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IN THIS ISSUE

COVER STORY

A SERVANT’S HEART

What do you find most memorable about people when you first meet them? Or, even before the formal introduction, when you first become aware of their presence in your social circle? In today’s world, the power of social media reminds every day of how we can be connected without ever having met or being aware of the connection. This is true of my initial connection with Alvin Shah….. 

The Spotlight Shines Brightly

Featuring Lifestyle Editor, Kerry Fitzpatrick

HOLIDAY LIFESTYLE

Sometime during the 1970s, I remember watching a movie with my family. It was a wonderful adaptation of the award-winning Broadway play, Fiddler on the Roof. The strong-willed pappa proclaims TRADITION trice and defines the valued traditions of his village in a memorable song-and-dance scene. Tradition, as pappa sang it, was the glue keeping his family and their society together.

Celebrating Leadership

Featuring Vignettes from 20/20 VSC Coaches

HOLIDAY TALES AND TRADITIONS

Tradition has presented itself as a theme for this issue of The Vision and we could not be more pleased. Here are a few of the 20/20 Vision coaches sharing their stories and traditions around the holiday season.

Forecasts and Foreshadows

Featuring Contributing Writer, Grant LaViale

MAKE THE WORST YEAR THE BEST YEAR

Life right now, I know it’s hard for many people. Even for those who seem to be holding up well, this new COVID lifestyle adds stress. Inside almost all of us is an added weight or anxiety because of the lifestyle of sacrifice we’ve had to endure and adapt to. The trauma of constant worry and fear is taxing on our mental health and our emotions.

Is there a solution?

The V Factor Column

Featuring Contributing Writer, Jenny Mason

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE…
A Midnight Mystery!

It was late, almost midnight. I was still typing away to finish up required work. Well, it was work I defined as necessary enough to keep me up late at night so I could stay ahead of it. Whether it was needed today was arguable, according to my husband.

Vision Partners in Success
Regular Features

Note from the Editor in Chief

I

n this edition of The Vision we are pleased to present a fun holiday message to close out what can only be described as a year for the record books. In the midst of a pandemic, and indeed following a schedule moved up because of pandemic, we launched The Vision and it’s sister the WWV Magazine and have presented to you each month since stories of hope and success from around the mortgage, finance, and real estate industry.

Be sure to read the cover feature about Alvin Shah, a powerful leader with a giving heart. We’ve included a fun parable in the V-Factor, and thoughts about holiday tradition in the Coaches ConnXion as well as a vibrant Holiday Lifestyle section from Kerry Fitzpatrick.

We hope you enjoy each of the features we’ve brought to you in these pages. We are already working on the next issue of The Vision, which will publish the first week in February, 2021. And of course, the first week in January, 2021, the Women With Vision Magazine will publish as well.

In the meanwhile, enjoy today’s issue and please share www.TheVisionMag.com in social media. Reach out and congratulate your peers who are honored in these pages. Tag them in your posts #thevisionmag and #2020visionforsuccesscoaching.

Message from the Publisher

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We find ourselves reflecting, perhaps more than ever before in our lives, about the stunning year we experienced in 2020. In ways too numerous to count, this year has lent us moments both remarkable and memorable.  2020 has forever changed how we view the world and also our lives and their fragility. Living in perpetual tragedy has taken effort to focus on remaining optimistic; to focus on areas and parts of both our business and personal lives we can control.

Speaking for my team and clients, I have remained, above all, amazed by what we have seen and done. Despite waking each morning dreading the day’s news, the human spirit remains inextinguishable. Truly, I am honored to bear witness to our ability to persevere and rise above these trying times. This is why I chose to be in the human business of coaching and consulting.

Thank you, readers, for the honor of bringing you these virtual pages in 2020. We have shared the best we saw while not overlooking the real challenges being faced daily. It is our intention to continue to be strong and ever more visible in 2021.

WRITE FOR US

Yes, we do accept submissions. If you are a writer interested in being featured in a national publication, we will be happy to consider your ideas and your article submissions. We are also interested in recurring columns centered around our featured topics. The place to start is by clicking the button and inquiring.

20/20 Vision for Success Coaching

LEADING WITH A SERVANT'S HEART

Written by: Christine Beckwith

W hat do you find most memorable about people when you first meet them? Or, even before the formal introduction, when you first become aware of their presence in your social circle? In today’s world, the power of social media reminds us every day of how we can be connected without ever having met or being aware of the connection. This is true of my initial connection with Alvin Shah. I recall seeing his magnetic smile pop up in my social media feed one day and becoming aware this was not the first time he had shared a post I’d written or responded to a fellow professional’s post with a thoughtful comment. His name, Alvin Shah, was also familiar to me, albeit we had never met.

From the day I became aware we were running in the same virtual social circles online, I resolved to pay attention and learn more about the man and his business. I was intrigued and asked quietly about him through mutual acquaintances. As often happens, a serendipitous event spurred an introduction via one of our 20/20 Master Coaches, Ana Maria Sanin. She knew us both, and she knew Alvin was looking for ways to acknowledge and encourage growth within his team. She also knew of the Women With Vision Award sponsored by 20/20 VSC and, having experienced it, she knew the strength of our women’s coaching division of the same name.

Ana Maria asked if she could arrange for us to speak on the phone and it did not take long for Alvin and me to recognize our kindred spirits. I quickly saw the strength in Alvin’s powerful presence coupled with his incredibly warm heart. We hit it off right away. Alvin said he knew of me in much the same way, being aware of our connection on social media.

As we continued speaking, Alvin shared his vision for his company, First Option, as a growing and thriving firm. It is because of the strength of his incredible and exceptional vision I selected Alvin Shah for the cover of The Vision magazine this month.

I have been fortunate in recent years to see his vision in action. I’ve watched as he, operating as a managing partner at First Option, has grown the volume and the trajectory of his firm with the help of his incredibly dedicated team of people. He is committed to the continued growth of his team, many of whom I am also now acquainted with through coaching. Alvin’s teams are on the move with no looking back and Alvin is solidly at the helm of his ship.

Equally impressive and at his side, is Kiran Shah, his beautiful wife and sales manager. These two strong and successful people, tied together through marriage, share a passion for our industry. It is apparent within five minutes to any watcher of the warm culture Alvin has imbued in First Option. His teams meet regularly, have fun, join in inclusive activities, and they are rewarded and recognized for their successes.

