4 Steps to A Successful Personal Pivot

This post originally appeared on The People Reader.

Throughout your career and life, you will find yourself needing to make a few personal pivots to stay in alignment with your joy. Even when you think you have it all figured out, misalignments happen and you can either stay in it and be unfulfilled, or you can take action to make the needed changes. In this episode, I talk with writer/storyteller/tech maven, Kara Kavensky, who shares 4 key steps to managing through your personal pivot process and finding a way to reclaim your joy.

Who is your mentor?

The other night I attended a cocktail reception for the Indianapolis Business Journal’s 40 under 40. It was the celebration of the incoming class as well as alums. I was honored to be a guest of my dear friend Jenny Massey, a recent alum of this fraternity.

The publisher of the IBJ, Greg Morris, in his first job out of college, worked with my mom. He and his wife are big fans of hers.

My mom was a high-level account executive at a very popular local radio station, WIBC. She worked mostly with men. She was a pioneer for women in sales and marketing during the 80s and early 90s.

It was a pleasure listening to stories about my mom in this manner, for I’d not heard this before.

“You didn’t mess with Kenna.”
“She was a force.”
“She was breaking ceilings.”
“She put up with a lot of bullshit.”
“If you were a powerful female and also pretty, you were called a bitch.”

I never questioned that she was a hard worker. She was a doer and got shit done. She was always an upbeat, positive ball of energy. To her credit, I never heard her complain about a single incident. This could be that she was too busy to care, for she was kinetic energy. I knew many, if not all, of her clients, as I attended many sporting events and concerts thanks to her connections. I was the defacto intern, having spent many of my teenage summers schlepping bumper stickers for the radio station at the State Fair or helping with other promotional events.

My mom made it look easy. While I knew struggles existed on some level, she appeared as if there was no issue, ever, for women in the workplace. I had no idea of the full reality of her experiences.

Only a year ago on the way to her grandson’s soccer game, upon passing a business that has been cut off by a newly elevated road, did I hear her mention something about karma as she smiled.

I’ve been asked many times who my mentors are, and have not hesitated to mention unequivocally my mom and Kathy Kebo (an amazing friend and another force of nature).

The comments shared describing my mom’s presence and work ethic resonate with me, for most all of those comments are ones that I have heard – spoken of me, so I must be doing something right. Apparently, I come from a line of strong women, and my daughter is no exception, in fact, I pale in comparison.

The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or in this case, the ovaries.


Advantage: Heaven

Yesterday, my former pediatrician passed away. Dr. Belt was a very nice man. Having him as my doctor when I was a kid transpired into a long friendship between our families. As a young adult, he became my grandfather figure and worked with me on my tennis game.

“You’re too nice. Don’t hit the ball to me,” he would say as we played on a court at his country club. “Girls are too nurturing, you must kill the ball, kill it!”

Not exactly the advice you would expect from one of the kindest men on the planet. Dr. Belt was surprisingly strategic. Throughout our tennis matches, I discovered a side to his personality that had not been formerly disclosed: he was a fierce competitor. I was drawn to the net only to be spoofed by a lob that dropped in the back corner. Advantage: Dr. B.

“You want to be ruthless on the court, don’t take it personally.”

At the time, it felt rude to make this man run all over the court. But he was elevating my game, and I, his. These life lessons seemed to come from an unlikely source. But I listened, carefully. As his prodigy, he had me tapping into a killer instinct that I didn’t realize I possessed.

Unbeknownst to me until recently, Dr. Belt had served in the NAVY after 3 semesters of undergrad pre-med at Indiana University. He went through some basic medical training with the NAVY and was assigned a position as a pharmacist mate aboard the aircraft carrier USS TICONDEROGA.

Serving mainly in the Pacific campaign, his ship was part of the Battle of Okinawa. During his long deployment in and around Japan, he witnessed the USS MISSOURI leaving Tokyo Bay not long after the official signing of the Japanese surrender from its deck.

“Strike true, don’t make it easy for me.”

Dr. Belt taught me as much about playing killer tennis as he did about life. I was on the other side of the net not taking personally his shots intended to run me all over the court. I quickly dished out what he was serving.

“Good. Keep it up.”

Score: Love – Love.

Thanks to Doug Clanin for interviewing Jim in 1994 for the Veteran’s Project / Library of Congress.

Writing Through Emotion

It doesn’t happen often that I experience an interview where I cry…

Lately I have had a string of emotional interviews.

Scott Wise, founder of Scotty’s Brewhouse, THR3E WISE MEN Brewing Co, Scotty’s Dawghouse (Butler University students and fans are geeking out over this one, as it’s the first bar on campus in over 200 years!), cried while sharing his story of recovery from a brain infection. Scott was brought to tears again in the same conversation several minutes later as he described the amazing impact to his team by integrating people with special needs at his latest restaurant in Muncie (which has become a model for all of his restaurants).

In my prior blog post, I shared the story of Kim Dodson who runs The Arc of Indiana, providing a voice for people with special needs (and is directly connected with Scott Wise’s second round of tears).

Last week I interviewed Luke Canterbury and his family. Luke is “Boy of the Year” for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He’d been diagnosed with stage 4 Burkitt’s Lymphoma two years ago. When I asked him what it means to him to be Boy of the Year, Luke said, “It means I beat cancer.” (tissue, please!)

