Back to Better: The Blog


Back to Better | Challenge

Mark Kolkman, Ed. D.

May 24, 2020

Observe the choices you make. Be honest, write things down. Look at every decision you make over the next 48 hours. Make note of the people you connect with (or neglect to connect with), log your physical health, emotional wellness, spiritual priorities. Are you all about yourself, overly concerned with other people or equal parts personally pragmatic and pluralistic?

Are you leading yourself, and others, to get back to better? In 48 hours give yourself a score from 0-10, with a 10 being the highest/best possible. Consider sharing your self-assessment with an accountability partner (or here in the group) for follow up and support!

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You Don’t Have to Wait to Be Hired Before You Begin to Inspire

Mark Kolkman, Ed. D.

May 15, 2020

Just the other day I was on a call with my coach Jeff when he asked, “Mark, have you ever read the Pick Yourself blog post by Seth Godin?”

I told him that I had not.

Jeff went on to use the message of that nearly decade old and fewer than 200 word blog post to reorient my short term goals setting and long term vision.

Godin wrote in his blog on March 21, 2011,

“Aren’t we better off without gatekeepers? It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work. If you’re hoping that the HR people you sent your resume to are about to pick you, it’s going to be a long wait. Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound. No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Those thoughts redirected toward me by my Transformational Coach led me to coin the phrase, “you don’t have to wait to be hire before you begin to inspire.”

During this period of isolation and distancing during the COVID-19 era, I’m reminded the in the Greek, the word CRISIS actually translates to something like intersection or crossroads. What a fitting time to rise up against the widely held notion that in order to advance personally or professionally that we must wait our turn or stand in line to be chosen by a gatekeeper.

“Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today. It’s been that way all this year. It’s been that way so many times. All of life is that way.” – Ernest Hemingway (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

Make a decision today on which the prospective success of all the other days that ever come will depend on.

Pick you, today!


Reject the tyranny of being picked: pick yourself; Godin Blog, March 21, 2011: https://seths.blog/2011/03/reject-the-tyranny-of-being-picked-pick-yourself/

For Whom the Bell Tolls; Ernest Hemingway, (1940). https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/335977-today-is-only-one-day-in-all-the-days-that

Jeff Caliguire, Transformational Coach – Convergent Point, https://www.jeffcaliguire.com


If you are interested in contacting Dr. Mark Kolkman to explore how to use the SOUL of story to reveal the HEART of what matters, follow the link to schedule a FREE, no obligation Concept Clarity call at your earliest convenience.


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Standing in the Storm | For the Sake of Others

Mark Kolkman, Ed. D.

May 7, 2020

Robert Doisneau (1912 – 1994) was a French photographer, at the forefront of pioneering photojournalism, best known for his unassuming, often surreal, and light-hearted portrayal of life on Paris streets. One of his most well-known works – classic to his style – is an art print of a couple kissing on the streets of Paris called ‘Le Baiser De L’hôtel De Ville’ (Kiss by the Town Hall). Robert Doisneau commented about this: “The marvels of daily life are so exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.” During his life, Robert Doisneau worked on prestigious advertising and photojournalistic campaigns and he was recruited during the Second World War as both a soldier and photographer for the French Resistance. Even more so after his death, his art prints continue to be published and exhibited around the world, cementing his place in art history.

One piece of Doisneau’s work which I display on my book shelf is Musician in the Rain (1957). The photograph depicts a Parisian gentleman standing curbside on a rainy day, perhaps waiting for a bus. The man is holding an umbrella in his right hand, but oddly he extends it far out to his right, not over his own head. He is extending the umbrella over a cello which stands beside him.



I can’t say for certain why this picture is so influential in my life that I would frame a small print and display it on a shelf in my office, even as I’ve been promoted or changed jobs over the past decade.

Or perhaps I can say for sure. It reminds me of my role as protector and provider for the things I value and the people I love.


Call to Action Challenge | As you view the picture, what stirs up for you? Is the musician really protecting the cello because of it’s value? Perhaps he doesn’t really even own it, maybe he merely rents the instrument, and is concerned that the rain will cause damage he might be charged for upon return? Either way, own or rent, the man with the umbrella is willing to lean into the wind and weather the storm and protect the cello.

Comment in the box below with the things in your life that you value so much that you’d stand in the storm to protect. What’s more, get creative post a picture with you holding an umbrella over the people, valuable things or good causes you stand up to protect or serve everyday.


Dr. Mark Kolkman uses the SOUL of story to reveal the HEART of what matters.


If you are interested in connecting with Mark to explore how to use the SOUL of story to reveal the HEART of what matters, follow the link to schedule a FREE, no obligation Concept Clarity call at your earliest convenience.


Mark is a Transformational Coach and influencer whose reputation for integrity, empathy and consistent reliability spans the Chicago metropolitan market for almost 30 years. A personal brand ambassador with a dynamic flare for public speaking, he has taught in the classroom, coached on the field and coached or consulted in the marketplace and in life. Mark has delivered commencement addresses before audiences of more than 5000, preached sermons to congregations of 50, 150 and 500 and has led professional development seminars for groups of all sizes. His engagements range from keynote speeches for small businesses, institutions in private sector, schools, colleges and universities to local civic organizations. Mark’s clients include fun, successful people from every sector of business. He offers individual and group coaching packages as well as daylong leadership and communication workshops for businesses and retreats for not-for-profit and church leaders. For every client Mark tailors measurable objectives that lead to outcomes that meet the select needs of his clients.