Alvin is leading a company on the rise and is attracting some of the industry’s greatest talent. This past year we saw Fobby Naghmi and Whitney Hall join First Option, two 20/20 VSC veterans who have added to First Option’s incredibly powerful sales management and originations teams, respectively.

Alvin has been in the mortgage industry since 2003, having joined the business by accident right out of college.

“I was handling a refinance for my dad and realized there is a lot of potential and opportunity in the business. I knew I had to learn from the ground up so I joined a mortgage brokerage as a processor. Within a few months I had moved into the originator role. While the opportunity was great, I felt like I needed to do more. I took a leap of faith and started my own brokerage, Capital Lending Group, in 2005.”

The next few years, beginning with the real estate market crash in 2007, taught valuable life lessons to the young entrepreneur. There were challenges and opportunity both in the chaos as the market adjusted. It became clear to Alvin the best move was to merge his brokerage with First Option Mortgage.

“This was the beginning of an interesting era. A couple years into the merger the opportunity to buy FOM presented itself. By this time, I had developed a love for the company and the people within the organization. It was an easy decision to become an owner in FOM. In the beginning, this was a lot of hard work. The company needed to transition from a refi consumer direct shop to a traditional retail organization.

I always tell people to be the best at what they do if they want to be successful. Today we have successfully made that transition and are well on our way to fund more than a billion dollars in annual volume at an incredible growth rate. The exciting part of this journey is we are just getting started.”

It makes perfect sense for Alvin to be in position to take business to a new level with First Option. Momentum is palpable and strategy is an incredible tool. Both are on the top of Alvin’s mind, right next to how to draw out the best from each person in his employ.

Alvin is not your average leader. As a coach, I generally suggest leaders take an active role in the coaching of their employees. Many leaders delegate this task. Alvin often pops in, attending routine coaching meetings, even on occasion sitting in for entire sessions, and actively speaking about what inspires him, the topic at hand, or engaging with the comments and ideas of his workers. This approach, this reachability for his people is key in the success of First Option and is the trait of the most successful leaders I have ever witnessed.

“My main goal in business is to help as many people as possible establish themselves in our industry. I know if I focus on my people, business will take care of itself. I believe there are smart people in this world. If I create a platform allowing people to do what they do well and make a great living within the mortgage industry I did my part. The best part of the business for me is our people.”

Another trait setting Alvin apart is his ability to invest in and take risk in his vision. Acting is hard to do and investing when risk is involved is often rejected by less poised leaders. Alvin is willing to do both. He sees the opportunity and acts on it. Coupling this ability with making lucrative investments in an expected ROI is what sets him apart from leaders who are risk averse and/or visionless.

“One thing is for sure. This business will continue to change. It’s important to know your surroundings and plan for the future. Our industry has never driven a straight road. For this reason, it’s important to continue building and keeping a lookout for the sharp turns. We are in a world of technological advances and data. We must embrace this and commit to implementing change. How we market is different, how we communicate is different, our verification process is changing, and if that isn’t enough, we just went through a year like 2020. Big piece of advice I would give is to learn from each other and stay ahead of where we are going.

First Option is in a great place right now. We have an amazing foundation, great culture, and wonderful people. We want to keep doing what we are doing by promoting the idea of giving back to the community as we continue to build ourselves. It is important we educate and give on all fronts.

In my eyes, education is extremely important. When I say education, I mean to always continue to learn. Regardless of what role you have within an organization, I believe you must keep learning and growing. Our business is not constant and it never will be. To excel in this business, it is critically important to continue to push yourself to become better.”

Alvin is as committed to having a successful family life as he is to help the people in his company to achieve and dream.

“The main goal in my life is to make sure my family and my kids are always in a great place. My dad came to America in the 70s with barely a high school degree. When it was all said and done, he had built an empire in real estate. His was truly the American success story of rags to riches.

I personally saw my dad go through the struggles to get to where he was. The dedication and determination he had made him get up every time he fell. He left that passion in me and I want to make sure I can do the same for my children.

We are a tight-knit family. Kiran and I are the two eldest siblings in both our respective families. We each have two younger siblings a piece. We also have two young boys, ages 11 and 9. We celebrate every holiday together in some capacity. My direct household is an extended family because my parents lived with us until recently when my dad passed away. My mom is still with us.”

Alvin and Kiran enjoy entertaining and traveling. With two young boys, it is important to them to take all opportunities to spend time together with them and keep a balance between work and home.

“Meeting new people and enjoying time with the ones I already know are what I enjoy the most. I believe it’s important to continue to learn at any capacity you can, to be the best at what you do.

We must not be scared to put ourselves out there. The universe will play its role where it can and reciprocate. I live by this rule and hope to teach this lesson to my boys; to always remember what’s important in your life. Give to others where you possibly can and be genuine.”

I’ve had the opportunity now to watch Alvin, his family, and his company for a long time. It is clear to me Alvin will achieve incredible success in his future. He is making all the moves to do so.

“The recession of 2007 was the worst market I had ever seen. It was worse for me because I was 27 years old and only four years in the business. As a young CEO, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. It was about survival back then and making sure every employee got a paycheck. Luckily, we lived through it and came out on top at the other end. The lessons learned that year shape my thought process even today.

Our industry doesn’t discriminate. You can be from any background to join the mortgage world. No one I know ever went to school to be in the mortgage business. We all somehow fell into it and found our way around. If you are willing to work hard and you find a mentor willing to teach you this industry can be yours on many fronts. Whether you are a salesperson, operations person, or administrative person, there is room for you to be a part of our business.

The other beautiful thing about the mortgage industry is it appreciates the entrepreneurial spirit. If you want to be responsible for your own future and are willing to work hard for it this is a great place to be. If you have what it takes to make it, this business will reward you tremendously.”

I asked Alvin to share his vision for success. He says it’s simple and easy, and I agree with him totally.

“Keep doing what I am doing and continue to get better at it. Keep helping other people accomplish their goals and in turn mine get accomplished. I want to have fun in life and continue to build myself to be the best version of who I can be. The rest will take care of itself.”

