Everyone has a life story.

Here’s a brief version of my professional life story

Years ago I bumped into a woman I had befriended about twenty years eariler, the summer before I started my freshman year in college. In fact, we were kind of sweet on each other for about two months, then I went off to college, and that was that.

We met for lunch and caught up with each other’s lives. At one point she confessed that she envied the career and travels that I described. She lamented that she had lived an uneventful life.

Her confession surprised me, because she had just told me of a life that produced two happy and healthy children, summers filled with outdoor adventures and travel, an involved community life, a successful professional life, and a stable marriage.

To me, her life was anything but uneventful. On the contrary, it was filled with wonderful events.

Garland C McWatters

I am blessed with seven granddaughters and two grandsons.

Every family is precious

I wonder how many of us give our life a lot less credit than it deserves.

The story of one is the story of many. We all have much in common. The vast majority of us live similar conventional lives. We go to school as children and teenagers. We find some way to earn a living. Some go on to college. The majority of us find a life partner, live together, and have children. Even if we remain single, along the way we make friends, start and quit hobbies, and get involved with our communities in some way.

We each build our personal world where all we want is to be comfortable, happy, proud, and successful. We make choices, and life happens. In my story, I made some important and INPowering choices along the way, which directed me down a path, populated with others who became part of my life story. Some offered me opportunities to enlarge my expectations of living. I made a lot of good choices, and some poor ones. And so it is with all of us.

Yet, we look around at the miniscule percentage of the population that become rich and famous, thinking they live some sort of charmed life. We compare our lives to theirs and come to the mistaken conclusion that we haven’t amounted to much.

We’re measuring ourselves by the wrong standard.

A happy life is an INPowered life. An INPowered life is an affirmative life–one in which we take personal responsibility to act in ways that make things better for ourselves and others.

I could look down the list of things I have not accomplished and conclude that I have failed.

  • I have not become a millionaire.
  • I have not written a best selling book (yet).
  • I have not suffered a disaster, a war, a mugging, a shooting, or a tragedy, and lived to tell about it on the motivational speaking tour. (I’m not being cynical here, I promise.)
  • I have not been on Oprah.
  • I have not been a sports celebrity, or a celebrity of any kind.
  • I am not a war hero.

I have lived INPowered, and created opportunities

The first step on the path of INPowerment for me happened one evening outside a drive-in in Chickasha, Oklahoma, where I was the minister of a church–my first job out of college with a bachelor of arts degree in Biblical studies. This was my parents’ dream job for me, not necessarily mine.

Over the loudspeakers a timid voice leaked out announcing the elevator music beaming from the local FM radio station (before FM was cool). I turned to my pregnant wife and said, “I can do that. I can be on the radio if that kid can.” Her brother had been working for an Oklahoma City radio station for a couple of years, which I thought was very cool.

The next morning I went, unannounced, to meet the owner of that FM radio station and asked what it would take to get on the air. He told me it would take a 3rd class radiotelephone operator’s certificate from the Federal Communication Commission. I would have to take a test. So, I did and secured a morning slot from 5-8 a.m. I used an alias air name, and after my shift went about my responsibilities as a minister. (By the way, I didn’t fool anyone.)

Robert Frost was right: way leads on to way

A year later I took a position at a church in Jacksonville, Florida, packed up my wife and six-month old son, and off we went, ending my brief radio DJ foray. Until . . .

One morning my phone rang. “Hello, this is Jack. I bought the FM radio station you worked at, and I am putting a new FM station on the air to go with my AM station. Would you like to come work for me?” (Paraphrased) I had become friends with Jack and many of his employees during my tenure in Chickasha.

We returned to Chickasha within two months, and I started a career in broadcasting. I worked at Jack’s stations off and on for several years. During that time I started a masters degree program at Oklahoma State Univeristy in mass communication. While there, I worked in the audiovisual department as an audiovisual producer and narrator. Mostly I produced educational slide-tape modules for several of the university’s colleges. I also worked at KSPI AM/FM as a copywriter and weekend babysitter for their automation broadcast machine.

A year later I got a position in the Journalism/Broadcast school teaching a production class and handling some air shifts for KOSU-FM, Oklahoma Public Radio. That evolved into a stint as news director for KOSU-FM. I produced and hosted several interview programs, and anchored the weekday All Things Considered: Oklahoma Edition morning news. When the station manager retired, I thought I was a good candidate for the station manager positon. Higher ups had a different idea about that. I felt dissed, then pissed, and went looking for greener pastures.

Bruce Gray, my Career Tech mentor

I was on the original management team that built the Francis tuttle Career Tech center in NW Oklahoma City 1980-83

A twist of fate, and off we go

In an INPowering moment, I approached both the extension office at the business college and the audiovidual department about employment. Neither had full time positions available; so, I cobbled together two half-time positions that worked for both departments, and gave myself a 50% pay-hike in the process. Brilliant.