In any setting, Mark inspires his audience with a vivid call to action and authentically weaves the leadership lessons of his lifetime with the practical tenets of faith, people-centered ethics and values based on conscious leadership.


If you are interested in contacting Mark and exploring how to use the SOUL of story to reveal the HEART of what matters, follow the link to schedule a FREE, no obligation Concept Clarity call at your earliest convenience.


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The Five Ps of Getting Through a Pandemic

Mark Kolkman, Ed. D.

April 18, 2020

As I write we are about 5 weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. Tragic loss of life, physical suffering and an unprecedented interruption to the comings and goings of individuals nationwide. Second only to human suffering are the multitude of profound, and in some cases, irreversible interruption to employment opportunities, growth of businesses and the impact of the loss of tax revenues at the local, state and federal level.

The punitive impact of COVID-19 will run a long course, one well past the full recovery of all medical cases.

But one thing I pray will also run a long course is the manner in which many individuals, communities, NFPs, NGOs, select businesses, and nearly every college, church and school have pivoted to regard themselves less and others more.

In this segment of TRANSFORMATION BEGINS TODAY (TBT), I point out the 5 P’s that I pray carry us to “Back to Better” rather than “Back to Normal”!

Watch TRANSFORMATION BEGINS TODAY (TBT) and comment in the box below about how you and your organization can use the Five P’s now in order to develop an intentional plan to get “BACK to BETTER”.

email mark@FlexSolutions.llc


Dr. Mark Kolkman uses the soul of story to reveal the heart of what matters.

Mark is an influencer whose reputation for integrity, empathy and consistent reliability spans the Chicago metropolitan market for almost 30 years. A personal brand ambassador with a dynamic flare for public speaking, he has taught in the classroom, coached on the field and coached or consulted in the marketplace and in life. Mark has delivered commencement addresses before audiences of more than 5000, preached sermons to congregations of 50, 150 and 500 and has led professional development seminars for groups of all sizes. His engagements range from keynote speeches for small businesses, institutions in private sector, schools, colleges and universities to local civic organizations. Mark also leads daylong workshops for businesses and retreats for church leaders tailored to outcomes based on the select needs of his clients. 

In any setting, Mark inspires his audience with a vivid call to action and authentically weaves the leadership lessons of his lifetime with the practical tenets of faith, people-centered ethics and values based on conscious leadership.

Transformation Begins Today email mark@FlexSolutions.llc

You can learn more or follow Mark anywhere you connect socially @DrMarkKolkman or email him directly at mark@FlexSolutions.llc.


If you are interested in connecting with Mark to explore more about the Back to Better Podcast, submitting a request or referral to be a guest on the show, or how to use the SOUL of story to reveal the HEART of what matters, follow the link to schedule a FREE, no obligation Concept Clarity call at your earliest convenience.


Contact Dr. Mark Kolkman

Real leadership begins with leading one’s self in a healthy manner

Mark Kolkman, Ed. D.

November 22, 2019


Great leaders lead by learning. 

Here’s what I’ve learned; most people, no matter how successful they are, still wage an inner battle over bad habits, half-baked hangups and unmitigated hurts. Left unresolved personal foibles grow into flaws, flaws become fluid and fluids leak out.  

Personal leadership is the continuous cycle of personal improvement and working toward sealing your own leakage, steadying your own wobble and affirming the cumulative wisdom of your own life experience so you can flourish at work, lead others to succeed and add value to the human beings in every aspect of your life.

How does this help me in personal relationship, business and in the workplace?

I work on myself and coach others by teaching.

I’m doggedly focused on creating the platform, scope and sequence of Learning and Development content necessary to “upskill” current leaders while preparing a new generation of people-centered leaders passionate about embedding a culture of empathy in the workplace, adding value to the lives of people, learning from mistakes and leaning into personal change for the sake of others.

I’m a curious question asker and an empathetic optimist. Whether coaching direct reports how to manage their own teams, improving workplace culture or even transforming my own habits and hang ups so that I can inspire the people around me to dream more, learn more, do more and become more – adult learning occurs best when linked to a purposeful cause and directly related to performance outcomes. 

I am lifelong learner, teacher, coach and team builder with a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and more than 20 years of experience leading educational change, instructional methods and assessments of learning. I’m seldom the smartest person in the room and rarely have all of the answers. I embed an expectation of collaboration within the groups I manage or teams I coach. 

I produce outcomes by experience. 

My diverse set of experiences has led to C-level executive leadership roles and a successful history of leading Learning and Development in large, comprehensive educational and not-for-profit organizations. Along the way I’ve excelled at Public Speaking, working with Governing Boards, Peer Coaching, Talent Mentoring, implementing Change, Strategic Planning, Confidentiality and Crisis Management.


If you are interested in contacting Dr. Mark Kolkman to explore how to use the SOUL of story to reveal the HEART of what matters, follow the link to schedule a FREE, no obligation Concept Clarity call at your earliest convenience.


Read more from Dr. Mark Kolkman