People Who Inspire Me: Arun Lai


I’m not going to date myself by telling you when, but let’s just say Arun and I met many years ago in a Dale Carnegie sales course. Yes, that’s right, I took a course on how to sell myself – a skill I admittedly still have yet to master. I don’t remember a whole lot about the lessons from the sessions, but what I do remember are the people who I met there. One in particular…Arun Lai.

At the time Arun was in sales at Clear Channel. Today he is a financial advisor through AXA Advisors LLC.

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to have gotten to know Arun, you can understand why he is someone you don’t want to easily forget.  While soft spoken, he is a natural leader who inspires people just by being him. Arun is one of the most genuine, kind hearted people I have ever met. In his professional and personal life, his intellect is equaled by his integrity. The more people I meet who also know him, the more people I hear describe him in the same way.

Just some of his philanthropic activities including serving as president of the Covington Rotary Club, a board member of Central Clinic, and vice chair of the board of the Masonic Learning Center for Children Inc.

I asked Arun a few questions about himself.

Talk a little about your philosophy on why it is important to be genuine and lead your life with integrity.

It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, which can be torn down in a heartbeat. First and foremost I recognize that I am as human as the next person, and not a Spiritual Giant. Integrity to me means being ever-present in the moment, admitting my character flaws, and asking for them to be removed. Additionally, admitting when I am wrong, and promptly making amends wherever possible. In the hands of the Master Sculptor, I can hope that if I am able to ask for His care and protection on a daily basis, the rough spots will be chiseled away, and what remains at the end of my life will be fitting of a tribute to my Creator.

 Of what are you most proud of in your life?

The three C’s. My Character, Caliber and Competence


Arun provides financial products and services to individuals and small businesses, including asset allocation strategies, retirement funding, and estate planning strategies, annuity products, life insurance products, and mutual funds. Securities products and services are offered through AXA Advisors, LLC.  To learn more about him, please visit his site at

Character Council Laying The Foundation For Community Success


Character…it starts with me.

That’s the tag line for a Cincinnati nonprofit, the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, that is all about building positivity among children and adults in schools, religious congregations, businesses, families, and communities.

Building and strengthening character traits… what a great reason for an organization to exist!

Last year alone, more than 371,000 people were impacted with its message of good character. Among its strategies: the Council has trained and provided educational materials to more than 1000 Cincinnati police officers, employees of more than 60 local businesses, and more than 1200 local educators on promoting positive values; and offers presentations and information to the general community on good character.

Signing up as a ‘Businesses of Character’ means your company agrees to follow a four-step process to consciously create a culture in which good character is valued, promoted, taught, expected, and rewarded so that it becomes a platform for achieving company goals.

Westwood School is a ‘School of Character.

In 2009 staff of this Cincinnati Public School came to the Council when their students were showing a lack of respect for authority and brought anger into the classroom. At the time only 20% of parents were engaged in their children’s school activities.

Great for the community that educators wanted to be proactive. Westwood School became a ‘School of Character’ and worked with the Council in launching a comprehensive plan that promoted good character, addressed the root causes of behavior issues, and gave staff the tools they needed to succeed. Within its first year, teachers were already reporting less fighting and disciplinary referrals to the principal’s office declined 24%.

The organization is about to adopt its fourth CPS school and this summer it rolled out character education programs in ALL 26 Cincinnati Recreation Centers collectively serving about 2500 kids.

Flexibility: a willingness to change plans or ideas without getting upset.

If you are on Council’s email list or visit its website, you’ll be familiar with this trait. The word is the August ‘trait of the month’ and the organization offers ‘I will’ statement suggestions for putting those traits into motion. It is just one of the tools the Council offers to support community efforts to build positive energy.

And I’m all for positive energy!

To learn more about the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, please click here to visit their website.



The Sandpiper, A Reminder To Appreciate Life & Eachother


This came to me in an email. It is a true story with such an important lesson that I needed to share it.


The Sandpiper
by Robert Peterson

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me.  She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

‘Hello,’ she said.

I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child.

‘I’m building,’ she said.

‘I see that.  What is it?’  I asked, not really caring.

‘Oh, I don’t know, I just like the feel of sand..’

That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes.

A sandpiper glided by.

‘That’s a joy,’ the child said.

‘It’s a what?’

‘It’s a joy.  My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy.’

The bird went gliding down the beach.  Good-bye joy, I muttered to myself, ‘hello pain’, and turned to walk on.  I was depressed; my life seemed completely out of balance.

‘What’s your name?’  She wouldn’t give up.

‘Robert,’ I answered.  ‘I’m Robert Peterson.’

‘Mine’s Wendy… I’m six.’

‘Hi, Wendy.’

She giggled.  ‘You’re funny,’ she said.

In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me.

‘Come again, Mr. P,’ she called.  ‘We’ll have another happy day.’

