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Barbara Karasek: “Lincoln on Leadership”

…We value the world we live in. People are spending more time outdoors in wide open spaces and places, giving us a greater appreciation for parks, trails, beaches, waterways, and natural ecosystems. We live in a glorious land, a free society, and it’s our duty as responsible citizens to protect the world we live in […]

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…We value the world we live in. People are spending more time outdoors in wide open spaces and places, giving us a greater appreciation for parks, trails, beaches, waterways, and natural ecosystems. We live in a glorious land, a free society, and it’s our duty as responsible citizens to protect the world we live in and also protect those who live in it.


As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara Karasek.

Barbara brings a fresh perspective as CEO of Paradise Advertising & Marketing. Before acquiring Paradise with her husband in January 2018, Barbara lived in eight countries while leading global brand and consumer marketing, sponsorship, entertainment, licensing, e-commerce, operations and consumer products divisions for companies such as SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, PGA TOUR, NASCAR, and the United States Olympic Committee. Her ideas are BOLD and deliver BIG results for clients — from NASCAR Champions Week Times Square victory laps, Emmy award winning TV Shows on ABC, and inking deals with celeb like Darius Rucker and Nickelback, to launching Shamu branded Southwest airplanes, and a record setting Coca-Cola partnership for SeaWorld Entertainment.

At Paradise, Barbara delivers unparalleled strategies for clients, drawing upon her strong brand and consumer marketing background along with unmatched leveraged business relationships. A graduate of Furman University — where she attended on a division I volleyball scholarship –Barbara earned a master’s degree in Mass Communications from University of South Florida, which honored her with an Outstanding Alumnus award, is Six Sigma Certified, and is a graduate of Harvard Business School Strategic Marketing Management course.

Along with former pro basketball player husband and business partner Tony, Barbara stays busy with traveling, sports, philanthropy, and a never-ending search for the perfect fishing spot.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

My career has been nothing short of a meandering path characterized by sports and entertainment river rapids, uncharted business streams, mountainsides of risk, sandy beaches of security and all the while being led by unwavering inner courage and an insatiable appetite for challenges, rewards and learning.

I studied Sociology in college and wanted to become a public defender. After a visit to a prominent Miami ad agency over Christmas break my senior year of college, I was hooked on a career in the advertising industry. And then the summer between college and grad school, I applied with a temp agency and the job I took was with the United States Olympic Committee who was in town that summer in Tampa preparing our teams before the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona. For the next three years, I went to graduate school full time, “slinging slurpees” behind the bar at Fat Tuesday, interned with local ad agencies and interned and traveled with the USOC. The spring of my final year in grad school, as job opened up at the USOC, and I moved to Colorado Springs, CO. I knew traveling and working around the world leading and managing Olympic delegations was a career opportunity I may only have once in my life. I have no regrets and learned so much, saw the world, had unforgettable experiences, and met some of the most extraordinary people along the way.

Eventually, my career led me back to sports and entertainment marketing with prominent organizations. I met my husband along the way, and we knew eventually we wanted to exit corporate life and find a business to grow and scale together. We began a search process for an acquisition, and as luck would have it, the Paradise owner who was ready to retire, was an executive I had interned with during graduate school. It was meant to be that we were ready to acquire Paradise and he was ready to retire…and the rest is history.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Perhaps the most impactful book has been “Lincoln on Leadership.” Early in my career, I was in a year-long Dale Carnegie course on leadership. The first time I presented, I was voted best presenter and won this book. I can still recall my speech, the pride I had to be voted on by my peers, and the content of the book meant that much more to me.

My take-aways from Lincoln:

  1. Talk to people and really care about them.
  2. Get out and circulate among the troops.
  3. Master the art of public speaking.
  4. Learn and learn to tell stories.
  5. Influence people through conversations and storytelling.
  6. Preach a vision and continually reaffirm it.
  7. Build strong alliances.
  8. Be a master of paradox.
  9. Lead by being led.
  10. Encourage innovation and ask for ideas from everyone, have an open door.
  11. When you’re frustrated with someone or something write a letter and never send it.
  12. Have the courage to handle unjust criticism.
  13. Be decisive.
  14. Be honest.
  15. Be compassionate.
  16. Have a sense of humor.
  17. Never act out of vengeance or spite.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”?

