Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge – The new bridge and the weekend’s festivities

In Dallas this weekend the “in” place to be is the newly completed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Designed by a Spaniard, Santiago Calatrava, the clean, futuristic lines take one’s breath away. The sweep of its arches and span inspires. So I can appreciate the lofty rhetoric surrounding it and the mystique it’s engendered.

According to city leaders, the Bridge will “connect” downtown Dallas to West Dallas. On the downtown side the skyline is dominated by the W Hotel- where you can sip a $20 cocktail and be inspired by the Bridge. On the west side, you can splurge with a $2 Corona and your income clocks in at $12,000 a year; half the median per capita income citywide.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings claims, “The city’s newest landmark symbolizes his desire to close that gap”. U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson says, ” This is a structure that brings the city together”. Yet, many in Dallas call it “the bridge to nowhere”. Does the east side want to bridge the gap? Can a bridge actually bridge the chasm between a $20 drink and a $2 beer?

Not normally a skeptic, as I wandered the area and walked the Bridge this weekend, and experienced the new upscale Brewery going in, and the very much east side of the Bridge shops; my thought was- where will the person who now pays $200 a month rent move to when her place is knocked down to make way for the upscale building that will surely take place here? By the way, did I mention that the ‘hood’ directly around the bridge is Hispanic, with many of the families having lived there for generations?

The newspapers say, “The Trinity River Corridor Project, (anchored by this Bridge) is the most complex and the largest urban development effort undertaken by the city and it will make Dallas the envy of other large cities as it transforms a flood protection solution into an opportunity for community revitalization, economic development and the creation of a world-class greenway”.

We’ll see- I’m not a cynic, and I sure hope the Bridge does in fact fulfill its promise- to connect. Yet? That new Brewery- I paid $4 for a glass of ale!

- Niki McCuistion



Be Great: The Five Foundations of Ordinary Life…

Peter Thomas, founder of Century 21 Real Estate Canada, Ltd., grew that company into the largest real estate company in Canada, and spearheaded billions of dollars of real estate development in the United States. Throughout the years I had heard of his charitable giving and his foundations, LifePilot and the Todd Thomas Foundation, which he founded in honor of his son, who tragically committed suicide while still a young man…

And so recently, when I had the opportunity to meet him, at a reception celebrating his new book, Be Great, hosted by good friends, Vince and Michelle Poscente,  I jumped at the chance. Based on his reputation, I expected a giant of a man, and in fact he is, but in demeanor only. He exudes compassion and integrity. When Peter spoke about his new work, Be Great, he did so with a quiet humility that grabbed one. I stayed up later that night, reading his book from cover to cover.

Real estate magnate that he is, he reminds us, “…like (the) skyscraper, before you can reach the sky, you must be prepared to dig deep and make your foundations strong.” He said, “the most important place to start building is on your values… what you value, you become.” He told us of his first Young President’s Organization meeting in Hawaii, where he signed up for a workshop, and was led to the beach with the rest of the participants. The speaker asked the group, ” Are you living lives that honor your values?” The speaker asked each one to write down their values, and then on a separate sheet of paper, all of their daily activities and then check their activities against their values.

Surprise! When he compared them, Peter realized that the activities he spent his time on were not related to any of his values. He shared with us,  “I had an epiphany; it was like being hit over the head with a universal two by four.” He knew major changes were in order.   That epiphany led to his starting Century 21, and changing his life. He reminded us that “when we focus on our values life is easier, we are more focused, you spend less time wondering what you should do, how you should act, what’s right and what’s wrong.” He asked us to consider our happiness or lack of it, “Is there a gap between the way I’m living and what I believe in?” He said, if yes, maybe we need to change, either what we actually value or what we spend our time on. Peter believes, “It’s easier to change what you’re doing than to give away your values.” He reminds us, ” Computers and toasters come with manuals. Human beings don’t… With no operating manual to guide us, it’s not surprising that so many of us wind up feeling off-balance, unfulfilled or just plain lost.”

