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In a world of evens you have to be Odd

Lake Geneva author explains how to keep the best
of the qualities we're born with

Donna Lenz Wright/The Week

(Published April 15, 2007, 2:54 p.m.)

When you are odd you see what you know is there.

When you are even you see what you are told is there.

Odds persist. Evens quit.

 

You have odditude when you:

 

These are just a few definitions of truly odd people and their genuine attitudesÑodditudes.

John Powers, Ph.D., of Lake Geneva, has just released his latest book, Odditude, all about the difference between the two types of peopleÑodds and evens.

"It's a good book with good stories and it's all true," Powers said of his non-fiction book.

Powers has a long list of accomplishments including two Emmy awards for his work in television; writing and co-producing the Broadway musical, "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?"; writing four best-selling books; hosting his own television show; writing and performing one-minute spots on effective public speaking for public television; appearing on hundreds of radio and television shows including Oprah and Today; and recently touring with Rudy Giuliani and Bill O'Reilly.

Powers' high-energy personality, woven with a sharp sense of humor and ability to relate to life's hiccups, makes him a popular motivational speaker.

He speaks to about 90 groups a year worldwide and his audiences have ranged from as few as 10 and as many as 18,000 people.

Odditude is filled with short chapters of anecdotes, memories, observations and motivational advice on how to live and make the most out of this ride called life.

The first chapter, "Mom was right," begins with the miracle that we are here at all. Powers compares it to being the only winner in a lottery spanning the United States, Canada and Mexico because, using today's biological knowledge, we had a one in four million chance of being somebody else at the time of conception alone.

"Each person is a book waiting to be read," he says. "Each person is a mosaic. Each person is fascinating.

"But, over time, life has rubbed up against us, making many of us 'even,'" he writes in Odditude. "We are all born with odditude. But then the vast majority of us allowed our families, schools, friends, coworkers and playmates to blunt the sharp edges of our spirits until all the odd has been smoothed away and we were all flat and even."

"Never walk a road that doesn't lead to your heart," is a chapter that begs repeating. It is filled with things we all know but tend to forget while getting lost in the tasks of everyday life. It ends with an obvious, yet frequently performed human pattern: "Idiocy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Powers' ability to talk to the reader through his writing is a rare talent, making this a perfect read for anyone yearning for a light relatable read that is simultaneously intense and talks to the core of who we are in all of our interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.

"Love-a-holic or Work-a-holic" is a chapter identifying the most fundamental reasons we get out of bed each day. "A work-a-holic puts all of their time into their job, a love-a-holic puts all of their creativity, humanity, common sense and intellect into their career."

It's easy to let the line between the two get blurry and Powers himself has to pull himself out of this quagmire over time, as we all do.

"Some people are just born happy," he admits. "I'm not. I'm a cynical rotten bastard and I have to look hard at the good things."

In the end, he says it helps to remind himself of the big picture.

"I would rather be successful 1 percent of the time than a failure 100 percent of it."

Powers asks readers to take this question to an organization-wide level. "In a business situation, if all of you are playing and your competition is working, who do you think is going to win?"

In the chapter called "Labels are for bottles, cartons and cans, not people," Powers hits on a profoundly simple reality.

"When you meet someone for the first time or the millionth, you always have a choice. You can either learn from them or judge them, but you can't do both. As soon as you choose one, you eliminate the possibility of the other."

How often are each one of us guilty of making the wrong choice here? It's OK, you don't have to answer out loud. Maybe just remind yourself next time you catch yourself judging someone that you're actually cheating yourself. And maybe the most ironic part is that they may never know the difference, but you will.

On the same line of thought, Powers gets frustrated when others judge us.

"So often we focus on the silly things in life, not what really matters. Look at the media, for example," he explains. "I know that I'm not the father of Anna Nicole's baby. For the rest of the world, I don't know and don't care. I've got better things to do.

"I think the media underestimates the lives most of us live."

Powers takes Odditude in other directions as the book continues. His scope goes from global to the world being lived within the walls of his own home.

"It's non-fiction that reads like a novel," as his wife, JaNelle, puts it.

"All young children are odd but then..." opens the chapter titled, "The last day before the first day." Here Powers writes about the last day before one of his daughters started first grade.

He writes of how just she and he spent some time that day at the park and she rode the "baby" swing even though she was big enough for the regular swing. When they left the park she asked if after starting first grade she could still ride the "baby" swing, and he assured her she certainly could.

"The next morning, she walks stoically down the street, her Barbie lunch box gripped tightly in her hand ... When we arrive at the school, our daughter gives us each a hug and a kiss. Then she turns and walks down the sidewalk ... She never looks back. But as she walks through the doors, she holds her lunch box on top of her head and skips down the hall.

"The woman next to me says it: 'Odd child.'

"I answer her: 'Thank God.'"

Throughout the book Powers also hits on our responsibility of defining ourselves.

"Who's responsible? Who cares?" is the chapter that introduces Ernie. His father was absent and mother was an alcoholic. He went on to become a person most others avoided.

Powers' point here is that, sure, his parents and others may be responsible for the hardships he has faced. But who cares? Who is paying the price for his sorry state? He is, of course, and he alone.

His only hope? To let the past go and find the odd in his future.

"Who's responsible? Who cares?" he writes. "Enjoy your suffering for a moment and then move on. Why constantly relive it? Learn from the past. Don't tie up your hands for the future by holding grudges."

The point being that just because those who are supposed to be our heroes don't always fulfill that role never means that there isn't a whole world of other heroes to chose from.

"Most of us don't realize it, but it's true," he said. "The real heroes in our lives are our neighbors, friends and family not athletes or millionaires or whoever."

Years ago Powers met an extremely popular baseball player and somebody described him as a "great guy."

"He wasn't a great guy; he was a jerk," Powers recalls. "He was a great ball player but not a good person.

"Just because you can throw ball 80 yards doesn't make you a great human being."

Odditude is one of those books that likely won't gather an inch of dust on the shelf as numerous excerpts will beg revisits. Additionally, the last several pages are filled with flashcard thoughts designed to be removed from the book and used on a daily basis.

Powers suggests choosing one a day and keeping its message at the forefront of your mind as you make your way through the day.

Odditude, Finding the Passion for Who You Are and What You Do, is available for $15.95 at www.amazon.com. For more information call Powers' office at (262) 249-8622 or (815) 577-9379 or visit www.johnpowers.com.

 

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