Issue 2 Articles

  1. From a C student to a Masters Degree by Justin Ainsworth
  2. Joe Santiago’s story by Joe Santiago
  3. Dorothy Wendel’s story by Dorothy Wendel
  4. An interview with Mary Tucci
  5. A word from Dr. Dorothy Germano
  6. An interview with Russell von Frank
  7. Surviving as an Entrepreneur: Follow Eight Principles to Achieve Success by Mark Morfopoulos
  8. A word from Dr. Mitchell Laube
  9. The story of Juan Valdez by Nora Meja
  10. Back to UA Magazine Home Page

Dear Readers,

What follows is the second edition of the Magazine. You will note that we have several success stories as well as an interesting mix of stories from professionals and socially responsible authors. The Magazine has been attracting a national readers’ base and promises to grow in the months ahead. We look forward to receiving additional article entries from both successful alumni with disabilities as well as professionals in the field.

A special thanks to Justin Ainsworth and Marilyn Tucci for continuing to affirm the good work of the Suffolk Independent Living Organization
I recommend that our readers review their website and where applicable reach out to SILO for additional services.

Universal Abilities Employment Network specializes in job placement and support of individuals 18-64 years old seeking to transition from SSI/SSDI to full-time, meaningful, financially viable employment. Universal Abilities School Online Entrepreneurship Certificate provides self-employment training opportunities at a reasonable cost.

We hope that you enjoy the second edition!


Dr. Richard Morfopoulos
Universal Abilities CEO
E-Mail Dr. Morfopoulos
1 631-880-7929 x120

From a C student to a Masters degree
by Justin Ainsworth

In my youth I wasn’t a very good student. In high school I was happy to get C’s. The main reason was because I didn't really want to be there. I would much rather be out with my friends than at home doing school work. After high school I went straight to work thinking I would never have to do school work again.

Nearly five years later I would find myself pondering my future. With a job in construction as a laborer I decided I didn’t want to work in the construction field until I retired. It was a very physically demanding job, which is fine when you are in your twenties and thirties. However, when I would see guys in their late fifties and sixties struggling to do the work it would get me thinking. Did I really want to do this for the next thirty to forty years? The answer was simple. No! It was then when I realized I would need some type of higher education in order to make the kind of money I was accustomed to making in the construction field. I had enrolled in classes at Suffolk Community College as a part time student, but was unsure of the direction I wanted to take in my life.

Less than six months later in February of 2001 I was in a motor vehicle accident in which I suffered a severe spinal cord injury that rendered me paralyzed. In the blink of an eye I went from an everyday blue collar union Laborer, to a quadriplegic. I was left to deal with a Social Service system that was more difficult to navigate than the chair I was in, as well as a lack of understanding of the future my life would hold.

After spending three months in the hospital and another five months in rehab I would return home. I was once again faced to ponder my future. No longer able to walk and with only limited use of my arms my option of getting a job doing manual labor was gone. Was college still a realistic option? In my mind there were too many questions. I had no use of my hands and was unable to write. How would I take notes? How would I write papers? That is when I discovered vocational rehabilitation. After a couple of weeks of testing and computer training my counselor would answer all those questions for me. I could use a recorder to record my lectors and voice recognition software to write papers. Was this possible? Could I really go to College? More importantly did I want to go back to school?

In the summer of 2003 I decided I would begin classes in the fall. Still skeptical on how it could be done. I signed up for one class in order to see how it would work. I was amazed at how accommodating they were. There was an office for people with disabilities where I would go to take my tests. This was one thing that I was still curious about. How would I take my tests? It was very simple. The first day of class I would give my teacher a paper from the disabled student services (DSS) office with all of my accommodations. Then when we had a test the teacher would send the test to the DSS office and they would have someone in the office sit with me and mark the answers while I took the test.

I would go on to ace that class. The following semester I would take two classes and the semester after that I took four classes getting A’s in every one. It was funny I learned that if I paid attention in class and did the work I could get good grades. Something I rarely did in high school. Three years later I would graduate Cum Laude from Suffolk Community College. I would then be accepted into Stony Brook Universities Bachelors of Social Work program. Several years later I would graduate Stony Brook with a Masters degree in Social Work.

I went from a C student to a Masters degree. Thanks to many people along the way who encouraged and facilitated my education. I am currently working at an independent living center as an outreach advocate with a focus on accessible design. I get to put my knowledge in the construction field to good use while advocating for people with disabilities. The way so many people have done for me.

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Jose Santiago’s Story
by Jose Luis Santiago

  1. The reason why I overcame my disability and not look at myself as a total disabled young man is because when I put my mind to do something that I want to do I never give up without a fight, I always look for the alternative to complete a task! The reason I see myself as a role model for other disabled individuals is because: 1.) Just because you’re physically disabled doesn’t mean you have a great mind and are very smart, I see it like this and say this to myself all the time "No matter how difficult life may be, I will always continue to follow my dreams no matter what obstacle stands in my way". There is no reason to stay home and self-pity yourself meanwhile you can go out there and show the world that you can do this.

