Posted in Business, Motivational, Spiritual

There is a TV show that my wife and I have come to love: The Good Doctor. Freddie Highmore plays Dr. Shaun Murphy, a very talented young intern who happens to have Autism. Nicholas Gonzales plays Dr. Neil Melendez, the Chief of Surgery at the hospital.

One episode had an African woman who came to America with her dying son to find a Dr. who could help them. Dr. Melendez was totally against operating on the kid because he felt like there was no way it could succeed. Dr. Murphy, however, came up with a slim but worthwhile option to try. When Dr. Melendez dismissed the idea, Dr. Murphy asked him: “Is the potential to fail a reason not to try?” Dr. Melendez admitted that it was not a good reason.

It was a great question and worthy of digesting. They started collaborating and came up with a few viable options. They went into surgery and through trial and error, found the way to help the boy’s heart keep beating.

Here are some takeaways:

  • Almost everything you face has options. There are probably a few exceptions, but most of the time you do have options; you just have not thought of them yet.
  • There are options within options. When you face one obstacle that does not mean it is the end of the road, just a detour. Look for other ways to make it happen, then determine: What is the best way?
  • Just because everyone says, “It won’t work,” does not mean they are right. If you have a dream for something you want to be or do, don’t let anyone steal your dream. Get creative, collaborate, and search for options.
  • Options give us two things: hope and choices. We need both in order to have any meaning to life. If there is no hope, then life is pointless, but….there is always hope. Hope is there when you can’t see it, feel it, hear it, smell it, or taste it. Even if you don’t believe it, hope is there. You just might have to be reminded of it.
  • Faith takes hope to the next level.

Whatever obstacles you might be facing today, don’t lose hope.  


Dan Skognes

Face Yourself

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships


 “Sometimes the hardest person to face is yourself.”  

                                                                                          Dan Skognes

Why is it so hard for us to see ourselves as we really are? It is almost as if we have put on a mask and forgotten how to take it off. We are very good at fooling others and even ourselves when it comes to who we really are.

The thing that drives us into hiding is fear. We fear what others will think, that we are not what we could or should be, or that we don’t measure up in comparison to others. We even fear change itself.

Can we take off our masks for a moment and really look at ourselves honestly? What do you see? The problem with being honest with yourself is that it requires each of us to be vulnerable. You probably won’t like everything you see. Everyone is flawed. Nobody on this earth is perfect and we all have issues. We just don’t want to talk about them much less admit them.

As we come to the close of another year, let’s begin by being honest with ourselves and work on those things we CAN change in ourselves for the better. Perhaps we need to eat more sensibly, get more exercise, work harder, get more rest, have more fun in life, work on our relationship with God or with our family, etc. Whatever it is, like the Nike slogan says: “Just Do It.”

If you can admit you need to change something, that is the first step. Then you just have to follow through and stay the course. I decided about a year ago that I was going to lose some weight. My cholesterol was out of whack, my blood pressure was high, and my back was hurting me a lot. I have lost almost 35 lbs. since then. I am not bragging…but telling you that it can be done if you set your mind to it.

I hope and pray each of you has a blessed New Year. It starts with being honest with yourself. Your Happy New Year can begin today if you are willing to face yourself.


Dan Skognes

Great Expectations

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

What gets us in trouble on a regular basis? Our expectations. We expect great things from others which may exceed what we would be willing to do. Expectations are the cause of wars, arguments, road rage, divorce, etc.

Here is the truth:

  • You can’t change other people. Quit expecting them to do your will. You are not a genie in a bottle. The only person you can change is you, and that is a full-time job for anyone. Work on yourself first; then you can work on your communication skills with others. You still have to hold others accountable for what they have agreed they would do, but you have to find a way to communicate with them. Sometimes that is the greatest challenge, particularly if they will not accept responsibility and constantly divert the issue away from themselves or they play the victim card on you.
  • Managing expectations of others is probably one of the greatest skills you will ever learn when it comes to relationships…whether they are personal or business. If you are truthful, ethical, and communicate openly with someone they will receive that news much better than if you deceive them, avoid them, or ignore them. They may not like hearing bad news from you, but if you deliver the message with kindness, empathy, and honesty you have a chance of keeping that relationship alive.
  • If you find yourself being demanding of others, angry, or moody, check your expectations. If you have legitimate expectations of someone that are not being met, find a way to talk about it unemotionally. You may have to have a mediator if the situation has gone too far. The problem does not go away just because you ignore it. That wound will affect other relationships in the future if you don’t address it. Obviously, you can’t force someone to communicate with you, but if you approach them with humility, you are willing to admit your mistakes, and you are willing to listen to their side, they will more than likely meet you half way.

