Podcast: How a House Fire and Burned Body Led to Profound Resilience

Don Keller and Betsy Keyes embody the definition of “resilience.” In 2010, a Denver house fire that destroyed their home also burned Don over 40 percent of his body. Working together, they came to a new understanding of resilience that transformed them and inspires others. This is their story.

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How to Earn Epic Customer Loyalty from a Total Stranger

There is a company I’ve never purchased anything from, yet I sing their praises to everyone I know. How did they earn such loyalty when I’ve never been a customer? They did something totally unexpected.

Colorado 2013 Black Forest Wildfire story

After the fire, (are you tired of hearing about this wildfire yet?) volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse gathered up the pieces to see what we could save. There wasn’t much left – mostly metal, melted glass and ash encrusted ceramic dishes.

Among them were coffee cups my Mom had given me which she bought at Goodwill. They were nested together in a metal mixing bowl at the bottom of a cupboard. Everything had to come crashing down from above when the timbers fell. And the heat was so intense it warped my cast iron skillet. Yet these little pinecone cups survived intact.

So my Mom cleaned them up, took a picture and sent it to the company whose name was printed on the bottom of the cups. She told them about the fire, how their cups had survived and how we all thought it was quite a miracle.

Weeks later, a package arrived on the doorstep at Mom and Dad’s house. Inside was a note from the Customer Service Manager saying how sorry they were for the loss and hoped their gift would replace a few of the items we needed.

Along with the note was a four-piece place setting of plates, bowls and cups identical to the one’s we’d lost. There was also a gift certificate for $50.00 and a Wild Wings catalog.

Wow! How very kind.

customer service training story by Laura Benjamin

Little do they know I now share this story at every customer service training program I do around the US. Money can’t buy that kind of PR. They deserve every bit of it.

When folks are under stress and struggling with circumstances beyond their control, an act of kindness goes a long way to form good feelings about a company. Don’t underestimate the impact of the small things you do for customers, guests and complete strangers.

The memory will last a lifetime.

P.S. Please share this article so the people at Wild Wings get the credit they certainly didn’t ask for, but definitely deserve.

What I Learned When My Home Burned in a Wildfire

On June 11, 2013, Colorado’s Black Forest Wildfire destroyed 507 homes, including mine. One day I had a house and the next day I didn’t.

Colorado motivational speaker, Laura Benjamin

One day you’re on stable ground and the next day you’re not. Can you relate?

Ever been through a change that rocked your world? Maybe it was personal or perhaps something happened at work.

I learned a few things from the fire, then spoke about it at a state human resources conference. Hopefully you’ll find value, inspiration and a few ideas from my speech, especially if you’re leading others through times of change:

A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner. –English Proverb

1. Gather a team to help you build a new future. I had help from folks at the Disaster Assistance Center, an architect, my builder, family and friends. You shouldn’t walk this path alone. People want to be there for you. If they ask how they can help, tell them you need information: articles, books, websites, names of people to connect with. You may not see the value right now, but you will before long.

2. Clear the “debris”. Too much clutter will not serve you well. Coco Chanel, the fashion designer said, “It’s in the act of deciding what to remove that we place value on what’s left behind.” So remove distractions that could cause overwhelm and then be cautious what you bring back into your life. Be choosy about how you spend your time and who you spend it with.

3. Expect emotion. At one of our fire recovery public meetings, the moderator kept repeating the words, “I know you’re frustrated.” Then someone from the back of the room shouted, “We’re not frustrated; we’re scared!” People do get scared, and they don’t usually name it as clearly as that person did. Stress hormones flood the system and hamper the executive, logical, decision-making part of the brain. Emotions pop up in ways you might not expect. Find a professional to help you cope.

4. Write a “breadcrumbs book”. This doesn’t need to be a full-fledged journal (although journaling is another excellent way to process change). It’s a bulleted list of things that happen, decisions you choose, people you meet with, payments you make, places you go. Date each entry. It’ll give you a handy reference tool to track a noteworthy event or look back to see just how far you’ve come.

5. Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in this for the long haul, so pace yourself. Adapting to a transition may happen gradually. No one expects you to bounce back immediately. Cut yourself slack and appreciate the small “wins” when they happen. Note them in your breadcrumbs book or journal. Studies show that people who look for things to be grateful for are better able to fight stress, anxiety and depression.

Some good will come of this. It may be hard to imagine, but good things have come from losing the house in the fire. We are rebuilding and will indeed rise from the ashes. And you will too!

(NOTE: I’m happy to share lessons learned from this story at your next conference or group meeting, so please feel free to contact me.)

Please forward this post. And share with us in comments, what tips have helped you get through times of trauma, transition and change?