  2. I attended Suffolk Community College for 3 semesters, at first I decided to major in Business but I couldn’t do it, then I wanted to switch my major just to Spanish but there is no major like that at SCCC, so I then switched my major to Liberal Arts: Humanities in my 2nd Semester. I lasted until the end of my 3rd semester but since I failed one class and passed the other, financial aid dropped me. For 2 months I was out of school, from December 2014 to February 2015 and then I found a school called Branford Hall Career Institute. I studied Medical Billing and Coding for 8 months. I started to realize that medical billing and coding is my best fit because I always wanted to work behind a desk since I was a young boy and my dreams came true at 24 years old. My message is to all of you is to never give up and keep on trying until the end!!!! Eventually something will come up.

  3. I did not need any accommodations at any of the schools because they had handicapped parking. These two colleges helped me become a better person with more of a professional attitude and changed the perspective of my persona.

  4. I love my new job and love being able to get paid. This job is meaningful to me because I get to do what I always wanted to do.

  5. Kristen Naylor made me feel so comfortable about going to work because he explained what would be my daily tasks would be at work.

  6. Well I just started to work full time and to be honest I love working full time and I love not being home a lot.

  7. My mentor is Richard Morfopulous because I see him as a great example to the disabled community and he also has been helping so much and I just want to say thank you for everything and I admire you as a professional worker.

  8. As I said before; Just keep on pursuing your career and don’t let anyone or anything stop you! I also say to myself; "No one is going to do it for me so I might as well do it for myself".

  9. "You asked all of the questions!"

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My Story
by Dorothy Wendel

Hello. I am Dorothy Wendel, a 51-year-old lawyer with Cerebral Palsy (CP). In my life I have had many things to overcome, not just CP. Most people are not aware that CP can manifest in a myriad of different ways depending upon the site of the lesion and its size. In my case my legs were affected so that Canadian crutches and wheelchairs were my unwanted but constant companions. It also affected my visual perception and the processing of visual information. Fortunately, in my case intellectual capacity was not affected. Most importantly, I have a large streak of stubbornness, a well-documented Wendel family trait, enabling me to overachieve - which I am sorry to say is how people with disabilities make it in America.

I have an extensive resume as an advocate and attorney which I will summarize quickly (my most recent one is 6 or 7 pages) so we can get on with the story. Suffice it to say that I have been very successful presenting and winning many cases in multiple areas of the law. I have successfully worked on both sides of the Social Security legal fence. I have done small and large-scale ADA cases and have testified before Congress. I have worked in real estate law and debt collection. I have worked for law firms and as an independent attorney. I have argued cases in Courts all over the United States and taught law-related courses in a university setting. Well, you probably get the picture!

I must admit that being an entrepreneur requires tenacity and hard work. However, the good news is that hard work generally pays off. From a professional standpoint, I have received several awards including the David K. Kadane Public Interest Fellowship in 1992, the Exemplary Public Service Award from the National Association of Public Interest Law in 1992, and even an award from Chief Judge for the New York State Court of Appeals, Judith Kaye.

I am also fortunate enough to own a modest two bedroom home here in Suffolk County which I have shaped and altered to meet my needs including structural modifications that accommodate my wheelchair. My journey, like all journeys, began with the simple act of taking the first step.

If, you are wondering how to take your first step, consider, as I did, what makes you happy. In my case, I found happiness accidently. I started working at SILO in 1985 as an independent living skills counselor. During my tenure with SILO I learned a lot from my supervisors including how to speak for others. Initially, I spoke to social workers and counselors at ACCESS VR explaining what I wanted and needed. Along the way I learned about the rules and the services that state and federal agencies were required to follow. Eventually, I was addressing Judges before the Social Security Administration and even the Suffolk County Legislature. To my surprise, people listened. After several years I needed a new challenge and was encouraged to consider law school. More hard work. In fact, if your personal journey is anything like mine, you will find learning and hard work never stop.

The second step is creating a plan of action. Your plan should include a list of what you need to know and where you can go to learn. Perhaps like me you would like to start your own business. Do you have an interesting idea for a new product or service? If so, perhaps you are ready to start creating a plan.

My own plan was to use what I knew. One of things I knew was disability law, so my first job as an attorney was at Advocates for Children representing children with disabilities. Now almost 23 years later I have represented hundreds of people with disabilities and I am happy doing what I love.

If you have questions about your own career path, your plan or your journey along the way send me an email and let me know. E-Mail Dorothy Wendel

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An interview with Marilyn Tucci
by Marilyn Tucci

1.) "Marilyn: Tell us about your disability… how do you adapt and even thrive as someone with a visual impairment?"

I was born with congenital cataracts and then diagnosed with macular degeneration – which was unusual for a child. I make a point in my life to not let my disability define what I can and cannot do. A new experience is met as a challenge, something to define into my life’s terms whether it be mentally mapping a new office so I can move independently or trying something new like bowling. I may not experience things as others do, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy it or do it.

2.) "Tell us about how you are able to excel at your job with the assistance of reasonable accommodations?"