If you are going to expect anything in life, expect the best from yourself.


Dan Skognes

Fitting In

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

“Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are a wonderful person.” Ann Landers

Remember the show Cheers? Where everybody knows your name? I think that show touched a chord with people because there is this inbred need we have to fit in somewhere. The social aspect of belonging is huge.

Kids show this in wanting to belong to a club, a team, some organization, or just be part of the group of “cool kids.” Young people show it by joining a band, a political group, a frat, a sorority, etc. Churches and the military are filled with people looking for somewhere to fit in.

Here is what I have found:

  • It is common for everyone to want to fit it somewhere. If you are different than most then you have to consider the fact that you were born to stand out. That is not a bad thing (being different). In marketing it is the differences that give you the edge. In my opinion, we were all born to stand out. We put too much emphasis on fitting in instead of celebrating our uniqueness and using that to our advantage.
  • Knowing yourself is the key. If you have a healthy self-awareness you can deal with the fear and insecurity that comes from not fitting in. What other people say and think takes second place to what you know to be true…if you believe in yourself. What YOU believe matters. “What other people think is none of your business.” Regina Britt
  • Kids are vulnerable to the pressures of fitting in. They need to be affirmed in who they are and encouraged to be themselves. Yes, everyone needs to be able to socialize, but I am talking about those kids who will do virtually anything to fit in with a group, including compromising their morals, safety, and common sense. The world is full of people desperate to fit it somewhere, and there are countless groups who prey on them…gangs, human traffickers, predators, etc.

In a world where conformity is rewarded, I am encouraging us to just be who God created us to be. Allow yourself and others to have their quirks. We all have them. Some of us are just quirkier than others. I am reminded of this every day when I look in the mirror. LOL.

Hollywood has had some great movies about misfits over the years, but because I love westerns, there are a couple of movies that stand out in my memory: The Magnificent Seven. The group of seven men remained true to who they were, but came together to defend a helpless town; and who can forget Gary Cooper in High Noon? He did not fit in as sheriff of the town and yet stood up to the bad guys when everyone else ran like cockroaches in the light. He never did fit in, and yet was a hero to all in the end.

I hope you know yourself well, and that you do your part to not just conform…but to stand out…and help others do the same. We all have unique abilities. We just have to be willing to let them bloom and not worry so much about what other people think or say. Cheers to you as you march to the beat of a different drummer.


Dan Skognes

Real Men

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships, Spiritual

Real Men dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator

Apple Seeds

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Apple Seeds dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorYou can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you can’t count the number of apples in a seed. Apple seeds are like acts of kindness. You don’t always see the results of the seeds you plant. Here is a fact you can take to the bank: you will always reap what you sow, but you don’t always see what you reap.

People who are unhappy in life have a common thread. They don’t know how to sow. People who have learned this lesson know that giving is truly better than receiving, and yet in giving, we always receive! We don’t give to get. We get to give. It is counter-intuitive.

Calvin Coolidge said: “No man was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” You would think that people would get this, and yet, many seem to be stuck in the “me” mode. It seems to be about control with so many folks.

I am convinced that the world would change overnight if people just became givers. We would see the end of wars, divorce, corruption, poverty, hunger, homelessness, etc., etc. Giving is the fruit of love.

What will it take for this to happen? I know I can’t make anyone else change. I have a hard enough time changing me! That has to come from within each of us if it is going to last. What I CAN do is be a giver, plant the seeds of kindness wherever I go, and let God do the rest. If I can encourage those who cross my path, help them through the storms of life, and give them hope…then who knows the ripple effect that will have? The effects will be felt for years to come.