You can see Alvin is someone to follow! You can find Alvin on Facebook and LinkedIn!

About the Author

Christine “Buffy” Beckwith is an Award-Winning Executive Sales Leader who has spent the past 30 years in the Mortgage finance industry. Her life and career are filled with a progression of success stories that reach all the way back to her childhood. A Best Selling and Award-Winning Author, Christine branched out in 2018 to begin her dream job as the Founder and President of 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching & Consulting. After breaking glass ceilings in the Mortgage & Banking Industry, Christine now is a columnist for professional magazines and is a special correspondent anchoring the news and interviewing experts in her industry. She is an advocate for women, dedicating a complete division in her own company to the cause and communities she touches at a vast level.

Christine spends her days on the national speaking circuit, lecturing on topics focused on sharing her expertise in finance while highlighting her personal stories of inspiration and motivation to deliver both tactical and practical advice. Breaking mainstream in 2019, Christine has appeared on huge stages to speak, kicking off the year at the Miami Garden Stadium with Gary Vaynerchuk Agent2021 as the Real Estate Expert Panel Moderator. Among her many speaking engagements recently, she has spoken at the Anaheim Convention center in Los Angeles, The Hard Rock Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, and for multiple prestigious organizations and media companies.

Christine will tell you that writing, teaching, and speaking are at the core of who she is, and her legacy work she is committed to making a difference in the lives of professionals and youth everywhere.

Christine is a mother, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister & an aunt, a homemaker, and a lover of laughter, good health, home & heritage. She calls herself a happy human.

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TOC
SPECIAL HOLIDAY FEATURE

with Kerry Fitzpatrick

TOC

Sometime during the 1970s, I remember watching a movie with my family. It was a wonderful adaptation of the award-winning Broadway play, Fiddler on the Roof. The strong-willed pappa proclaims TRADITION trice and defines the valued traditions of his village in a memorable song-and-dance scene. Tradition, as pappa sang it, was the glue keeping his family and their society together. As the opening song for the musical comedy, Tradition! Tradition! Tradition! continues to be sung on screens and stages large and small more than 50 years since its opening.

For me, Tradition is more than a song and performance I enjoy. Tradition is everything when it comes to the holidays and my family.

The challenge with embracing tradition is having it pull back against change, it pulls back against technology, it pulls back against the demands on our time, and in many ways, tradition pulls back the reigns of progress. My kids often groan in frustration around this time of year saying, “Not this again,” and asking, “Do we have to?” Sometimes even Dad cajoles them to participate in a tradition. Still, in the end, I have found my commitment to tradition, especially during the holidays, cements my responsibility as the matriarch, and frankly, I DON’T CARE what they think. We will stick with our family’s TRADITIONS during the holidays!

How about you? What are the traditions you value and insist on keeping over the holidays? For this special Lifestyle Holiday Season feature in The Vision magazine, I offer these traditions from our family to yours.

Even though the date may be past, Thanksgiving is officially a part of our holiday season. Thanksgiving’s almost leisurely tradition is caramel apples. As soon as the leaves begin to change, our family spends an evening together melting chocolate and caramel to dip. We wrap and decorate our apples together. We create a beautiful inventory of attractive treats which coincidentally allows individual personalities to shine. We share the caramel apples with neighbors, teachers, and friends throughout the fall season. I guess, for me, I hope someone will remember our family not for the quick trip to ROSS for the emergency gift, but for the thoughtful tradition and decadence of homemade caramel apples.

  • To make the tradition extra memorable, drive to an apple orchard and pick your own fruit.
  • Buy a couple dozen medium-sized Ambrosia, Fuji, or Gala apples. For caramel coating, you do not want the largest apples!
  • Almost every grocery store has kits featuring pre-cut sheets of caramel with popsicle sticks.
  • You’ll need to softly stretch the precut sheet to cover as much apple as possible.
  • Buy up some additional chocolates for melting and drizzling over to create depth, texture, and hide the imperfections that are always present after wrapping the apple.

Toppings are an enjoyable part: Heath Bar Crunch is a family favorite, as are regular toffee, colorful sprinkles, and chopped nuts. This year’s new favorite was a surprising burst of color (my husband’s idea), rolling the chocolate bottom of the caramel apple in Fruity Pebbles, of all things.

 

The window between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my favorite time of year. We visit with neighbors and friends. We bring caramel apples to intimate gatherings. I make my children walk with me to visit neighbors we don’t know very well to wish a happy holiday season. And of course, we go armed with our traditional caramel apples, which are always a big hit!

Thanksgiving night is the official start of the holiday season at our house. It is met with the solemnity pomp and circumstance it deserves. Our season opens with a long-standing tradition of a visit from the elves.

After the turkey and gravy are safely stored away and most of the football has been watched, the sound of a jingling bell will be heard. No matter their age, faces smile and long looks are exchanged when the bell sounds. Anticipation is high. The elves have come and gone in secret, leaving a single present for each member of the family. Each will be wrapped in traditional holiday cheer with bells, ribbons, and candy canes. No matter where they might be in the house when the bell rings, adults and children alike run to the sound of the ringing bell, gathering around each other to open their presents and officially kick off the Christmas season.

As Christmas grows nearer, my children are required (yes, I said it, required) to build and decorate their own gingerbread house. These days the children are 18 to 25 years old and they still build and decorate one gingerbread house with grandma and grandpa present.

Around December 10th to the 15th, I send out the single (group text) asking, “What night do you want to do gingerbread houses?” Tradition calls for dinner together with the grandparents and after we clean up, I break out the ingredients for one gingerbread house per family member. Everyone sits around the kitchen, building and decorating and ribbing each other. My son makes a UM-themed house, my daughter might be guilty of adding an excessive number of icicles on her creation, and my husband’s house is always a clumsy, awkward mess, and it does not matter one whit what the houses look like. It’s about the sharing and tradition. The time we spend together warms my heart and is cherished by my parents, and truly enjoyed by all.

With gingerbread houses built and a dwindling supply of caramel apples, we turn our attention to giving. Each year we adopt a family in need, and again, I require our children to participate. Last year we asked the local elementary school to nominate a family in need, and we anonymously shopped, wrapped, and delivered a truckload as Santa’s little helpers. This tradition is humbling and creates an awareness of our good fortune. It helps my family to appreciate abundance and prosperity. The cherry on top is when, inevitably, one of my kids says, “I don’t need anything this year if you want to give more stuff to them.” This is when I well up with tears and know our tradition is the right thing.