Having someone read hand written papers is a big help to someone who can’t see to read. I use a computer with a speech program called JAWS . It enables me to work independently, send emails, put data into our data base and look up information.

3.) "How are you a leader within the disability community? Please elaborate."

I think I show leaderhip because I am independent and always tell others of my struggles and how I overcame them. I want everyone who has any type of disability to realize there is always a way to navigate and get things done. Nothing is impossible.

4.) "Tell us more about your work at the Suffolk Independent Living Organization (SILO). How does this organization complement your vision for promoting and defending the rights of persons with visual impairments?"

I have been an advocate as a child but never knew the word. I used to speak up when I was treated differently. I saw that there was an inequality among people and couldn’t understand why. Just because people have to go about things differently, doesn’t mean we don’t have the same needs, wants and desires. I apply this theory to my work and receive a lot of positive feedback.

5.) "Tell us about the ‘Dinner in the Dark’ experience. While it is too late for people to sign up now for this year, what can people do to sign up for this or a similar event near them in the future?"

The Dinner in the Dark fundraiser came about as a way to educate sighted people on what it’s like to not see what you’re eating and give them a glimpse into the world of the visually impaired. This experience opens up a completely new mindset for the sighted. It’s one thing to tell someone what we experience day to day, but it’s an entirely different thing to experience it yourself, even for just a few hours. I also convey that those "dining in the dark" know they will soon remove their blindfolds and see again, whereas we obviously don’t have that option. It’s very well received by all those who participate.

6.) "As an example of someone who has a visual impairment who is also viably employed, what advice can you give our aspiring employees with disabilities?"

It sounds cliché, but don’t ever give up. When one door closes, another opens. There will be times that prospective employers will look at your disabilities, rather than your abilities.

7.) "Who has been your mentor(s)? Why?"

My mentor was Helen Keller. A woman greatly admired for her perseverance to overcome obstacles, being mute, blind and deaf. Her teacher, Ann Sullivan who was devoted to her made it possible for her to be an achiever to show people who have a disability can be successful in our society , with the proper help.

8.) "What is the biggest misconception people tend to have about people with visual impairments? What do you think should be done to correct these misconceptions?"

I think the biggest misconception is that people who can’t see can’t do anything. Yes many can’t or won’t try because they lack self-confidence but then there are others like myself who feel "how do I know I can’t do this if I don’t try". We want people to look at us as individuals and not lump us all together. Show our abilities not our disabilities.

9.) "Are there any or "compensating talents" that people with visual impairments have? If so, please explain."

We are more in tune with our surroundings, and listen for cues and different sounds to get our bearings so that we are aware of cars, traffic, people around us, etc. One good example of this is that I can discern individual’s footsteps! I also recognize specific colognes people wear.

10.) "What question(s) should I have asked that I did not? Please provide elaborate answers to your questions."

You actually asked excellent questions. The only thing I would add is that we all have our challenges, whether disabled or not. The main thing is to live the most productive, happy life you can with the time you’re given. I don’t ever regret being born the way I was. In fact, because of it, I’ve met very interesting, exciting people who I otherwise would not have met.

"Thank you for allowing us to borrow from your expertise."
My pleasure; any time.

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A word from Dr. Dorothy Germano
by Dr. Dorthy Germano

Dear Readers,

Are you interested in pursuing your education and preparing for a career that can benefit you and others? Hawthorn University is a not-for-profit institution that offers certificate and degree programs in a fully online format in the field of health and holistic nutrition. You can study at home and do all your assignments through your computer at your convenience at any time during the day or evening. If returning to school is not on your agenda, you may like to sign up for our Newsletter or join our bi-monthly webinars offered to the public as a community service. Or consider taking a single holistic nutrition course to try the online educational experience at Hawthorn University. There is so much to learn that can help you with your own health and the wellbeing of others. I invite you to visit our website at Hawthorn University to find out more about the opportunities that are available to you.

If you are looking for accessible education and traveling to an on-ground campus location is not convenient for you, consider a career as a nutrition consultant or educator. Our graduates may work from home, via email or phone contact, with clients located all over the world. Entrepreneurial graduates make their own schedules and may work with others who are seeking lifestyle changes that support wellness.

There are many reasons to join Hawthorn but the best information comes from our graduates. Read below for just a sample of the testimonials we received from our 2015 graduates.

"I learned about Hawthorn from their booth at the WAPF conference in Atlanta. The education that I received was excellent and prepared me to work with a variety of people and the nutrition aspects of their health concerns. I particularly appreciated the one on one mentoring by the faculty members who are outstanding professionals in their fields. I recommend Hawthorn to anyone who wants an outstanding nutrition education, particularly when life circumstances prevent them from attending an on campus program." (VH - Nutrition Consultant certificate)

"Hawthorn provides an amazing educational experience that will change not only clients’ lives but the students and everyone around them. The professors have a wealth of information they are eager to share. I really enjoyed my experience at Hawthorn and recommend it every chance I get." (SR - MS in Holistic Nutrition)