A lot of people misunderstand this quote. We must read it metaphorically, not literally. We must gain an understanding of something previously not understood, especially as a result of sudden or ongoing insight. And not perceive our situation with light shining on a distant goal line.

For me, the light at the end of the tunnel is not something to see, rather, something very powerful that we can all understand and embrace. It’s not a matter of if this will subside or end, but when. And during this time, through patience, understanding, calmness, compassion, and care, we will all get through it together.

Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

1. We value the downshift. We are neither in a frenetic pace of trains, planes, and automobiles, nor scurrying our brood amongst school and activities. And the slower pace is ok. Really, it’s ok. Embrace the downshift and stay downshifted.

2. We value our health. In a world where fast food, drive through and casual dining thrive, we are spending more time at home cooking trying to eat healthier. And trying to stay healthy. A health pandemic is scary and health has the potential to be compromised. The recent events have encouraged us to evaluate our health — physical, emotional, mental, psychological, etc. — and lean on others for support and help. We’re leaning it’s okay to not be ok and it’s ok to be vulnerable. Without our health, what else really matters more?

3. We value family and loved ones. More time at home means more time doing things with immediate family. Without our family and loved ones, what else really matters more?

4. We value thy neighbors. With more time spent at home and limiting our daily movements so to speak, we have more focus on others. We see our neighbors from a distance, in yards, in parks, on bikes in the neighborhood, in chairs in backyards socially distanced of course. We are showing more empathy and compassion than before.

5. We value the world we live in. People are spending more time outdoors in wide open spaces and places, giving us a greater appreciation for parks, trails, beaches, waterways, and natural ecosystems. We live in a glorious land, a free society, and it’s our duty as responsible citizens to protect the world we live in and also protect those who live in it.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  1. Listen. Listen. Listen. You never know how much someone else needs a bended ear and someone who shows no judgement to talk to.
  2. Show compassion and empathy. Empathy is a gateway to compassion. Understanding how someone feels, and trying to imagine how that might feel for you allows you to deepen your relationships with others.
  3. Smile and say hello to people. A genuine smile and a friendly hello may make someone else’s day when they need it most. And it makes you feel good too.
  4. Show love. Through acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch (maybe fist bumps now during a pandemic instead of hugs), showing love in any and all forms can help others.
  5. Ask for help. Encouraging others to ask for help shows that you care and also offers a safe place for someone to be vulnerable without judgement.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

Here are a few suggested resources:

  • The Bible. Find scripture and passages that ease your mind and worries. And pray.
  • Friends and Family. Talk and openly share your feelings with others. Listen to others and extend love, empathy and compassion.
  • You are your own resource. Have frequent, honest conversations with yourself to heighten self-awareness of what makes you anxious, to identify the triggers. Reminder yourself often to only worry about what you can control.
  • Exercise. Do something active every day — the endorphins help with the body and mind.
  • Rest. Be sure to sleep a solid 8 hours every day. Be selfish and value your sleep.
  • Eat Right and Drink Plenty of Water. Your body is a temple. Proper nutrition and hydration bode well for everyone, particularly those that are anxious and experiencing any amount of stress.
  • Professional support. I encourage anyone struggling with any level of anxiety, depression or stress, to seek professional help. There are so many resources for issues related to mental health, depression, anxiety, weight, nutrition, etc.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Early is on time. On time is late. Late is too late.”

As an athlete growing up, if we were late, then we didn’t play. When I worked for the USOC and other sports organizations, these lessons never rang truer for the athletes and staff. In business and in life, I have so many stories, examples and lessons of the good that comes from this, and equal amounts of stories, examples and lessons learned the hard way. ☺

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Our society is reliant on and borderline obsessed with online selling of stuff — Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, LetGo, Bonanz. And yet our landfills are overflowing. I’d love to see how we can get UPS, FedEx, Amazon, Uber, Lyft, etc. to courier for free donated items from consumers to thrift shops and donation centers instead of things ending up on the landfill or on the side of the road.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online? Feel free to follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/barbara.karasek

LinkedIn- https://www.linkedin.com/in/barbaraekarasek/

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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