Then one night after church a friend invited my wife and me over for dessert where I met a professor in the college of education. Jim was curious about my experience producing slide shows. He had, what today we call a side hustle, putting on leadership programs for vocational student organizations around the country. He offered me a chance to produce slide tape presentations for his workshops and conferences. That led to me producing the general session media for all his regional and state conferences, which required traveling about 20 weekends every year to most of the nation’s largest cities and working in huge conference facilities and hotels. The only problem–I had a full-time job and a family.

My alma mater called and offered me an assistant professorship in speech and the faculty advisor position to their campus-wide carrier current radio station. I took it, thinking it would provide me more stability professionally and time to travel. It was a mixed bag at best, and that arrangement wasn’t working out as I expected.

Jim had a friend. His name was Bruce Gray, and he was the superintendent of the Great Plains Vocational-Technical Education Center in Lawton, Oklahoma. Jim told Bruce the college thing wasn’t working out for me, and Bruce reached out to me to join his vo-tech staff. He had plans for media and liked what he saw me do at the conferences. Three months later I started what would be a fourteen year career in Oklahoma’s renowned career-tech system. Bruce made sure I was plugged into the system state-wide and put me on a fast track for leadership development (although I did not realize it at the time).

Within a year of moving to Lawton, Bruce told me he had been named superintendent of the Francis Tuttle Technology district, in northwest Oklahoma City, which was building a state-of-the-art facility from the ground up. He wanted me to go with him in a management position as director of curriculum development and public relations. He would give me the flexibility to continue my work with Jim. He believed the experience would make me better at what I was doing for him.

I also contracted with the Oklahoma Bankers Association and BancFirst to provide media services for their annual conferences for more than a decade.

MetroTech Business Conference Center main entry.

Telling at the OKC zoo with my lion puppet, LeRoy

Campaigning for U.S. Congress in 2000.

At a book author event

Storytelling in Dallas

Bringing it up to date

After the Francis Tuttle Center opened, I took a position at what would become Metro Tech, Oklahoma City’s urban career tech district. During my nine years there, I had several opportunities: first as a staff public relations specialist, then as a manager with a variety of assignments, including curriculum support, student recruitment, and supervising the business and industry services team. Along the way I led a project team that developed the functional specifications for the new conference center and administration building.

My professional life flourished. I served as the state president of the Oklahoma School Public Relations Association (OKSPRA), and as chapter president of American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). During that time I helped develop a trainer certification program that was picked up by the University of Oklahoma College of Continuing Education and marketed nationally. For that work I received the James E. Wallace Chapter Service Award, and the Regional ASTD Distinguished Achievement Award. I also received numerous OKSPRA awards of merit and excellence for school publications.

In 1994 I decided it was time to venture into my own work and took the INPowering leap of faith to build what has become my current work. Along the way I developed a project for the Oklahoma City Housing Authority to start a resident-run business that built and installed security window screens for their properties around Oklahoma City. Those screens remained in service for more than 30 years.

I wrote a federal grant proposal to fund YOUTHBUILD for the City of Oklahoma City. That grant was funded and provided several out of school and out of work youths the opportunity to turn their lives around by gaining a GED and learning construction skills they could build on. The program successfully rehabilitated three dilapidated houses, which were sold to low income families. I met several of those students years later who were living successful, productive lives.

My first venture into writing was a Bible-based effort entitled Jesus, the Confronting Christ. See more here. Did I mention I was a minister earlier? I am fascinated with the examples of leadership, courage, and change that Jesus’ life demonstrates as presented in the four gospels.

I began writing training courses in communication, management, leadership, work process, and project planning. You can see those courses in their current form on the INPowered2 LEAD website here.

In 2000 I was my party’s nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives. Although I lost to the two-term incumbent, the experience was rewarding. I respect any and all who step out to offer themselves in public service. We need INPowering leaders in every aspect of government, education, business, industry, religion, and community service.

I’m writing a series of self-improvement books that speak to Living INPowered at home, at work, and in the community. See the Living INPowered books page on this website.

I enjoy storytelling. I had the privilege of being the president of Oklahoma’s Territory Tellers and telling at several of their events.

Passing it on

I’ve enjoyed working with people of all ages and generations. As young adults enter the workplace and seek their space, I find them especially eager to learn and grow. They energize me, and I hope I INPower them.

One of my most enjoyable experiences is partnering with NextGen Oklahoma Leaders, founded by a long-time friend, to encourage and recognize young adults 18-40 who are stepping up early to lead and become influencers in their workplaces and communities. I’ve devoted many Spirit of Leading podcasts to showcasing their contributions and dreams.

NextGen Oklahoma Leaders presents an annual recognition program identifying the top exemplary young leaders statewide in NextGen Under 30 Oklahoma. Since 2011, more than 2000 individuals have been tapped for this recognition.

I present current workplace professional development sessions and I bring several workplace leaders together to offer leader mentor round-table conversations

The program has now expanded into Kansas and Missouri.

I continue to actively present workplace training, write, podcast, and find ways to be engaed in my community. I am Living INPowered.

Presenting at the Tulsa INPowered to Lead NextGen gathering

Leader mentor circle featuring Restaurant entrepreneur, Hal Smith. Norman NextGen INPowered to Lead event producecd by Garland.

Leader mentor circle presenters at Tulsa NextGen INPowered to Lead event.