"Going through the Masters of Holistic Nutrition was an incredible journey. I learned to better listen to my body, make changes to my lifestyle and share my experience with my family and the readers on my blog. The courses were incredibly educational and provided me with new nutrition and health information to process and understand with the help of my instructor. I did not feel alone and I received calls and emails back in regards to my concerns, questions or frustrations promptly. I am grateful to Hawthorn University for the tools it gave me to become a knowledgeable nutrition educator." (DG - MS in Holistic Nutrition)

"The education I received at Hawthorn University was priceless. It has helped me to grow my business by being able to establish myself as a respected expert in the field of health and nutrition, and has allowed me to help countless people improve their health through the power of nutrition. This is especially important because our mainstream medical professionals receive little or no nutrition education, so people don't know where to turn when they want to feel better and are tired of medication side effects." (SB - MS in Holistic Nutrition)

"My time with Hawthorn was wonderfully invigorating mad very challenging. I have studied health and nutrition for many years but entering a formal course of study exposed and helped fill in many necessary learning gaps." (JL - Nutrition Consultant certificate)

"There are more and more schools coming on the scene in the holistic nutrition industry, but there are very few who offer the benefits to students that Hawthorn University offer, and do so at a relatively modest cost when compared to other programs. First, a prospective student needs to look closely at a school’s curriculum to ensure it is truly focused on a comprehensive, holistic philosophy, as you will find at Hawthorn. For me, the next piece of criteria that was important was finding a school that offered an online program. Hawthorn is, and has always been an online school, and it shows in their ability to support their students through an efficient technology platform which includes: a student portal, online scheduling for teacher conferences and tests, an incredible library of webinars on a diverse range of topics, access to course lectures in audio format, as well as other tools that all made my learning experience productive, efficient and, well, fun! Administratively, I found HU to be incredible. I found every staff member with whom I interacted over the (approx.) 2 years that I was enrolled with them to be responsive, caring, supportive and encouraging. My teacher was amazing! She almost always gave me extra time during my course conference to ensure all my questions were answered (and until she was convinced that I had adequately absorbed the information). Any questions or issues that came up with administrators were always resolved promptly. One time I had a little snag while taking a test one evening (I did something I wasn’t suppose to!) and had to have the test reset by someone in Technology. I was taking the test at night and thought I would have to start over another day, assuming no one from Tech would respond at that hour. But 15 minutes later I received an email that my test had been reset --- at 9 pm! My experience is that the staff at Hawthorn is, collectively, a group of people who share a common passion -- my passion -- to further the knowledge that adopting a holistic philosophy in nutrition and life, can make the difference in how our genes express health or illness. I worked hard at HU to complete their program so I can be one of the many practitioners in this country to bring that message to those who need to hear it. As a graduate, I will continue to tap into the resources and support available to me from Hawthorn University as I continue to learn and strive to achieve my goal." (BR - Nutrition Consultant certificate)

For additional information call:

Kathy McDermott, Director of Admissions
707 986-4153 Ext. 401
E-Mail Kathy McDermott
You'll be glad you did!

Wishing you good health,

Dorothy M. Germano, Ph.D.
President and Chief Academic Officer
Hawthorn University
E-Mail Dr. Dorothy Germano
707 986-4153 Ext. 301

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An interview with Russell von Frank
by Russell von Frank

1.) "Tell us about your experience as a CEO as well as coaching CEOs."

Running a business is unlike any other experience I have had and one for which I was really unprepared for at thirty years old. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and learned many hard lessons through trial and error. Being good at what you do (your business) does not guarantee being good at running a business which requires a whole different skill set as a leader. It took a few hard knocks for me to realize I needed help which led me to an Executive Coach and CEO Peer to Peer groups.

"What advice can you give our readers who wish to become top managers or even CEOs one day?"

Here is my top ten list of basics to set a solid foundation (no particular order):

  1. Expand your self-awareness, learn about yourself, why you do what you do. What motivates you, what ticks you off, what makes you happy and what depresses you. Here is where an Executive Coach becomes invaluable.

  2. Understand every leader has only two things in common, followers and the situation at any moment. Reading the situation and knowing your staff are key to making great decisions.

  3. Read, become a voracious reader about leadership, communication skills, human behavior, decision making, anything which will help you understand how others think and act. Your staff executes the strategy and drives the process. Great people can overcome poor process, weak people will never be able to execute even the best of processes.

  4. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and financially. Nothing will sink a CEO faster than being depleted in anyone of those areas. They will never be all balanced at the same time. Each will rise and fall on a daily basis however a benchmark must be set as a minimum standard beyond which the energy will not drop. You can’t wing this and expect it to work, your personal routine requires dedication, focus and effort to be at your best.

  5. Everything, Everything, Everything you say or do says something about you as a human being and a leader. How you speak to people, how you treat others, what you wear, what car you drive, everything sends a message created by the receiver (those around you). This is why point #1 is so important.

