One year ago, on January 1, 2018 I challenged myself with something I wasn’t sure I could do. One pushup for each additional day of the year. Every day. All year long.
On January 1. I did one pushup.
On March 31, I did 90 pushups. (31 for January + 28 for February + 31 for March.)
On June 30, 2018, I did 181 pushups for that day. At that point, during the first six months of the year, I had completed 16,471 pushups. By December 31, 2018, my goal would be 66,795 pushups for the year. Because, exponentially my pushups continued to increase daily.
At my six-month point, I wrote about the lessons I learned. At the time, they included:
– Strength: in mind and body
– Confidence: a sense of purpose
– Patience: in my pace and in the overall goal
– Humility: that I could physically attempt a goal like this
– Adaptation: in my daily challenge, especially as things got tougher
It’s now January 2019 and my year challenge is officially done. Did I reach my goal of 66,795 pushups? No. And that’s why I will share with you five of my most memorable lessons during these previous 365 days, and my attempt at a ridiculous number of pushups.
1. Procrastination Is Deadly
Yes, there were days that slipped by me where I didn’t do my pushups. “No!” they yelled. “It can’t be true!” Seriously, it happened. In fact, I had to remove my Captain America shirt because I didn’t truly earn it on those days.
Psychology Today tells us there are three main types of procrastinators, (a) arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait until the last minute to reap a euphoric rush, (b) avoiders, who put off tasks because of fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them (ya, this is where I fall) and (c) decisional procrastinators, who are unable to make a decision. Why? Because not deciding absolves them of responsibility for outcomes of events.
Now, some of us reside in group c and we need to understand there are big costs resulting from this group, including eroding personal relationships and teamwork in the workplace. Additionally, these people suffer such problems as insomnia, immune system, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
In doing my pushups, I missed several days, and my procrastination consequences resulted in doubling or tripling my number of pushups in subsequent days. Sometimes that amounted to 600+ pushups in a single day. At that point, I needed rest.
2. Rest Is Essential
My muscles began to breakdown in the month of August. Let’s see, that’s around 210-240 pushups a day, every day. Sounds reasonable, but when I had already done 25,000 pushups in the weeks and months prior, it began to wear me out. My mind was there, but my body was tearing apart. Literally, if I had continued at that pace, it would have begun to have a significantly negative impact on me. Rest. It is an imperative ingredient to our success, whether it be resting after a physical workout, resting after small business victories, sleeping 7-8 hours each night, or allowing time for ourselves in meditation, massage, or meal. Lack of resting my muscles - this was the main reason I did not hit my December 31 goal.
3. Goals Are Necessary
Many of us set them in our work lives; how many of us do the same in our personal lives? There are five key areas where we must be mindful – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Short change one of these and the other five will most likely feel a dent as well.
Goals need to be long-term and short term. Most importantly, insert easy to attain goals along the way to reaching the larger ones. This provides hope, rewards, and inspiration to ourselves. And it’s an excuse to recognize our accomplishments.
4. Recognition Is Powerful
Lack of recognition continues to show up as a top reason why people leave their job. Why not use this example to keep ourselves fulfilled? Many of us are our worst critic. It’s a new year, let’s take it easy on ourselves. I mean really, unless it truly is brain surgery, it’s not brain surgery! Everything we do isn’t going to make or break our world. There’s enough stress and anxiety out there to kill off the dinosaurs… hey wait.
What I learned along the way with this simple exercise, so to speak, is it provided natural rewards along the way – I felt stronger, I had daily achievements, I accomplished much. One of the most powerful things we can do is tell another person what we’re going to do. Telling at least one other person provides an incentive and a level of accountability for both of you. After all, if we don’t do what we said, they’ll know! The best part for me - my wife and friends encouraged me. But after all that…
5. Sh!t Happens
This isn’t just a “saying.” It’s true! Plans change, the family gets the flu, the car needs four new tires, we run out of wine, Tide pod challenge begins, money runs short, grandma moves in, the teenager says she wants to take a ‘gap’ year, your team misses the playoffs, Sears goes out of business. Yeah, 2018 was flying in all directions.
Bottom line, we know it happens. Therefore, our best laid plans will need to be adjusted. Life is an adventure. That’s why I like to take the scenic route.
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As I creep into a deeper age of wisdom, my curiosity continues to multiply. I’m slowing down, literally, in more ways than one. Dare I say, physically. But more importantly and wonderfully, I’m slowing down perceptually.
I’m enjoying the gifts of time, relaxation and using more of my five senses. I’m becoming more observant. Although my wife may disagree that ‘observant’ is on my list of strengths.