My kids know Mom will listen to the Carpenter’s A Christmas Portrait. If it’s Christmas time, Karen Carpenter is going to be belting out holiday cheer at my house. Dad always comes in and requests Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas, and my 18-year-old son lip syncs Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. Music is an honorable tradition on its own, of course. It takes time and intentionality to make music a part of our daily lives during the holiday season.

Christmas Eve is a special night. We follow a tradition based on one established during my husband’s childhood by his beloved grandmother. After the family dinner was served and coffee and desserts were being enjoyed, Grandma Helen would bring a candle to each guest. With care and proper timing, each guest would light their candle and secure it with a drop of wax to its foundation (a saucer, a platter, or a tray). The candles would light the room, symbolizing the lifeline of each dinner guest. With a hint of morbidity, the candles would begin to burn down and represent the individual’s longevity. The person whose candle burns out first or last has the appropriate life span. I never really wrapped my brain around why Grandma Helen made it a competition for the duration of life on this planet, but the time we spend together, the warmth of the candlelight, and the camaraderie of grandma’s morbid little contest has been a Christmas Eve tradition since I started sharing it with his family.

I’ll end this holiday article with a bit of tradition envy. There’s one family tradition I wish had been mine. It is another from my husband’s life. Unlike Grandma Helen’s, this tradition celebrates relationships and the future. Any time during the year when I think about the lasting benefits of building and strengthening our relationships and the memories they create, this tradition comes to mind and it never fails to bring a tear to my eye. This tradition stands alone and is part of why I love my husband so much.

When the holidays are over and the gifts have been unwrapped, my husband takes his daughter on a trip. Every year on the 26th of December, he and his daughter leave for a few nights to go nowhere in particular. When she was eight years old, he took her to an old cabin in the woods with no television or internet. When she was eleven, he took her to Philadelphia to explore American History. When she was 18, he took her to a beachfront hotel in the Caribbean. A couple of years ago, they went camping in an RV. When she was 21, he took her to Nashville and a concert at the Grand Ole’ Opry. This year she is 22. I’m not sure where they will go, and certainly COVID will be part of the consideration.  The tradition stands. The two of them have been on a trip together every December 26th for 14 years.

I know I am a softy, especially around the holidays. These traditions fill me with joy and warmth and create a lump in my throat.

What are your traditions? These stories describe only a few of the many traditions we’ve created as a family over the years we’ve been together. Others include such fun activities as:

  • We start decorating on the same day EVERY YEAR
  • When the kids arrive home for the holidays, there is always a pecan pie waiting
  • We watch The Polar Express with grandparents EVERY YEAR
  • Cookies with cousins EVERY YEAR
  • Luminarias at the grand folks EVERY YEAR
  • Reindeer dust is thrown on Christmas Eve EVERY YEAR so the reindeer can find our home
  • We have been known to wrap each child’s present in the same, individual wrapping paper per child. Then no tags are necessary. The fun part is they spend the entire season guessing whose presents are whose!

My holiday wish for each of us is this: Create one tradition, just one. Choose one of ours. Come up with your own ideas. Just please do it. And then next year, do it again, and repeat EVERY YEAR. Your loved ones will thank you for giving the gift of tradition for many years to come.

About the Author

Everything Kerry touches turns to gold! Her proven Midas Touch is evident in raising five children through college. She has traveled extensively through Europe and the Caribbean. Kerry currently splits her time between residences in Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, and The Smokey Mountain region of North Carolina. Kerry is passionate about entertaining, fashion, and managing an incredible quality of life.

Kerry Fitzpatrick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in Administration from Nova Southeastern University. She worked as a first-grade teacher in a low-income school, spending her time and resources, giving back to her students, and making a significant impact on their lives. Wanting to make a bigger difference in the education of her students, Kerry would then advance to Administration.

Kerry had a desire to start a family. To fulfill this dream, Kerry resigned from the School Board. She was soon recruited to work in the residential Real Estate industry, where she found a spot in which she could express her unique vision for making a difference. She quickly became intoxicated by the struggling masses in the industry, noticing a void in pass-me-down wisdom. She recognized a palpable, if not desperate, need for education in residential Real Estate. Her Real Estate Brokerage quickly became known as South Florida’s Premier Teaching Training and Coaching Organization, offering live in-office coursework multiple times per week.

Kerry was instrumental in creating an education system inside of Exit Team Realty. The formula that Kerry made helped grow the brokerage to over 500 Associates. By 2004, Exit Team Realty, rooted in Kerry’s Vision for education first, had quickly become a RIS Media Power Brokerage (Top 300 Brokerages in the U.S) and was twice featured as a National Company to Watch in residential Real Estate.

In 2009 Kerry launched a broader, subscription-based online education center known as Associate Worx. The fee-based broadcast followed Kerry’s Agent education formula and immediately went viral among Real Estate Brokerages and the Agents they served. Mortgage Bankers began to seek Kerry out to sponsor and be featured in the Realtor Broadcast phenomenon. One bank offered a statewide exclusive relationship that was white-labeled AEM WORX in Florida, Missouri, North Carolina; Academy Home Mortgage Worx in Utah and Colorado; Southeast Mortgage Worx in Georgia; AmeriFirst Worx in Texas and Oklahoma, and finally AnnieMac Worx in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

AnnieMac Home Mortgage built a Realtor Centric Culture in the Mortgage Industry, and they made it around Kerry Fitzpatrick’s AnnieMac Worx Productivity Platform. AnnieMac negotiated an exclusive white label that dramatically affected recruitment and productivity for their Mortgage Professionals in 32 states.

Today, Kerry runs AnnieMac Worx, The My Worx Suite Technology Solution for Realtors centered in education and pass-me-down best practices in residential Real Estate.

SPECIAL HOLIDAY FEATURE
HOLIDAY TALES AND TRADITIONS

Written by: 20/20 VSC Coaches

Tradition has presented itself as a theme for this issue of The Vision and we could not be more pleased. Here are a few of the 20/20 Vision coaches sharing their stories and traditions around the holiday season.