  6. Check your Ego at the door, you’re already the CEO (or manager) so you don’t have to prove you are. Doing your best will say more about you than anything else. You are human and we learn from our mistakes. I keep this sign over my desk "Success is built on the back of my Failures. I push my limits, risk my ego, do my best and learn from my mistakes. Risk, Fail, Adapt, Succeed, Repeat". I struggle with perfectionism so this is a constant reminder it’s ok to make mistakes. Nothing is ever perfect.

  7. Ownership versus renting – I have spent whole days doing workshops on this one. It starts with understanding the mindset of why we do not wash a rental car.

  8. Resilience – learning healthy coping skills when things do not go the way we plan.

  9. Don’t take things personally – try not to take other people’s opinions as fact. Most of the time they are projecting their own issues onto you.

  10. Don’t make assumptions – learn to ask questions to which you do not have the answer.

This list is not definitive or meant to be all encompassing. I have found each to be very helpful personally to accomplish my goals.

2.) "Tell us about your notion of Universal Abilities creating an online mentoring system for employment and/or self-employment for people with disabilities. How can accomplished managers and/or entrepreneurs with disabilities (or who are disability-friendly) serve as online mentors for aspiring workers and/or aspiring entrepreneurs with disabilities? Please fully elaborate on your vision here. The interviewer thinks this is a great idea worth comprehensive expansion: take as much room here as you wish."

Mentoring is really about a human connection, we connect emotionally and not intellectually. Creating an emotional bond and trust is fundamental to creating the safe space where vulnerability and increased self-awareness can take place. Mentoring is sharing personal experience which used to be done face to face and can now be done online via Skype, Facetime or some other online service. This creates a whole new world for those with mobility issues or a need to be close to their medical equipment. You can be anywhere in the world and still connect on a friend to friend basis. This can be a one on one experience or for a group of individuals, nothing is impossible with the technology which exists today.

With the physical restraints removed the sky is the limit on the depth and breadth of programs which can be created in a co-partnership arrangement between disabled and non-disabled colleagues. The collaboration is vital to help each see the world and work through the others eyes. The power of perspective is amazing and one of the prime reasons I became an Executive Coach.

3.) "Tell us more about Sales300? What can our readers learn about sales from you? What advice can you give them?"

Sales300 is an outgrowth of the work I do with groups of Businessowners and CEOs. I saw first-hand the growth in personal and corporate achievement when a CEO was open to the perspective of their peers. The Sales300 groups are designed for professional sales people to give them the safe space to work on themselves and develop highly effective prospecting and sales processes.

4.) "How can professional sales people get in touch with you regarding Sales300?"

E-Mail Russell von Frank
516 446-5294

5.) "Why did you earn an MBA? What was your reasoning behind furthering your education?"

I decided to go back for my MBA in my early forties for a number of reasons. I believe in lifelong learning and the international CEO coaching firm I was working for at the time was willing to pay 50% of the cost. A real win-win in my mind. I also wanted to step up my executive coaching skills by learning more about business and how they work. My MBA focus was on organizational development (the human side of process) and how to effectuate change within an organization. The last piece was the challenge, could I stay focused for two straight years working nights and weekends to finish the course (I was working full time with a new family). Personal challenge is a real motivating factor for me.

6.) "Tell us about your experience as a Rotarian. Who would you recommend joining the Rotarians? Why?"

In my mind Rotary International is the ultimate in a service organization and one of the best experiences of my life. I have met like minded, service orientated individuals from around the world. I have spent countless hours in community based service projects and a few overseas. The organization uses 100% of all donations for projects using only investment income to cover operating expenses. The international board does a phenomenal job of raising and spending money wisely. Can’t say enough about this fine organization.

7.) "What makes you volunteer as an EMT and volunteer firefighter? How, if at all, does this relate to your desire to provide insights and advice to persons with disabilities?"

Being an EMT and Volunteer Firefighter gives me the unique opportunity to combine personal challenge while providing valuable community service. 70% of the 911 calls in the United States are covered by volunteers. Nothing creates a closer human bond then responding to someone with an emergency. I have helped saved lives and sadly watched others die, words cannot express the wellspring of emotion these events create inside me. These events remind me on a daily basis not to take my health or my life for granted.

8.) "You state in your bio (see above) that you are a Lt. US Navy-Merchant Marine Ready Reserve. Please explain what this means. What made you decide to become a Reserve?"

I am no longer in the Navy Reserve however it was a vital experience in growing up after graduating from college. I went to a very specialized school called Maritime College (part of the SUNY system). It is the oldest maritime academy in the United States (Founded in 1874). After graduation I went to work for a steamship company on the Great Lakes and commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy Reserve. I was honorably discharged as a Lt. and proud to have served my country. If you hadn’t guessed there is a theme here of personal challenge and service.

9.) "If you could provide three pieces of advice for our readers in relation to employment, what would those three pieces of advice be? Please fully elaborate in your response."

  1. Take absolute ownership and pride in your work regardless of what you are doing. If it is not worth doing then don’t do it.
  2. Everything and I mean everything you do at work (and at home) says something about you as a person and an employee.
  3. Always do your best, no one can ever ask more of you than that.

10.) "Who was your mentor in the work world? Why? What did you learn from him or her?"

