2021 Words to Live By

I doubt any tears will be shed for the passing of 2020. However, despite the year’s overwhelming challenges, lessons in perseverance, resilience and innovation have surfaced, providing inspiration for a more hopeful 2021.

On the following pages, local professionals share their encouraging mantras for the new year, stemming from tough lessons learned navigating a global pandemic.

Justin Sellers has worked for the Coastal Plain League, headquartered in Holly Springs, for 20 years, serving as commissioner since 2013. During his tenure, the league has added four teams, including the Holly Springs Salamanders.

Sellers also serves as the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce board chair where he helps nurture the local business community and steer the organization along a path of growth.

Inspired by this concept, which is largely attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, Justin Sellers witnessed first hand “how people can really persevere despite unprecedented weight and stress and unknowns.”

As commissioner of the Coastal Plain League, Sellers faced the task of scheduling a summer baseball season with seven teams, across four states, each with different pandemic-related restrictions in place, on a condensed time frame, without any national examples to follow — an undertaking he calls a logistical nightmare.

“It would have been easy for us to close up, but that’s not who we are,” he says.

Sellers credits the entire CPL organization — the front office staff, team owners and players — with working together to create an opportunity for normalcy that couldn’t be found anywhere else.

“We were doing it. We were playing. We had fans. People were able to come out and have a little break from what they had been experiencing,” Sellers says.

“It gives me confidence that if we can do this in 2020, then we can do even better things in the future.”

Krista Abshure is a realtor/broker and director of The Abshure Realty Group, and a veteran of the United States Air Force. Early in her real estate career, Abshure was moved by an inspirational quote left on her desk by a coworker, and now keeps a wall of motivating words in her office.

“When I am having a moment, I can always look at it and find something that applies that helps me.”

It’s a theme Krista Abshure has returned to many times, but feels especially important this year.

“Many things are out of our control,” Abshure says. “The one thing we do get to control is our attitude, so we need to be compassionate and understanding in everything that we do.”

When the pandemic shutdown paused real estate transactions, Abshure, a real estate professional based in Fuquay-Varina, faced real fears that her office doors may not open again for a long time, if ever. With business on hold, Abshure dove deep into supporting her community, helping raise money for the Fuquay-Varina Angel Fund and making silent donations where she could.

“You just don’t know that someone might be six months behind on their mortgage, afraid that they might lose their house and have nowhere for their kids,” she says. “We have to choose to react with kindness.”

BJ Davis, pictured left, is the director of programs of BJD Leadership Training and Team Development, a company she co-owns with Scott Markowitz, pictured right. She is also the author of “Skinny Beni Incidents and Happenings,” a humor-filled book of short stories and anecdotes and founder of Emerging Women NC, a nonprofit that celebrates female leaders.

“Don’t build on your differences,” says BJ Davis. “Let’s build on what we have in common.”

Throughout her professional career as a leadership coach, Davis has worked with individuals and teams to build communication, creativity and inclusivity within organizations, believing everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard.

Acknowledging common ground is a crucial step that can unite individual voices toward a shared goal.

Davis’s company, BJD Leadership Training and Team Development, fosters those voices through “High Performance Play,” their signature program which dismantles communication barriers and brings fun into the boardroom — or Zoom meeting.

“We know, and we teach that keeping in a state of joy and playfulness, and reaching for the best feeling you can have at any moment, is where you are going to be able to expand,” Davis says.

Scott Markowitz co-owns BJD Leadership Training and Team Development with BJ Davis, and serves as the company’s director of creative cultivation.

During his early career as a television and film editor, Markowitz discovered a passion for helping others feel empowered and confident amid the pressures of an inequitable corporate world, which led him to the field of leadership coaching and BJD Leadership Training.

“We have been so stressed out in this pandemic world. People have lost connection,” says Scott Markowitz, a life and leadership coach. “We can engage our creativity and connect with people, even virtually, to raise our vibrations and get that social action.”

Play makes us joyful, flexible and uninhibited — all key qualities that Scott Markowitz and his business partner, BJ Davis, teach during their High Performance Play leadership training programs.

Through play, we can “become much more resilient to the changes that are yet to come,” says Markowitz, a characteristic he refers to as “bendability.”

“Bendability means acknowledging: that’s not what we planned, but what does that now make possible? What’s now the opportunity here?” he says. “The analytical mind could create despair, but the creative mind creates a game out of how we turn that around.”

Sarah Madras worked in private practice as a mental health therapist for 15 years before founding Brave Builders Coaching, through which she works with small business owners and corporate leaders on mindset mastery, personal development and emotional intelligence.

Madras also serves as a Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce ambassador and a mentor for LAUNCH Holly Springs.

Business coach and mental health therapist Sarah Madras measures her actions through one clear-cut litmus test.

“If I make this decision, is that going to provide me with short term comfort, but then then give me long term resentment, because I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone and be uncomfortable for a little bit in order to meet my goals?”

Madras says that accepting a little discomfort right now, by addressing issues in relationships, the workplace or with family, avoids a longer-term conflict, and will often open a dialogue that brings the parties closer together.

“If I’m not choosing short-term discomfort, I’m saying yes to long-term resentment. Then, I’m betraying myself,” she says.


You are brilliant. You have talents. You have gifts.

– BJ Davis, BJD Leadership Training

This is not the end. This is a chapter in the book where things got rough. It’s what’s in the next chapter that defines us.

– Justin Sellers, Coastal Plain League

Remember: The problems I have today are the ones I wished for years ago.

– Krista Abshure, Abshure Realty Group

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