And so I too ask you- what are your values? Are you living them, day in, day out? Or  are you a tad lost? As Peter points out in his book, “Aristotle said, we are what we repeatedly do.” Thanks Peter. So I took out my sheet of paper that night and started writing- my values and the  time I spend on  daily activities. And while not the epiphany Peter had all those years ago- change is a coming. Thanks Peter for being a two by four.  Be Great is a must read. It builds giants. Humble ones.

Jack Canfield and The Success Principles

A Conversation with Jack Canfield…

Shortly after Jack Canfield’s latest book, The Success Principles, came out, I had the pleasure of interviewing him about the principles he discusses.  Jack, well known for his Chicken Soup for the Soul series, co-authored with Mark Victor Hansen, embodies   and lives the very principles he talks about in his new work. While there are 64 of them and Jack doesn’t hold any one to be more critical, we focused on a few key principles; self esteem, success, joy and living on purpose, and how we can achieve our dreams.

Jack, a success coach, speaker and author, is an expert on self-esteem. He started on this quest when he taught high school, “I realized two things were missing, the students were not motivated, at all, and they had low self esteem. They were afraid to take a risk. So I began building their self esteem and helping them feel better about themselves… I believe we  all born with self-esteem but we’re educated out of it. Buckminster Fuller said, “There’s no such thing as a genius, some people are just damaged less.”  Jack says, “If you don’t have healthy self esteem you withdraw. You are shy; you may not use your gifts. Or you over compensate- you become a braggart. So nothing outside yourself can be fulfilled.”

Niki McCuistion and Jack Canfield“Self-esteem means that you feel lovable and capable.  A lot of people don’t feel capable. If I don’t feel capable I can’t make my dreams come true. Self esteem mean  you’re worthy of love and can produce results so you can take care of yourself. It’s about doing whatever you need to do to get what you need. Self -esteem and success, you need the former to be the latter. Imagine you and I go to Las Vegas. We’re playing poker and I have 100 chips, you have 10. Well I can bet more hands, you’re going to play more cautiously. Self esteem; it’s like those  poker chips.  I don’t have enough poker chips so I don’t  take risks. It gets in the way of everything. The more confidence I have the more risks I’m willing to take… If you want to get from where you are to where you want to be, of course you’re going to have to take that risk.”

I asked what success meant to him,” It’s what I want, what drives me. You have to create a plan. As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.” We need to take action and be willing to go through the awkward stage. Most people are not willing to not do it well. We need to take baby steps and get stronger. Don’t stop yourself, take action. Persevere.  Olympic athlete Rubin Gonzales told me, “I’m not a big shot; I’m just a little shot who kept shooting.” “None of us are really big shots. I’ve been willing to dream big and believe it’s possible. Surround yourself with successful people, ask people who’ve already done it, and never take no for an answer.”

“If you learn the principles, assimilate them, and apply them with discipline every day, they will transform your life beyond your wildest dreams. So decide what you want, believe you deserve it, practice the principles and put them into action.” So, I asked, “What can one do to believe in oneself?” “It’s an act of faith”, he said. “It’s a choice to believe in yourself. Successful people expect to win… If you want to be successful, you have to take 100% responsibility for everything you experience in your life- everything. This is not easy, you give up blaming…  You have to be willing to pay the price- everyday. It takes commitment… If you’re experiencing joy, you’re on purpose. If you’re not joyful, take a look inside and ask yourself what you can do to make yourself joyful.”

“Jack, your book, The Success Principles, is a chart, a way of life, excellent work . If there were just one principle, just one of the 64, more than any other, which would you isolate as the key one?” “Well they’re all important, that’s why there are 64 of them. One thing really helps, one, once you know what you want, you never give up- never. One hundred and forty four publishers rejected Chicken Soup for the Soul!!!! You have a dream, a vision of what’s possible. If you persist, every obstacle is a learning experience.”

Thank you Jack Canfield, a man, a teacher,  with true grit and integrity, inside and out.

