing. Get some fresh air.

Malvern, Iowa

This town of 1100+ people is 38 miles southeast of Omaha, Nebraska and is on the Wabash Trace Nature Trail.

We were drawn to the art and cultural feel of the community. Stained glass windows in churches and a mural on the side of a car wash intrigued us. We proceeded down an alley and found painted bicycles doubling as planters and found a jewel in Marge Boska. Marge is the Proprietor of Fine Arts on 5th Gallery and Studio. She was preparing for an art class but took time to share the history and restoration story of her building. She invited us to look at the art displayed by numerous talented artists, including one from Russia.

We peeked in the window of Classic Cafe & Catering, knowing we will return. We’ve heard they make great Bloody Mary’s. We were invited into Moreau’s Backerei & Pizzeria by Fred who was preparing for a private party (They’re closed on Sunday.) The German pizza smelled absolutely fantastic! Eventually we will get a slice.

We also window peeked into Rural Roots Boutique. Great window display!

Mineola, Iowa

Mineola is an unincorporated village in Mills County, Iowa with a population of under 200. We took a quick drive around the area and noted the large number of vehicles in front of Tobey Jacks‘ Mineola Steak House-another return destination.

We saw multiple bicyclists and joined them on the Wabash Trail. The scenery on bicycle or foot is amazing and can only improve when green.


On our drive back we drove through the campus of the Iowa School for the Deaf before hopping back on I-29 North to our West Omaha home.

No matter where you live there is much to see and do in your surrounding area. Plan a Staycation. Plan a 2-day Saturday and/or Sunday drive. Support small businesses and local artists.

Share your journey with me so I can share it with others, and visit too.

Need help promoting your art, small business, town or community? Contact me. I write website and promotional copy and take photographs to support it. Let’s work together!


12 Practical Ways to Graduate Debt Free in 3.5 Years

University of South Dakota Student Shares His Journey

Alex Thomason graduated December 10, 2016 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance degree with a minor in Entrepreneurial Studies from the Beacom School of Business at the University of South Dakota (SD) in  Vermillion. He graduated in 3.5 years and debt free.

The most frequent questions asked were HOW did you accomplish this without unlimited scholarships, loans or parental financial support when 44 million American borrowers owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt? How did you avoid an average monthly student loan payment of $350 after turning your tassel and collecting your diploma?

Click Here for State-by-State Information on Student Debt.

Smart Planning, Hard Work, Sacrifice & Creative Thinking

Alex is an only child. In some families this is the single most important variable to achieving a debt free college experience. Not ours. We voluntarily relocated from South Carolina to South Dakota at the start of the second semester of  8th grade. (Not the best planning to leave 82 degrees in January and arrive in sub-zero temperatures.). There were many roadblocks and challenges along the way. However, that relocation and the practice of Open Enrollment in the Sioux Falls, SD School District paved the way for most of Alex’s academic success and debt free graduation.

  • Get Career-Ready in High School

Middle school career tests revealed Alex has an aptitude for finance and business. He was encouraged to explore the Academy of Finance (AOF) within Washington High School (WHS). If you want to be a programmer, banker, baker, engineer or nurse, consider enrolling at a NAF-Be Future Ready affiliated high school. Most Academies offer college credits and paid internships. Some of his classes were taught by USD business professors. Others were led by high school teachers with real world accounting and business experience. Professor taught classes earned college credits. Credit hours were charged at a much lower rate than if he’d have taken those courses enrolled as a college student. Alex entered college with 7 credits-a half semester worth of credits before stepping foot on campus.

Passing Advanced Placement (AP) course tests earns college credit. Many high school students take advantage of AP classes to earn college credit before going to college. Because there was little leeway in the AOF core requirements, Alex only completed three AP courses. Explore AP courses while in high school. Early on, ask your guidance counselor about AP courses and which ones to take for your expected college major.

  • Start 529 College Savings Program

Teach savings and big picture thinking at a young age. [Consult with a tax or financial advisor for more information on 529 Plans.] Replace some toy and other material gifts with contributions to the Plan. And, when age appropriate, talk to your child about the Plan so they take ownership and are invested in the education savings plan.

Like most young boys, Alex enjoyed gaming systems. However, he was strongly encouraged to limit purchases and contribute half of all cash gifts to his 529 plan. It was a disciplined trade-off and difficult sacrifice. The rewards of this discipline are now fully understood as a young adult with degree in hand.

  • Work and Save While in High School

Yes, some families need the income from the jobs their children have while in high school to offset household expenses. If yours doesn’t, your child working while in high school is invaluable for future employment. Of course, the money earned and saved is excellent but so are the skills learned.