Ray Befus, Executive Coach

I’ve grown up and grown old in the Christian faith. The Christmas story has grounded my life. I’ve never come across another story like it—the story of how mankind’s Creator would so care for us he would invade our world, wrapped in humanity, to identify with us, to reveal to us what he is really like (not what we’ve heard or we’ve feared), and to do for us what we could not do for ourselves is unique and amazing.

In my work as an executive coach, I often think of the Christmas story when I invade my clients’ worlds with unexpected kindness and uncommon directness to help them uncover their blind spots, take responsibility for the results they are seeing (instead of blame-shifting), make the bold decisions they’ve feared to make, and take strong steps into an unprecedented future. No, I’m not God, but I hope to be an echo of his love and grace in my clients’ lives.

I think I’m at my best when my own work reflects the wonder and joy of the Christmas story. Occasionally when a woman or a man I’ve been coaching turns to me with a big smile and deep appreciation after a significant breakthrough, I look them in the eyes, smile back, and reply, “Merry Christmas!”

 

Christine Beckwith, Master Coach

Every year my family sits around the table after our holiday meal and assembles Blessing Bags. This is a long-standing tradition my parents used to teach us values around caring and giving.

We each fill one-gallon Ziploc® plastic bags with toiletries and nonperishables for the homeless. We preprint little cards or slips of paper with a prayer and slip it into the bag along with five, one-dollar bills. As you might expect, we include essential comfort items like socks, toothpaste, toothbrush, comb and brush, soap, deodorant, hand sanitizer, and tissues. Goodies for the tummy include crackers, cookies, and canned meats (the kind with peel back tops so no opener is needed). We top off each bag with a face cloth, a lighter, a small candle, a few mints, and a list of contact information for the local homeless shelters.

This is a family event from beginning to end. Once the bags are filled, we divide the bags amongst our families. We’ve come to know what works and does not work for delivery, and we place the filled bags in open boxes for placement in our cars. This way, when we see the homeless, we can easily and quickly pass one or more bags through the rolled-down car window.

We keep giving them away until they are gone. For some, it is a small gift, a little more during the holidays. We believe offering a well-planned goodie bag is a better gift than money alone. I think it’s a more caring and helpful gift and is, we hope, well used by someone who needs those items.


Ruth Lee, Senior Leader Succession Coach

The holidays are foundational for me. Whether I am getting to know a niece or nephew who has transitioned from childhood or singing by the piano (because we do sappy, corny things during the holidays), or sneaking another fudge and Almond Roca (because calories aren’t what I count during the holidays), these are days and times of family renewal and growth.

My brothers and I hold a Varnado Roast of Mom and Dad and memorialize the crazy antics of our childhood holidays. One of my favorites is the year Mom was running naked in the front yard after she burnt our kitchen to the ground frying up ham hocks meant to be added to every vegetable for Christmas dinner (caveat-we are Southern).

Another great roastable event was when Dad, the reigning world’s worst gift giver, gave my brother a guitar instead of a boombox. If you remember the 80s, the irony of the gift will be obvious. Thannnnnnkkkkks Dad.

Then there was the annual careening through the streets of Baton Rouge with Mom putting on her hose in the front seat and licking my brother’s hair into place while we tried to make Midnight Mass before the homily.

There is one year the holiday sparkles above the rest.

As a little backstory, I opened a mortgage company in Austin, Texas when I was 26. Mom and Dad moved to Texas after a lifetime in Louisiana because I needed help. Who knew a 26-year-old CEO would know absolutely nothing about being an executive? I still believed in Santa for goodness sake. Mike moved to Austin, too, when he left the service to learn the business from me and soon after asked me to marry him. We’d been friends since high school, I’d even gone to his first wedding (with a date), and now I was going to marry my best friend. It was a lot to celebrate and we were happy.

The holidays loomed quickly not long after our engagement. My husband and my mother had developed a strong relationship, and he wanted all of us to make a holiday visit to his mother and father’s home just south of Raleigh, North Carolina. We arrived in typical Varnado style with 50 pounds of seafood and a lot of noise. Mrs. Lee had laid out a huge spread of her favorites, but she was open to letting me and my mother takeover her kitchen for one evening. And let me just say, we brought some Louisiana awesome to Four Oaks, North Carolina. It was a meal for the books.
Mrs. Lee had her home decorated to the hilt. Every corner was merry and bright. In the Varnado house, family could be counted on to drop by often. My mother is a Gonzalez with ten brothers and sisters. Cumbias, gin and tonics, and often the slaughter of some poor goat was the norm. You just can’t make it up.

However, in the Lee home the holidays were celebrated by an intimate gathering of family. We congregated to polish the silver and the crystal and to sing by the piano after reading from the Bible at dinner. It was seriously like a Norman Rockwell painting.

During our time in North Carolina, the women found themselves alone in the kitchen, as women do, and we started talking about our lives and getting to know the new family on both sides. At one point, my mother, in a rare show of emotion, shared her experience with her in-laws. As a Catholic Mexican American woman marrying a Southern Baptist Cajun, her in-laws were unenthusiastic at best.

Holidays were about exclusion not inclusion. In tears, Mom looked at Barbara and said, “I’ve always prayed my daughter would marry into a family that loved her.”
The shiny red bow on this memory came during the rehearsal dinner, where my soon-to-be mother-in-law on the way to the dais leaned over and said, “This is for you Rosie.” She locked eyes with my mother as she read from the Book of Ruth on the relationship of Naomi and Ruth.

“Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Pretty humbling right? I rejoice in my triple helping of blessings at the holidays; my family, my husband, and my in-laws, although I might give up one of them for some of that Almond Roca. Just sayin’.

Jenny Mason, Peak Performance Coach

One of my favorite holiday memories was the Christmas season of 2001. It was much more than a typical holiday season. My family was working a project in the Washington D.C. area. It was right after September 11th and we seriously considered if it would be best to cancel, but we really could not cancel and, looking back, today I’m thankful we saw it through.

D.C. was a ghost town and had an eerie feel to it the winter of 2001. I clearly remember the unity felt across our country and how strong was our pride to be an American.

One of the reasons we kept the contract for the project was because my dad planned to spend three weeks with us over the holidays. My dad was a huge history buff, especially for the Civil War. When I was a kid, he took me all over the country on tours of battlefields and historical sites. He always detoured when we drove south each year when all I cared about was getting to Florida!