I have had so many mentors come and go from my life starting with my Dad, Scoutmasters, Priests, Employers and my own Executive Coaches. The key for me was being open and receptive to being mentored and listening to constructive criticism. Learning from other’s mistakes is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer each other.

11.) "What question(s) should I have asked you that I did not? Please fully elaborate with responses to your question(s) here."

Excellent question and a difficult one to answer. I think one important question we should all ask ourselves is "why". Why am I doing what I am doing for work, do I love it? Am I passionate about it? Would I be depressed if I could no longer do it?

Many of us fall into careers without ever asking those questions or even give ourselves permission to ask those questions. I make it a habit of asking myself these questions at least twice a year to make sure I am still connected to my passions.

"Thank you Russ for allowing us to borrow from your expertise."

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Surviving as an Entrepreneur: Follow Eight Principles to Achieve Success
By Mark Morfopoulos

Successful entrepreneurs have a certain "mindset." They know, or soon come to realize, that the road to success is very rarely a straight line. They understand that the path to success often times has many twists and turns. Although the road map is not the same for everyone, there are at least eight principles to keep in mind when you decide to start your own business.

Preparing a sound business plan is a key first step. When Alice arrived at a fork in the road, in Alice in Wonderland, she asked the Cheshire Cat, "Which way should I go?" The Cheshire Cat responded, "Which way do you want to go" Alice replied, "I don’t know." The Cheshire Cat responded, "Then either way will do." The same maxim can be applied in the business world. If you do not take the time to carefully plan where you are going, you should not be surprised to eventually find that you are going nowhere. Or at least you will find your business is not going in the direction you would like. Although the preparation of a business plan is not a one size fits all proposition, do not be afraid to speak with other business owners who have blazed the trail before you. Doing so may help you eliminate making many of the mistakes they made when they started their business. Even if your plan is not totally complete yet, developing an incremental plan will put you well on your way to finalizing that plan.

You will encounter many failures along the way. Ponder this question: What do Donald Trump, Abraham Lincoln, and Michael Jordan all have in common? They were spectacular failures at one point in their lives and yet they all "got over themselves" and succeeded on an equally spectacular scale. Why?

The answer can be found by examining the very nature of what entrepreneurship is all about. It is about taking chances. It is about striving to succeed yet being aware that there is a risk in failing. People who are successful entrepreneurs find a way to overcome not only their fear of failing but also their failures when they do occur. They choose to take action while almost everyone else sits on the sidelines.

The question each of you should ask yourselves is not whether you want to take the risk of succeeding in business but whether you can handle the pitfalls that will come your way once you have taken the plunge and started your business enterprise. More than likely there will be problems to overcome, big and small. It would be wise to expect there will be failures and be ready to resolve such problems as they arise. Keep in mind that it is how you choose to handle setbacks that determines who will succeed and who will fail in the business world. Do not let failure define who you are.

Failure is a necessary ingredient to success. It may sound counterintuitive, but the very reason many people are successful is because they have experienced failure. There are only two ways a person can fail. One is to have not tried at all. In that instance, you are assured of failure because you did not give yourself the chance to succeed. You choose to be a failure. No one can help the person who refuses to try. This discussion is not for those people. The second way a person can fail is when a person tries to succeed but finds there are obstacles preventing them from fulfilling their goals. Welcome to the real world! This happens to everybody. The point is; there can be a failure to attain an immediate goal, or a failure to attain an ultimate goal. Failing to attain an immediate goal should be recognized as being part of the process of success. Once it is recognized as such, it should not be viewed as a "failure" but as just another step along the road to success! Those who view it as a failure and stop trying are back to square one. They have "given up," and, by their own choice, decided they are a failures. They do not understand that running a business has many speed bumps. Having the will to attempt to overcome those speed bumps is one of the main characteristics that differentiate those who are successful in the business world from those who don’t make it.

Being a failure can make you stronger. Again, this may sound ridiculous, but it is true. First, if you take the time to look back and analyze why you did not succeed, you may find that there are valid reasons why you failed. Practice makes perfect or at least it can help eliminate many of the reasons why you didn’t succeed in the first place. If you are smart enough to carefully review why your first plan didn’t work you may realize that all you need to do is revise your plan to make it work (see below). Second, once you are on the path to success again, you may not be as afraid of failure as you were before; you know that failure is part of the process of success and you will be more confident you can overcome any future speed bumps that come your way without them seriously derailing your business.

A flexible business plan is a strong business plan. In a world were things are changing at ever increasing speeds, it is imperative that you should be prepared to modify your business plan. A periodic reassessment of your business plan should be incorporated into every business operation. You never know when that speed bump will come. Sometimes, because you are expending so much time and energy executing your business plan, you fail to take a step back and see where you are going. It is like you are a horse in a horse race with blinders on. You can only see what is directly in front of you. Taking the time, on a regular basis, to (i) see what the competition is doing, (ii) learn the newest developments in your field, and (iii) talk to your customers to see if they are satisfied, can prevent a business from being blind-sided. For example, if the competition is using a better marketing strategy than you are, do you want to be the last to know?