As one who’s hired and trained interns and new college graduates, I always gave greater weight to applicants with high school and college work experience. Having the discipline to show up to work, contribute fully on the job and manage a school and extra-curricular workload were signs of future success. Discipline, time management and dependability are timeless, valued skills learned while working as a young adult.

  •  Non-Traditional Contests

Unless you are cash rich and super smart, you’ll most likely have to find funds for college. Think about your strengths and your career path. Alex happened to like business and entrepreneurship. So, he did online research to find business plan and essay contests to enter. He found three business plan competitions in South Dakota:  The Big Idea, Bankers Association and The Governor’s Giant Vision Student Competition. Alex placed in all, earning $5500 in cash awards. He also won second place and $5000 in the South Dakota State Securities Division Essay Contest.

Keep in mind that these contests are student-driven. It is up to the student to take the initiative to come up with a business idea, enter the contests and meet the requirements. If you rely on the school or a teacher to lead you, you will be disappointed.

Whatever your interests, do the research to find contests with award money to offset college costs. The truth is few enter. It takes a lot of extra work. Those who enter are rewarded not only with prize money but invaluable experiences and professional connections.

  • Scholarships

Everyone knows scholarships are available for college expenses. In fact, go to any bookstore and you can find volumes of books with lists of available scholarships. Don’t forgot to look locally. Alex applied for a number of scholarships through the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation. He was awarded several. The challenge he found was that our family income was too high and his GPA, while good, was not exceptional. He was caught somewhere in the middle. This makes the hunt more challenging, but not impossible. We did attend several poorly attended parent meetings at his high school on college financing. The information was good but, once again, scholarships seemed more readily available to those with lower incomes and those with superior academic grades.

  • Get a Great College Advisor

The value of a knowledgeable college advisor cannot be stressed enough. There are certain classes that must be taken and passed to earn a degree. Sometimes these classes are only offered certain semesters. Missing a class can postpone one’s graduation by a semester. Therefore, being assigned a great college advisor and taking ownership of one’s own path through college are essential to graduating on time.

  • Choose Right College

Alex was fairly certain he wanted a career in insurance and/or finance upon graduation. There are certain colleges that specialize in risk management and insurance. The summer before his senior year we visited three: Florida State University, the University of Georgia and Georgia State University. Each offers an outstanding curriculum. After touring each school and meeting with professors and department leaders, Alex chose to continue with the professors and the coursework he had started at USD while a WHS student.

On his own, he calculated the expense associated with out-of-state tuition and forecasted projected income post graduation. The fact that the Beacom School of Business has an accreditation from AACSB and regularly appears on the US News & World Reports Best Colleges Rankings List played a part in his choosing USD.

  • Work During College

Alex was so focused on graduating college without debt that he worked during college. He got up early and served breakfast to hotel guests and for the last two years worked on the campus grounds crew. He did everything from trimming grass to shoveling snow to planting trees. This was manual labor totally unrelated to his career choice. However, he took great pride in the appearance of the university and the safety of students and staff, even returning to campus while on winter break to shovel sidewalks and de-ice steps. Graduating debt free was the goal and he took pride in whatever job he did to achieve this goal.

  • Share the Rent & Buy Used Books

I have to admit that the roommate issue concerned us. We wondered how he’d adapt to sharing space with another student since he’s an only child. It didn’t matter. He easily adapted and had a roommate every semester. He lived on campus the first two years and off the next year and a half. Alex also researched the most affordable sources for classroom books and sold them back when the class was completed.

  • Take Online Summer Classes

Alex secured two summer insurance brokerage firm internships. In addition to working 8-5, he took online courses for two summers. Once again, this takes discipline and focus. Instead of going to the beach or attending parties, he was working and studying. He did have fun, but  kept his eye on the prize-graduating in 3.5 years debt free.

  •  Drive a Used Car, Drink Water + Choose Friends Wisely

Social costs of college can add up. Beer drinking and partying are expensive. Alex visited fraternities, but chose not to join. He decided there would be little time between studying and working to participate in the many charitable and social events offered. It’s worth noting that friends greatly affect student success. Alex has always chosen friends who share his values. It’s both a skill and a gift.

Alex is driving a 3rd generation car. It doesn’t have anything fancy on it, but it does get regular oil and tire changes. The moral of the story-keep costs down and only buy what’s necessary.

These are the 12 ways one student achieved his goal of graduating in 3.5 years debt free with a B+ average. 

What other ways can you add? List them below in the comment section.

Share with families in the midst of college financial planning. They will thank you!


©Copyright. December 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.