As I grew older, I felt bad for being selfish as a child and I wanted to have this time to spend with him, even knowing we would be touring the historical sites. I wanted to do this with him, especially that year. Our daughter’s sixth birthday (five days before Christmas) was that year. With my father leading the way, we visited Mount Vernon where George Washington lived. It was delightful. We drove through the nighttime Christmas light display at the Battle of Bull Run. We toured all the Smithsonian museums and the zoo. We walked every battlefield in the area, listening to his stories and watching him hold our little girl’s hand. Their laughs, their silences, and their reflections were contagious. From Gettysburg to Manassas to Fredericksburg to Petersburg, we toured our country’s civil war history finishing at Appomattox where the war ended.

Walking those fields as a family made history come alive in a way it never had for me before. It left a profound impact on all of us to see, feel, and fully realize the cost paid for our gift of freedom, to be a nation united again. I think this year more than ever I am thankful to have the memory.

From Candy Zulkosky, Writing, Tech, and Marketing Coach

One of my more memorable holiday seasons AND one that provided interesting lessons, was the year I met my husband’s family for the first time. Well, to be clear, it was the year I met them as someone officially dating their sweet baby boy (who was at the time a seasoned 28-year-old retired sailor).

I knew the family. His youngest sister was one of my best friends in school. Even though I’d been around as Susie’s friend for years, I did not meet him until the summer between grade 11 and my senior year of high school. It was a lovely summer day in August. I walked up the driveway to pick up Susie for a trip to the mall. He was by the garage working on his motorcycle. Was it a magic moment? It was a Hallmark moment for both of us. By November, we were solidly a couple and decided it was time to tell his family. For all those months, Susie had been the only person who knew we were dating.

A little background is in order here. My family is not big on traditions and is not big, in general. While I have many cousins, my parents were teens when my brothers and I were born, so truly they were children raising children. We were literally dirt poor (we lived in a car for the first two years of my life—a spotlessly clean car, but still it was not a home). Billy was one of six siblings, all but one of whom when we met was an adult raising their own families, two with six kids each of their own! The Zulkosky family was huge and their traditions even bigger. Enter lil’ ol’ me and prepare for culture shock.

I was officially invited to the family Thanksgiving celebration.

I remember dressing in my best go-to meeting clothes. I remember being so nervous I didn’t even leave my chair in the living room except to go to the table when dinner was ready. I remember everyone being nice, and I remember the pockets of conversation I saw going on just out of my earshot that were clearly discussions with Billy about his child date. Eleven years was a big age gap made even more challenging by the friendship I had with his youngest sister, obviously his parent’s afterthought child.

The day was not a disaster, nor would I count it a success. I was so uncomfortable I left once in tears to walk home, but he talked me into staying. We even followed the family tradition of going to his older sister’s home for a second dessert. She would become a close friend in coming years, but what I remember most about my first visit to her home that day was the plastic covers on all her furniture in the living room!

Of course, the holiday season includes another holiday. I thought for sure I’d nail it come Christmas. After all, I was experienced now. I had the feel for the family dynamic. I knew who was who. During the month leading up to Christmas Eve and Christmas day, when the first of three family parties took place, I did a lot of shopping for presents to put under the trees (and wasn’t that a shock?!). Everybody received presents. I went from buying for my parents and two brothers to buying for an additional set of parents, five siblings and 16 of their children.

I’d been horribly overdressed at Thanksgiving so I planned a less formal attire for Christmas. I bought a new pair of jeans and considered myself ready. I knew the moment I walked into the backdoor my strategy had misfired. Everyone was dressed in clothes just shy of formal wear. I covered well, grabbing an apron and ensconcing myself in the kitchen to help. That was the second part of my strategy; no more wallflower sitting uncomfortably on a chair in the living room with the men watching a football game I didn’t really care about anyway. This clan was firmly a matriarch and if they were going to reject me, it would be to my face and with me in their faces.

Of course, there never was any chance they would reject me. The Zulkosky family, once they were over the shock of Billy choosing someone so much younger, embraced me as a full member. To this day, years after our marriage ended and even after Billy passed on nearly a year ago, I consider all those nieces and nephews family. Maybe we don’t see each other and they’ve all grown up and have their own lives, but I guarantee you this, the holiday traditions we shared then are being carried on in their own families and will continue, changed somewhat by circumstances and time, yet unabated.

Traditions shared create bonds that don’t break, even through time and distance. Memories hold and practices continue. To this day, Christmas Eve is a dress-up celebration for me, with or without midnight services, even if I’m alone. And Christmas Day is about family and reaching out to as many as possible, even if it’s only on Facebook or Zoom.

About the Authors

Ray Befus has spent his entire career in leadership development. He’s folded this lifetime of experience into his coaching enterprise—HIGHPOINT Training and Coaching. He is a member of the International Coaching Federation and now serves as one of 20/20 Vision for Success’ adjunct coaches. In his own work, he continues to provide executive coaching for professionals, business leaders, and their teams both nationally and internationally—helping clients overcome self-doubt, reclaim their best selves, and rise to their next level. Ray lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he enjoys life with his wife Carol, four married children and thirteen grandchildren. When he’s not coaching and training, he enjoys motorcycling, playing guitar, and camping.


Ruth Lee is a well-known, highly published industry expert on mortgage operations, compliance, servicing, and technology. Having built and sold two companies in the mortgage industry, one a mortgage lender out of Austin and one a mortgage services firm out of Denver, Ruth offers a unique perspective on the marriage of sales, operations and overall business growth. Ruth graduated from Future Mortgage Leaders in 2007 and most recently co-authored the MBA’s Best Practices in Servicing Transfers. Ms. Lee seeks every opportunity to consult and counsel on the practical implementation and impact of operational, regulatory and legislative changes.
Ms. Lee holds a B.A. in Economics from Mount Holyoke College. She resides in Lakewood, CO with her husband Mike, black lab Ned and two cats, Jefferson and Adams. Winter months find her and Mike riding every peak they can find.


Jenny Mason is a regular contributor to The Vision and the WWV Magazine. See more about Jenny after you read her fanciful contribution, A Midnight Mystery, later in this issue!