Customers needs and wants can change at any time. You know the saying, "Know your customers." Successful business owners are very aware of this fact. As far as talking to your customers goes, you may be very surprised what your customers tell you. If you are doing something well, it may spur you to do more of the same. If you are not making your customers happy, knowing why this is so may give you the opportunity to change things before you lose any business. Plus, when you ask your customers for feedback, many of them will be impressed because they feel that you care about them. This can make all the difference when they are making a "buying decision."

You will be "branded" whether you like it or not. Branding is such a big topic these days. Do not underestimate the importance of branding as it relates to the success of your business. How people perceive you or your product or service can make or break your business. Everyone and everything is incredibly connected because of one word, the "internet." Your message, whether it is good or bad, can be spread more quickly today than at any time prior to this moment. And more and more people are getting connected. Understand that anything you (or others) post on the web will be there for all to see. Make sure that everyone in your organization is aware of this fact. From the top on down, all members of your business team can make a difference. For example, if your receptionist is rude when talking to customers, your business will suffer even if you have a great product to sell. Having a website that is sloppily put together can also have a devastating impact on your bottom line and can brand your business as being "second rate." Unless your audience sees the right image, it will not hear the right message. First impressions are hard to change. Make sure there are proper controls in place to ensure that your business is branded in a positive way.

Control your brand. Be prepared so that no one steals your ideas (or how you convey those ideas to your customers through the use of a similar brand name). Speak to your lawyer about all the methods you need to safeguard the "intellectual property" you have worked so hard to bring to the market. Whether it is the name of your business or the ideas your business are founded upon, get a patent, or trademark if that is necessary. Protect your domain names and all derivatives of that name in all web settings, i.e. .com, .net, .biz. Anticipate that there are others out there who are looking to use your ideas as their own.

It is your choice to succeed! Even though most of these principles are not taught in any business school, if these lessons, which make up the ingredients for a successful business "mindset," are not carefully considered, you may find yourself ill equipped to handle the everyday stresses of running your own business. Such a simple thing as having the right attitude can be the difference between achieving your goals and failing to attain your dreams. It is the choice to be undaunted. It is the decision to say, "Even though I have failed, I will ultimately succeed." It is the understanding that failure is part of the process of success. It is the choice to rebound from failure and come back even stronger than before. No one can make that choice but you.

Assignment #1: Prepare a written business plan.

Keep in mind that this exercise is not a one size fits all proposition. Items that should be a part of most people’s lists should include the following: prepare a list of business equipment that you think you may need to keep your business running for at least two years, prepare a marketing strategy, determine how you will be recording client information, create a plan relating to billing and collection practices, consider possible insurance requirements, prepare an employee practices strategy (if you are thinking of employing anyone other than yourself to join you in your business enterprise), list all legal documents that will be necessary to form your business (including taking all measures needed to protect your brand and the preparation of all business agreements, such as partnership, operating, joint venture, or shareholder agreements, that may be necessary if there are individuals or entities that are going to join you in your business venture), and, most importantly, prepare a pro forma budget of all expenses you expect to incur during the first two years of your business’s operation and your plan for funding such an enterprise. These are just the basics. There can be many other components to your business plan.

Assignment #2: Read Navigating Change: A Field Guide to Personal Growth by W. Gary Gore.

Prepare a journal which includes at least twenty of the most memorable quotes from the book. Then read at least six (6) issues of Success magazine. In your journal add at least three (3) quotes from each issue that you believe will help you in achieving your business goals.

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A word from Dr. Mitchell Laube
by Dr. Mitchell Laube

For over twenty-nine years I was a professor of psychology at Dowling College in Oakdale, New York. I was also the psychology tutor for the Psychology Department working out of the Academic Support Services Center. I had many students who had various disabilities. Some of my students were legally blind. I had to develop innovative methods of teaching them. I signed out a tape recorder from the Media Center in order to record questions from my lectures and have the students respond to them. I taped their responses so that I could explain why some responses were correct or incorrect. I recorded the students’ responses on tests to be able to more accurately assess their learning. For my students with other vision impairments I made tests and handouts with enlarged print in order for the students to more easily read the material.

For my hearing impaired students I developed notes on an overhead projector and made photocopies which I handed out to the students. For my non-ambulatory students I reserved study rooms on the ground floor of the Academic Services Center cutting down on students use of elevators and near handicapped equipped restrooms.

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The Juan Valdez Story
by Nora Meja

The "Juan Valdez" brand was created in 1959 when coffee growers were looking for a face to represent their hard work in the coffee industry. The logo was a donkey with the fictitious figure of coffee-grower "Juan Valdez" in front of mountains showing the world that real coffee farmers pick unique coffee beans that carry the Juan Valdez name. Juan Valdez wears a traditional peasant uniform including a sombrero, and poncho to show these coffee beans are handled by common people. The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia formed the company and it continues to be led by diligent and dedicated coffee farmers that pick coffee beans one by one and make sure that they are of sufficient quality to be used for Juan Valdez coffee. The company was founded in Colombia. Juan Valdez coffee contains 100% Colombian coffee beans and the company was created by farmers that picked the beans. These farmers wanted to show the world that Colombian coffee was the richest coffee in the world. Until the people of Colombia began to demand rich coffee, Juan Valdez Coffee was small and only possessed a couple of outlet stores in Spain and Argentina that were closed by 1985. However, in September 2002, the coffee federation established Juan Valdez as an official coffeehouse brand. The company then started to spread rapidly, and became a multinational enterprise. Beginning in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, cafes and cafe products serving Juan Valdez coffee began to expand such service into other cities in Colombia. In 2005 Juan Valdez coffee was finally exported to the Untied States.