Then today I interviewed Luke’s pediatric physical therapist, Alissa Moody, who is running for “Woman of the Year” for the LLS. Alissa’s story begins with an uncle who passed from Leukemia shortly before she was born. Each year her family plants a tree in his honor and the row of trees is substantial. Alissa felt it was her duty to serve those with cancer to honor her uncle that she’s only been able to know through stories. Her uncle Randy was 19 when he died.
Michael Kelly Alissa V2
Alissa was also the PT for another young man, Michael Treinen. Michael passed away in 2008, just 6 days prior to his 20th birthday. Michael had an incredible spirit. He played three sports and insisted that a stationary bike be placed in his room at Riley Children’s Hospital during his treatment. Alissa was able to get Michael a bike, but it was rather shabby and had taped handles. Michael didn’t care, he rode it daily anyway. He’d vomit from his chemo treatments and get back on the bike to stay in shape. Alissa credits his devotion to exercise as his stress management, which kept Michael off of anti-depressants.

While on the bike, Michael was inspired to help ensure that every patient on the oncology and stem cell transplant units have access to an exercise bike. His mom, Kelly, is the Principal of Promise Road Elementary School, and started a weekly fundraising campaign where students and faculty would pay a dollar to wear jeans to school on Friday.  These dollars allowed the Treinen family to help outfit Riley Hospital with a slew of new bikes that were used on the oncology unit and throughout the inpatient hospital at large.  Michael’s full name is Michael Thomas Treinen, with the initials MTT. Each stationery bike was given a license plate saying, “Moving Through Treatment”, MTT, to honor Michael.

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Luke Canterbury on a bike that was donated in honor of Michael

Alissa’s mom would repeatedly say how if her brother (Randy, the uncle who passed) had been around today, the treatments would have saved his life. Alissa isn’t so sure – as young children are lost in great numbers to Leukemia and Lymphoma.

Alissa now has two young children and has taken a hiatus from work to be with her kids. She is honored to be able to give back to the LLS through her Woman of the Year campaign for LLS. She was nominated by Kelly Treinen. Alissa didn’t hesitate to say “yes”. Her story will be the cover for the April issue of Broad Ripple Magazine.

As I write her story and wrap up Luke’s, a box of tissue sits beside me…
writing through emotion 2

Writing through emotion 1

As the Year Comes to a Close, a Look Back

Aside from spending time with my family, my favorite part of December is the recap of amazing stories throughout the year. In this week’s Sports Illustrated, Sportsmen of the Year are celebrated, highlighting stories from 2014.

The notable stories from the Olympics includes biathlete Tracy Barnes qualifying for Team USA  only to give up her spot to her twin sister, Lanny. That’s a special kind of love.

Gold medalist Dario Cologna of Switzerland crossed the finish line of the cross country ski race only to wait another 28 minutes for 43 year old Roberto Carcelen of Peru, who finished last. Cologna hugged him at the finish line. Carcelen is only the 3rd winter Olympian from Peru and competed with broken ribs sustained during training a few days earlier.

Perhaps my favorite athlete from the Winter Olympics was Team USA Luger Kate Hansen, who danced uninhibitedly to jams on her iPod. She tuned out the world, even while being filmed, and just danced. We should all dance like her.

Sportsmanship was perhaps best exemplified by the Oak Harbor HS football team, forfeiting the championship game to their arch-rival, Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks. Marysville-Pilchuck school suffered a horrible tragedy, with a student opening fire in the cafeteria, shooting 5 kids, killing 4 of those, then shooting himself. The Oak Harbor team showed dignity and compassion rarely exhibited in competitive sports, especially in a championship game of high school football. Those boys and coaches are earth angels.

The ALS challenge. Who knew that a bucket of ice water would aide in awareness of a disease like nothing before? Thanks to John Frates, millions of people had cold chills and wet pants.

Stories of inspiration, where blessings can occur under extreme circumstances, or perhaps just a 13 year old, determined to improve his basketball game in Queens by shoveling away the snow off a court. He couldn’t wait for the snow to melt.

I love reading these stories of triumph, of courage, and of perseverance. These are worth reading over and over, enjoying the highs, looking for blessings in every situation, and keep on keeping on.

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Perhaps my favorite story of 2014 is a little closer to home. The Fishers HS Lady Tigers, with my daughter as one of the goalkeepers, led a team all the way to the state finals, winning the state championship and finishing #1 in the final MaxPreps National rankings!!!!! Go Tigers!

Fishers High School is in a class all to themselves. The school spirit is incredible. The student support, the fans – it has been an amazing four years for our family, and to wrap up a high school experience on top like that is simply amazing. The school is 8 years old…incredible! or as my youngest says frequently, who likes quotes from The Princess Bride, “That’s INCONCEIVABLE!” And we aren’t done with FHS – we will have a freshman there next fall and another is coming down the pike! :o)

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I wonder what amazing stories await us in 2015?

It’s a Start

Combining writing and the fact that I am a “people person” works out quite well for me! More often than not, my required word count for an article is far less than what I could have written on any given topic. My objective with this blog is to share the bits that either did not make the final edit, or expand upon the printed piece. This will definitely be more conversational and casual in most cases, allowing for some fun facts and experiences behind the scenes of an interview. 

It will also be a technology lesson for me, since I am a social media novice. This blog will serve as my learning curve in linking my FB, Twitter and this blog and whatever else may be created to further reach people who crave the latest insta-everything.

Kara Kavensky

Kara Kavensky