The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and an ailing mother.  The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater.  I need a sandpiper, I said to myself, gathering up my coat..

The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me.  The breeze was chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.

‘Hello, Mr. P,’ she said.  ‘Do you want to play?’

‘What did you have in mind?’ I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

‘I don’t know.  You say.’

‘How about charades?’  I asked sarcastically..

The tinkling laughter burst forth again.  ‘I don’t know what that is.’

‘Then let’s just walk.’

Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face.
‘Where do you live?’ I asked.

‘Over there.’  She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.

Strange, I thought, in winter.

‘Where do you go to school?’

‘I don’t go to school.  Mommy says we’re on vacation.’

She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things.  When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic.  I was in no
mood to even greet Wendy.  I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home.
‘Look, if you don’t mind,’ I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, ‘I’d  rather be alone today.’  She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

‘Why?’ she asked.

I turned to her and shouted, ‘Because my mother died!’ and thought, “My God, why was I saying this to a little child?”

‘Oh,’ she said quietly, ‘then this is a bad day..’

‘Yes,’ I said, ‘and yesterday and the day before and — oh, go away!’

‘Did it hurt?’ she inquired.

‘Did what hurt?’ I was exasperated with her, with myself.

‘When she died?’

‘Of course it hurt!’ I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself.  I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there.  Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door.  A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.

‘Hello,’ I said, ‘I’m Robert Peterson.  I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.’

‘Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in.  Wendy spoke of you so much. I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you.  If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies.’.’

‘Not at all — she’s a delightful child.’  I said, suddenly realizing that I meant what I had just said.

‘Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson.  She had leukemia. Maybe she didn’t tell you.’

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair.  I had to catch my breath.

‘She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no.  She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly…’ Her voice faltered, ‘She left something for you, if only I can find it.  Could you wait a moment while I look?’

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young woman.  She handed me a smeared envelope with ‘MR. P’ printed in bold childish letters.  Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues — a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird.  Underneath was carefully printed:


Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide.  I took Wendy’s mother in my arms.  ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,’ I uttered over and over, and we wept together.  The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study.  Six words — one for each year of her life — that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love.

A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand — who taught me the gift of love.

NOTE: This is a true story sent out by Robert Peterson.  It happened over 20 years ago and the incident changed his life forever.  It serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other. The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.

Life is so complicated, the hustle and bustle of everyday traumas can make us lose focus about what is truly important or what is only a momentary setback or crisis..

This week, be sure to give your loved ones an extra hug, and by all means, take a moment…. even if it is only ten seconds, to stop and smell the roses.

People Who Inspire Me: Ann Lightfoot


It’s been awhile since I’ve written a ‘People Who Inspire Me’ post but you’re going to start seeing more of them as I make it a regular feature. I have been so blessed to have had so many truly wonderful people come into my life and I’d like to share some of their stories.

I can’t even remember how long ago it has been since Ann and I first met, but one thing that has always meant a lot to me is how welcoming she has always made me feel. Her smile is absolute genuine. She loves life and gives with all of her heart. Sadly I don’t get to see Ann very much (except online through Facebook and Twitter). I look forward to every opportunity to get together.

Below is a little bit about Ann’s story.

What you do professionally?

I’m a human resources/payroll/social media/risk manager for Harper Oil Products, Inc. and Harper Properties, Inc. dba HOP Shops and DQ Grill & Chill of Walton.

I’m also the assistant/photographer/partner (APP) with Christiaan Todd Photography. We capture a variety of images: Art, Weddings, Reunions, Graduations, Posed Shots, Action Shots, Performances, Tournaments, Organizations, Portraits, Head Shots, Pets, People, Commercial Photos, Product Photos, Ads, Reports, Brochures, Magazines, Exhibits, Newsletters, Presentations, Events, etc.  By the way, you can find their Facebook link here.

What are your simple pleasures in life?

I love to be with people I care about, as well as meeting new people. One of my favorite things to do is listen. I enjoy listening to the sounds of the country like birds chirping, raindrops, creeks trickling, owls hooting, cows mooing, trees rustling, cicada sounds, and big bull frogs croaking.

Who is your role model and what have you learned from him/her?

I have learned the most about leadership from John Maxwell who has written more than 50 books on the subject.
I also learned a lot about physical strength, emotional strength and strength of purpose from the United States Army.

What inspires you to be who you are?

People that come into my life that are having a hard time but are still being positive. They inspire me.

What is one of your life lessons you’d like to share?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

What about this day has made it a good day?

This day is good because the people I love are doing well. We have family excited about having a baby and some are excited about getting married soon. I’m putting people to work which is always a great feeling. I enjoyed smiles and laughter with my fiancé Christiaan, and my two daughters TODAY.  “Enjoying every moment”

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