Christine Beckwith, to regular readers of this magazine, needs no introduction. As the COO, Founder, and Master Coach for 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching, she contributes each month to this magazine as the Publisher and an active author and contributor. If you missed her profile of Alvin Shah in the cover story of this issue, please go back and read it. A more formal version of her bio is found at the end of the cover story.


Candy (CaZ) Zulkosky, known as the Writer Success Coach, wears many professional hats all gained through experience as a professional writer, editor, coach, marketer, educator, and entrepreneur. She is the Editor in Chief of this magazine, The Vision and its sister publication, the WWV Magazine.

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The Best year and the Worst Year, which Will it Be?

Written by: Grant La Viale

Life right now, I know it’s hard for many people. Even for those who seem to be holding up well, this new COVID lifestyle adds stress. Inside almost all of us is an added weight or anxiety because of the lifestyle of sacrifice we’ve had to endure and adapt to. The trauma of constant worry and fear is taxing on our mental health and our emotions.

Is there a solution? Perhaps not a solution as much as finding coping strategies that provide relief.

I believe we must take it easy on ourselves and on those around us. Have compassion and patience for yourself and for others. Consider what you are enduring and what others are enduring. Show grace for yourself and for those around you.

We’re in this together. We strive to make it, one day at a time, while navigating through a new way of life; a life both unnerving and uniquely different from what we’ve known. It is going to be ok, because we have it in us to grow and succeed and make it through this entire ordeal.

“Rainbows only come after some rain, but the sun will surely shine again.” -Grant La Viale

Consider this: What’s viewed as the worst year ever could also be viewed as the best year ever.

Think of this as the year we were forced to accept things and let go of control.

Embrace this as the year we were forced to be more present in the moment for ourselves and those we interact with.

Implement this as the year we were catapulted into growth and acceptance.

Make this the year we proved to ourselves we can get through anything.

Choose to see this as the year we showed up for ourselves and accepted the losses and pushed through anyway.

This is the year we looked in the mirror to see the strong and mighty people we are. 2020 is the year of self care and self love. It is the year of tolerance and compassion. Let’s agree to look at 2020 (as hard as it may be at times) as the Glass is Half-Full year. Let’s turn our backs on the half-empty viewpoint.

This is the commitment I’ve made and I admit I struggle with this at times, as will you. And it’s perfectly ok. We’re all human. What’s important is to keep positive thoughts and perceptions flowing and keep reminding, and proving to yourself, how caring and how strong you are. Integrity, sincerity, compassion, and kindness are your most powerful tools.

You are your own superhero. Keep pushing through and growing and overcoming. Together, we can (and WILL) get through this.

About the Author

Originally born and raised in New York, moved from Northern California to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB and never left. Married and the father of three children has taught me many things. In my free time, I enjoy going to the gym in the early morning, going to the movies with my wife and family, and golfing with clients and friends.

I truly enjoy what I do and believe it’s the people and leadership that separates us and strengthens us, based on my experience in both the Mortgage and Banking Industry. It’s important to have a positive work culture and support structure in place, especially during difficult periods. I am committed to ensuring our clients and referral partners have only the best experience and advice possible.

I am a Non-Producing Area Manager working with Sales Managers and Loan Advisers for the Central Coast and Desert Communities who live by Integrity and Sincerity.

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This is the iconic opening of the classic Christmas poem written by Clement Clarke Moore. If you have not read it recently in full, we encourage you to grab a book, or follow this link to the full text online. Share it with your family and friends. And please do enjoy this slightly tongue in cheek parable written by regular contributor, Jenny Mason. ~Editor’s Note

A MIDNIGHT MYSTERY

Written by: Jenny Mason

It was late, almost midnight. I was still typing away to finish up required work. Well, it was work I defined as necessary enough to keep me up late at night so I could stay ahead of it. Whether it was needed today was arguable, according to my husband.

Mostly, I tune out the world when I settle in for a late evening work session. I turn down or off the usual background music I play, and today was no exception. It was a chilly winter night, calm and silent except for the tap, tap, tap of my keystrokes.

Suddenly, an odd sound intruded. It was low and jangly, like the sound of distant, rattling chains. I listened a moment then shook it off, turning back to my keyboard. I remember thinking I must be getting rummy from working too long. My focus narrowed back to the words dancing across the computer screen. Soon I realized the odd sound had not stopped. It was louder and closer and escalating rapidly, intensifying to the point where it pulled me away from my screen to investigate.

As I turned my head to peer out my window, squinting and blinking my eyes to see into the darkness away from the blue glare of my computer screen, I saw outside my window what looked like a pile of chains made up of heavy links crusted together and bound by rusted locks.

I rubbed my eyes hoping to remove the image but when I opened them wide and pushed my glasses up the bridge of my nose, instead of being gone, the rusty chains were clearer and more defined. I could read the word STRESS engraved in the links of one chain and OVERWHELM in another’s links. A third chain’s links were filled with the word UNSATISFIED.

As I watched, puzzled and a bit dazed, three large keys rolled off the top of the pile to rest in front of the locked chains. This time I REALLY rubbed my eyes, and I looked around to see if one of my kids were punking me or maybe just to be sure I was still sitting in my well-worn desk chair. In the reflection of the window glass, I caught a glimpse of myself slightly out of focus. I grinned a bit at my expression of both intrigue and puzzlement. Whatever was happening, I was hooked and would keep watching.

I took the sleeve of my sweater and wiped the window glass clear, scooting my wheeled chair closer to the scene unfolding outside. It was then I noticed each key had a word inscribed as well. One said RELATIONSHIPS, one said BALANCE, and a third said SELF-CARE.

Suddenly I felt whopped in the head as my mind connected the keys and the locks! Stress…Relationships. My breath, when I breathed again, fogged the windowpane. I reached out and drew an exclamation mark on the glass as my thoughts reviewed this last year. Had I allowed myself to steer off track? It had been a crazy, stressful year. Had I allowed it to control me instead of me taking control?