The most important part of Colombian culture that allowed Juan Valdez coffee to be so successful was the attitudes and beliefs of its coffee growers. The brand began, and continues to be led, by the belief that this brand of coffee beans has a superior quality as compared to other coffee beans. Colombian farmers believed they were the best coffee bean growers. This was important because the most important part of the marketing process is to believe in the product you are selling. Columbian farmers created a business in which they guaranteed 100% satisfaction of their product. The time and effort that they put into growing, picking, evaluating, grinding, packaging, and sending out their products, made them quite determined to make "every drop as good as the last."

The most prevalent type of work in Colombia is in the "labor" sector. Colombia has about 35% of its population employed in labor intensive jobs. This general type of employment in Colombia creates a widely accepted attitude towards achievement. Achievement and productivity are two very vital beliefs in their lifestyle. Whether it be building a house or picking coffee beans in a field, achievement is directly associated with how fruitful they become.

Education highly affects the farmers in Colombia associated with Juan Valdez coffee. In Colombia, most children attend school until age 12. After that, it depends upon where they live and the financial state of your family as to whether educational opportunities are available. In many areas of Colombia, high schools and universities are only found in large cities. Therefore, if you do not live in a large city, achieving a higher education level may not be an option. For others, they need to immediately learn a trade to make a living. This affects Juan Valdez coffee because, while it would be very beneficial to continue education as far as you can, young adults who do not plan to go further in school can help out on farms with their families. Again, labor intensive jobs are very common in Colombia and young adults are in their prime to perform them.

Juan Valdez is a very respectable company, and the employees take great pride in their work. This company teaches young adults determination, pride, diligence and purpose. In working in just one part of a big business, they can also learn a little bit about business and how it works. They can learn how their efforts help a bigger picture and that Juan Valdez could not be as successful without them.

If workers are able to finish high school or have a college degree, they would have a better chance to work internationally for Juan Valdez. Colombians endorsing their own products is beneficial to the company because they are most familiar with the product they are selling. There is no better person to advertise and sell products then those who have actually been involved in operations of a company. Especially if individuals have attained a high school or college degree, educational expertise can be invaluable. In addition, understanding other languages and knowing how to conduct business in other countries not only promotes individuals to another level of employment, but also helps business expand.

Even if children attend and graduate from high school or college, the concept of "family" is thought of as having ultimate importance. Therefore, employees of Juan Valdez are permitted to bring their children and even grandchildren to work at the coffee bean farms. The older an individual is, the more experience and wisdom they are said to possess. For example, if a father has worked on a Juan Valdez’s coffee bean farm for twenty years, chances are his children and maybe even grandchildren will continue this tradition. Juan Valdez benefits from these family traditions because not only because they have more eager employees wanting to work for them, but because with experienced family members teaching younger workers, they will be able to "learn from the best." While extended families do not usually live with their immediate family members in Colombia, they usually live in the same town. This may very well increase the amount of people who will come to work for Juan Valdez. The fact that these family members have lived their lives in Colombia and know the culture and language will help both with their motivation and willingness to work in the coffee bean growing business.

As in all countries, the element of language has a significant effect on the Juan Valdez coffee business. The largest coffee farming grounds are found in the Medellin region in Antioquia, Colombia. In this region, all of the locals are responsible and for coffee farming and do so with their experienced family-members and neighbors. There are families that have been working together on these highly-elevated farms for over 50 years. In this region, all of the coffee farmers are "natives" of the area. In addition, the dialect they speak is the same. Before starting their hike up a 4,000 feet mountain where the coffee beans are located, they must first confer with the area’s coffee agronomists to make sure they are making the best use of coffee for the day, week, or month. The dialect they speak is very important since this reduces any miscommunications and orchestrates more efficient farming. It is very rare that natives will have any problems communicating since they were live in Antioquia.

Coffee farmers make up a huge population of Colombians who not only share the same language, but also the same rich history. Most coffee farmers learn from their relatives and teach their children how to farm. The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia ensures these famers have a job and a safe method of working. In turn, this gives coffee farmers an incentive to provide the premium Colombian coffee that Colombian’s and now American’s have learned to enjoy.

Works Cited

Colombia- Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette. 2009. December 2009
Every Culture-Colombia. 2009. December 2009' target='_blank'>
National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia. Who is Juan Valdez? Deccember 2009
Omari, Amina. Traveling the Famring of Antioquia, Colombia. 1 March 2008. December 2009

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