That is why I teach and write. I know that I can have an impact on countless generations with what I say and do. I pray that my words and actions produce the fruit of giving in others, and that the seeds I plant change the world to be a little bit better place for all of us to live.


Dan Skognes

The Best Rest

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

The Best Rest dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorLearning to rest in a world that is full of hustle and bustle is not easy. There is so much to do and everyone I know is “busy.” Here is the problem with being “busy:” Just because you are busy does not mean you are productive. In fact, it may be a clue that you need to re-think what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Most people I know have a lot on their plates. They have to juggle work, family, friends, health, entertainment, and their faith. They work long hours and then have to engage with their family. Even for those that don’t have family, the work is not done when they come home. There is always cooking, cleaning, picking up laundry, taking care of the car, the lawn, etc., etc. Life is just busy. We are one of the busiest countries in the world, but are we too busy for our own good?

Here are some lessons we could learn from the world:

  • Two weeks is not enough vacation. That is enough time to get somewhere and start to unwind, but then you have to go back to work just as you were starting to chill out. I know some countries have vacation time that lasts over 30 days as policy. I am not sure what the magic number would be for us, but two weeks does not cut it.
  • New Mom’s need time to bond and care for their kids. I don’t know what is reasonable for someone to be gone from work and take care of their child, but I know that too many women have to come back to work before they are ready.
  • Some countries have 4 day work weeks. I love that idea. I personally would be in favor of that, but I realize it gets tricky because our country is focused on 40 hours a week as being “fulltime.” Spreading the 8 hours missed over the 4 days worked has problems as well. Perhaps we need to re-define what fulltime is.
  • Working two, three, or four jobs at once may be necessary in emergencies to make ends meet, but it should not become the norm. Even God rested on the 7th day. You can burn the candle at both ends for a time, but eventually you burn out.

There are always going to be times where you have to put in extra hours for work, whether you are a teacher, a lawyer, a fireman, or whatever. Every job will encounter times requiring overtime. That is life. What we have to come to terms with is balancing work with our life. Our work should never BE our life. If that is the case then you need to get a life. Working 50, 60, 70, or 80+ hours a week will take a toll on other relationships, your health, and even your ability to do a good job where you work.

Take time every week to rest. Relax and do something you love doing and don’t stress over all the things on the to-do list. That list will always be there…trust me. Somehow we have to learn the power of rest. We seem to have lost that as a country. By the way, one of the meanings of the word Shalom is “complete rest.” I like that.


Dan Skognes

Camo Kids

Posted in Business, Motivational, Relationships

Camo Kids dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorCamo kids are all around us. You don’t see them because they blend in. They are not troublemakers (though they may be troubled), they are typically quiet and subdued, and they are not very social. They don’t volunteer to answer questions, and they may appear sullen. We tend not to notice them because we are drawn to the kids who need help, the ones we have to constantly correct, or the ones who we naturally like. Camo kids may be the forgotten ones. If they are absent from class, you might have trouble remembering who is gone.

This is not to point a finger at anyone, but merely to heighten the awareness of all the children in our care. Because they tend to blend, we have to be intentional in building relationships with them. Next time you are with a group of kids, notice:

  • Who is it that is not participating?
  • Who is it that is extremely quiet?
  • Who is it that avoids eye contact?

This is not a given that the kid has problems. They may be fully functional and intelligent. The point is that all kids need to be noticed. They need to know they matter. They want you to know their name.

This last point was driven home to me this week as I was tutoring a small group in reading. I called on one girl and she immediately said, “That is NOT my name.” I took a quick peek at my notes and it was indeed her name, so I asked her, “What IS your name?” She said, “That is how you say it in English, but not in Spanish.” I knew she was Spanish but it never dawned on me that she pronounced her name differently until she pointed it out. I apologized and assured her I would work on learning how to say her name correctly. No name is more important to a person than their own…especially if they are a child. If you learn to use someone’s name, it goes a long way in showing you care about them and value who they are.

My challenge to you is to take note of the camo kids and be intentional in getting to know them. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you discover, and the relationship you build with them may indeed be life-changing for both of you.