Refueling Your Business: A Morning with Mark LeBlanc

Niki Nicastro McCuistion - Mark LeBlanc

Niki with speaker and friend Mark LeBlanc and Dennis McCuistion at recent JP Morgan Chase event

We recently attended a seminar , sponsored by JP Morgan Chase and the Dallas Business Journal, featuring our friend, professional speaker and former President of the National Speakers Association, Mark LeBlanc. Mark is well known for his practical advice on growing a profitable business, and the event was geared toward small business owners.  And I am one- so- we went- to cheer Mark on,  pay our respects to the Journal, which sponsors the McCuistion TV program, and to network. The full breakfast an added treat.

Learning more about  growing small businesses was not on my agenda that day,or so I thought.   Well, surprise! I  was there precisely because I needed to hear what Mark had to share. Sometimes one has so much to do- little gets done. And maybe the business strategies we know and use need a jumpstart for today’s world. The old, tried, true big picture strategy all good- yet in challenging times we may need to make a shift.

Mark’s  inspiring yet very down to earth message started with the pilgrimage retreat he  experienced several years ago, walking  the Camino Santiago Compostela in France and Spain. When he told us of sitting down  on a bench, 2 miles into a 500 mile walk, crying with misery because his feet ached and he had this heavy back pack- I could relate. The Camino is strewn with discarded articles, walkers start out with too much on their backs.  When he talked of Judith, an older , heavy set woman, who was also walking the Camino, and who  shared her wisdom with him,  “No matter how miserable you are, you can always take one more step, ” I could relate this to today, and our business climate and the challenges small business owners have, taking that one more step. By then he had lightened his backpack. And in small businesses ,in challenging times, the bare essentials may be what’s needed. Back to basics is sometimes the best remedy to jumpstart your life and your business.

He reminded us that our successful momentum each day is fueled by how we feel; that todays’ performance equals future results. Today’s performance! Hearing Mark tell us to  focus on 3- isolate and do 3 business development steps, I thought of my heavy backpack, and how sometimes I try to do so much , and results  are minimal. And then the Camino, we’re all on one aren’t we,  got way easier when he asked us to ask ourselves a morning and evening question. I said to myself- or maybe I said it aloud’ cause the folks at the table looked at me, DUH!

His simple and elegant questions:

” What am I going to do today to “book” my optimistic $ # for this month?” Not the year, the month, 30 or so days, one step on the Camino, one can always go one more step! At the end of the day he said, ask yourself, ” What did I do today to “book” my optimistic $ # for this month?”

Thank you Mark  LeBlanc for a practical success strategy. One can handle, I can handle one small step at a time. Eventually the goal is reached, finishing the Camino- reaching  the desired outcome, and feeling good about the results.

Cooksey Communications Celebrates 15 years of Success

Niki McCuistion - Gail Cooksey - Cooksey CommunicationsCooksey Communications, a Dallas/Fort Worth-based strategic communications consulting firm, who works to promote the McCuistion program and the Foundation for Responsible Television, recently celebrated its 15 year anniversary. Founded by President Gail Cooksey in 1994, Cooksey Communications is now ranked the 9th-largest firm in the Dallas/Fort Worth region.

In recognition of the anniversary, Councilman Rick Stopfer of Irving presented a proclamation on behalf of the City of Irving’s Office of the Mayor, which declared Thursday, September 17 as “Cooksey Communications Day.” To celebrate 15 years in business, Cooksey Communications announced that the firm made a donation of $5,000 to the SPCA of Texas, for which Gail Cooksey serves as a member of the board of directors.

“I am thrilled to have achieved this milestone,” said Gail Cooksey. “None of this would be possible without the support of our wonderful and loyal clients and employees. I am grateful to everyone who has made our first 15 years so successful.” Over the last 15 years, Cooksey Communications has served and strengthened the local, regional and statewide business community as the strategic communications partner for hundreds of prestigious companies and organizations.

Niki McCuistion who attended the festivities said, “We are thrilled to have their assistance. Their client roster reads like Who’s Who. Lucky us for all they do, they are generous to a fault. Congratulations Gail and team. We wish you at least another 15 years plus of success.”