I thought about my relationships and how I let the busyness of work and social distancing excuses put personal and professional connections on the back burner. Relationships need the investment of time to nurture. I realized many nurturing habits had been dropped or pushed aside. When did I stop reaching out with a note, a call, or a text to see how my business contacts were doing? I had stopped asking what they need and how I could be of support to them, not asking for business, rather simply letting each one know their value to me. As for my family, I felt a palpable thud deep in my gut as I realized how much I had pushed them aside, working even during family time when they (and I!) deserved nothing less than undistracted, quality time.

Before my mind spun into the abyss of regret, the second key moved, catching my eye, and drawing my attention to the word BALANCE written across the chain and lock. I felt dizzy (maybe because I had no idea how the key moved?) as I realized how lopsided I had allowed my life to become. My eyes opened wide as I considered how far outside of my core values I was operating. I had lost sight of my center, let fear gain an insidious control, and used work as an excuse. How had I let this happen, I wondered? I moved my thoughts immediately into solutions. I need to take control. I need to hand off tasks which can be done by another, finish the hardest jobs first, create a plan, and prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! My day must have a start time and a stop time, and I must respect both as well as make time for the people at the core of my business and personal life.

A piercing noise brought my attention again to the keys and locked chains. As I watched, the third key, Balance, dragged by some invisible force, scraped across the sidewalk, and came to rest against the Self-Care lock. Positioned firmly under the streetlight, the shiny golden key reflected my own image back to me. I saw the stress lines, the bags under my eyes, the once upward smile turned into a downward frown. The reflection of a once robust woman was empty and gray, lacking energy. The eyes, often complimented for their intense twinkle and liveliness, appeared dim and far away.

The shock of seeing myself reflected in such a miserable mirror pushed open a mental window and images raced through my mind.

I was starting my days with the world pulling from every way as I clinch the phone in my hand while waking the kids, making breakfast, responding to yet another work email, scanning a news story, writing a work text, accepting I’ll have no time to exercise this day, choosing to grab take-out food, staying glued to my desk hour after intense hour.

The image continued to play out in my head through countless days, repeating and spiraling out of control, and forming a silent self-destructing tornado.

“ENOUGH!!” I shouted, standing in defiance as I recognized I have the power to choose. I can unlock those chains.

I will run my day. I will take control rather than let the day control me. I will set the alarm and rise a little earlier. I won’t smash the alarm and go back to sleep. I will not start reviewing items on my phone first thing every morning. Instead, I will write two gratitude affirmations to start my day. No phone for at least 30 minutes after my feet hit the floor. I will take those 30 minutes for me. Maybe exercise, maybe read, maybe journal, and maybe pray. Then I will take the next 15 minutes and make my plan for the day knowing my head is in the game and I’m in control. Every day I will be stronger, happier, and able to pour out value and goodness to my family, clients, workers, and friends.

As I looked on in amazement, the keys turned in unison in the three locks. The chains dropped to the pavement, melting away like a snowman after a spring thaw.

I realized I had been entrapped in a world of my own making. My eyes, perhaps for the first time in several years, were open. My vision restored. My foundation strengthened and my focus was solidly on my core. I felt free and full of vitality!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge, and the amazing Tiny Tim, “God Bless Us Everyone!”

About the Author

Jenny Mason is a regional business development manager with Movement Mortgage. She is 100 percent a servant leader, building relationships, encouraging people, igniting passions, and adding value for all. Jenny is passionate about encouraging, serving, and inspiring people to overcome their limiting beliefs, to reach for the sky, excel still more, ascend still higher, and live life more abundantly personally and professionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually!

Jenny is one of the many incredible Coaches at 20/20 VSC.

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MORTGAGE X PODCAST

NO BS Allowed: Watch Your Blindspots with Matthew Boyce

On this episode Matthew Boyce, of Garden State Home Loans, joins Christine and Frazier to have a no BS talk about what MLOs are leaving on the table. Matthew talks about how MLOs are sacrificing relationships for the low hanging fruit and ignoring one of their most important assets, which is their customer database.

Christine Beckwith of 20/20 Vision for Success Coaching and Jason Frazier of Mortgage X Creative bring you the Mortgage X Podcast. Guests range from visionaries working hard to evolve our industry to meet the needs of the modern consumer to the industry’s biggest producers, advocates, legends, thought leaders, partners, and lenders.

When I’m thinking about branding, Superman really was one of the best branders out there.

VONKDIGITAL

Learn how Vonk Digital can help you leverage the New Way to build your brand, authority, and credibility with our website platform and tools. Visit us at www.vonkdigital.com

Read this vlog episode, if you prefer, on the Vonk Digital blog!

Vonk Digital, an industry leader in website and marketing tools for mortgage originators across America, is a proud sponsor and hosting partner of The Vision Magazine.

When planning for the future of my company, these are the leaders I want to follow. Each brings something extra to the table to fill all gaps.

Recently an annual industry event was born. In a three hour virtual meeting using the Zoom platform, these amazing industry leaders outlined a step-by-step plan for business growth and success. The video is far too large to include in this magazine as a live video. However, it is available from YouTube here:

What’s the Big Deal? 

20/20 VISION FOR SUCCESS COACHING

Have you checked out the 20/20 VSC website lately? Our dynamic, talented, and experienced coaches have their own page! Visit www.visionyoursuccess.net/coaches to read all about this amazing team.

The words 20/20 Vision for Success are not in the name of this company by accident. Coaching is about building a foundation for results and knowing how to step into action based on that foundation. Turning vision into reality requires trust that the bedrock beneath the vision is sound. Coaching with 20/20 Vision begins by building and strengthening your foundation and ensures that, as coaching progresses, you and the 20/20 team behind you remain focused on the vision for success.

Fourteen of the highest-ranking women executives in the banking industry join forces to provide a real and raw documentary of their journeys towards success in a never before written book- ‘Win or Learn’ The Naked Truth.

The collective power of these leading ladies in this industry moves the needle in the banking industry, breaking glass ceilings, running multi billion dollar companies from the helms of their respective companies, leaders, teachers, sisters bonded by journeys that were carved on the un-broken ground and then cemented paths behind for those who follow. These writers are determined to change the narrative for their up and comers behind them. 

The legacy of mentorship for these women is written in stone with ‘Win or Learn- The Naked Truth’ for decades to come. Powerful, purposeful, moving words written by women who trudged their paths in silence for decades finally release the words that will change a generation to come. 

RECOMMENDED READING

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