Dan Skognes

The Red Zone

Posted in Business, Motivational

The Red Zone dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educatorIn football, there is a thing called the red zone. It is the last twenty yards you have to cross in order to score your touchdown. It is by far the hardest part of the field to cross. In a way, it is a paradox. You are so close to your goal you can almost touch it, yet the opposition is so fierce within the red zone that many people are unable to score.

In life, the red zone is our comfort zone. At first glance, you may think, “That can’t be true.” Yet, I believe the comfort zone is the hardest zone of our life to break through. The reason is: fear is the imaginary barbed wire that surrounds the comfort zone. Everything we really want is on the other side: peace, joy, fulfillment, and reaching our goals.

If you are stuck in the red zone of life, how can you reach your goal?

  • If what you have been doing is not working, try a different strategy. Think about it this way. You are on the opponent’s twenty-yard line and you keep giving the ball to your star running back every play, and every time you do he gets crunched in the backfield. Does it make any sense to keep running that play and expecting a different outcome? You might get lucky and score, but the odds are not with you, particularly if the opposition knows your game plan. Have a plan b, c, and d if necessary.
  • You have to believe you can reach your goal if you ever expect to do it. Don’t allow negative people to keep you in the red zone. There are many people who don’t want you to succeed for a variety of reasons. Don’t listen to them. Have enough confidence in yourself and your team (if you have one) that you KNOW you are going to score. You just have to figure out the right strategy and do it.
  • Have a well thought out game plan BEFORE you start the game. Can you imagine going into a game without a playbook? Of course not. And yet…that is what people do day in and day out when it comes to playing the game of life. They just wing it, and that is usually a recipe for disaster. You have to think through what will and won’t work. You have to figure out what the cost is to reach your goal and anticipate opposition. You will get opposition from many sources, but the greatest opposition may very well be the voice in your head telling you, “This is never going to happen.” Take those thoughts captive and don’t let them take root in what you believe. Have a playbook and know it by heart, then implement.
  • Improvise when you have to. Just because you are stuck and the odds seem overwhelming at the moment does not mean you are going to get sacked again. Pivot and play. Watch the great quarterbacks and how they respond to pressure. When the pocket begins to collapse, they pivot and play. They either look for an alternate receiver or they find a hole in the line and run through it themselves. They keep their mind on the goal and their eye on the ball.

I pray that you find a way to reach the end zone and not let anything deter you from fulfilling your dreams.


Dan Skognes

Think Outside the Box

Posted in Business, Motivational

Think Outside the Box dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator

One of the great challenges we have as educators is to help kids think outside the box…to think creatively. Critical thinking does not come naturally for most people, but it can be learned.  Many kids and even adults get stuck with linear thinking and if it does not fit into the mold of how they think it should work, then in their mind it won’t work.

This is why I love riddles and kids love them too. It makes us think beyond the obvious and dig for clues as to how it could work. The Nine Dot Riddle is great for this purpose. You have to draw four straight lines without ever lifting your pencil and cross every dot. You literally have to think outside the box to do it.

I showed my kids at school the one below just to see if they could figure it out:

                                                           What has four letters

                                                           Never has five letters

                                                    And sometimes has nine letters

I am not going to tell you the answer. You have to figure it out!

I was pleasantly surprised that many kids figured this out themselves, and they are in 3rd grade!  Sometimes I wonder if I am smarter than a 3rd grader. LOL. These kids are not gifted and talented for the most part. There might be one or two in the class of 27 that fit into that category, and they DID get the answer first, but the rest are average or below average students and many of them got in on their own fairly quickly.

If you have not used riddles in your class to help kids develop critical thinking skills, try it. It works extremely well and the kids LOVE them. They were asking me if I knew anymore when they got this one right. I use riddles as a reward if they get their assignments done and everyone stays on task. There is a great sense of accomplishment that goes with figuring out something on your own, particularly if it is not readily apparent.  You can have them work individually or in pairs…or even in small groups if it is a challenging riddle.

Feel free to use this forum for exchanging riddle ideas…as long as they are appropriate for kids.


Dan Skognes