I am more observant. Maybe not with the things that are blatantly obvious, like the time my wife held a surfboard for a friend’s Christmas gift and it took me two days to notice it leaning against our family room wall. I’m much better discovering the small things, like when someone rearranges my couch pillow.
In the rush of life, there seems to be a constant push to be better, faster, produce more, work more, buy more and talk more. So many of us forget the importance of pausing, listening, observing, contemplating and relaxing. Wow. Just saying those last few words drops the tension in my shoulders.
I tend to find the calming spots to unwind more often. As I begun this article, I’m sitting outdoors near a hotel pool on a beautiful sunny day in Southern California. I’m away from home, and yet amid the chaos of work, traffic, travel, and living out of a suitcase for a week, my Saturday afternoon is quite nice. Now, as I finish this note, I’m in a Colorado coffee shop after the dinner hour accompanied by nice music and only three other people in the entire building. Ahh.
As my personal tradition, I make it a point every year to purposefully stop and smell the pumpkins and peppermints from October 1 through January 1.
Here’s how I do it…
Enjoy the beauty. It’s all around us. Let me know how it goes.
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If we know our audience well, we don’t have to come out with a blatant (and blanket) statement, like my subject line, to grab our audience’s attention. Instead, the engagement we’re seeking is understood. Why? Because we’ve done our homework.
Once the homework is done, both our subject line and our subject content can be much more laser-focused on the needs of our audience - the subject line to attract their attention and the subject content to keep their attention. Meaning, content that educates our audience and continues to entice in some way. In the realm of strawberries, it could be something like one of these facts:
These are generic statements, although interesting to some degree, they cast the audience net quite wide. In other words, we’re going for the masses. What’s more powerful in attracting and keeping our audience is if we can personalize our message to smaller groups – like, say those nice folks in Delaware who may be interested to know May 21-27 is Strawberry Week in their state. Or citizens of California who may want to know that their daiquiris can be made very fresh since their state produces 80 percent of strawberry crops in the U.S.
Who cares about strawberries? Well, maybe we all do. In many cases it is appropriate, and perhaps necessary, to cast our communications net wide to hit the masses. Certain truths can be a powerful tool to draw-in our audience, like the facts that strawberries:
These prior statements can be made even more impactful through personalization. Imagine these scenarios in promoting strawberries and encouraging our audience to act…
Still doubtful? Then turn to sex. Umm, I mean, sex sells, as they say. In France, they believe strawberries are an aphrodisiac. So much so, that strawberries are served to newlyweds at traditional wedding breakfasts in the form of a creamy sweet soup. The French. Seems they’ve cornered the romance thing in just about every aspect.
The innate interest of our article or story can be found in the subconscious of our audience. And therefore, if we tap into where their mind already is – we can be much more persuasive. The result – our audience will continue to read, absorb, understand, and act – if that is our intent.
If you’ve gotten this far and you don’t like strawberries I must say…
Sources: Food Republic; Country Living
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I’m fascinated by numbers. High school math, not so much. But numbers, wow! And equations and theories and philosophy and science – WOW! Here’s what I mean…
On January 1, 2018 I challenged myself with something I wasn’t sure I could do. One pushup for each additional day of the year. Every day. All year long.
On January 1. I did one pushup.
On March 31, I did 90 pushups. (31 for January + 28 for February + 31 for March.)
It’s now June 30 and I’m half way to my goal – or so I think. Today I completed 181 pushups. Now here’s where it gets ludicrous. As of June 30, I will have completed 16,471 pushups in these first six months of the year. If you told me to complete 16,471 pushups in six months, I wouldn’t believe I could do it.
Speaking of ludicrous, here’s a fact that is both true and false: I’m halfway complete.
TRUE: specific to time, I’m 50% complete. It’s halfway through the year.
FALSE: specific to number of pushups, I’m less than 25% complete.
Why only 25% complete on pushups? Because the daily number of pushups increases exponentially each day.
How many pushups will I complete by the end of the year. 66,795.
Frankly, this is the first time I’ve added it up. Hence, one lesson I’ve learned from this personal test – sometimes is better not to know the full scope of the challenges ahead!
Here are my most memorable five lessons thus far. These, I believe slice through all aspects of our lives – home, work, family, friends, school, hobbies, and the unexpected.
In mind and in body. The first 60 days I just did it. Day by day. The next 30, I began to feel the drag. It was tough! And every day it got tougher. I found out quickly that March is a bitch! It’s the first 31-day month and it seems to never end. Because of this, my mind began to edit itself. I woke knowing I needed to accomplish something for my own good. Interestingly, my undiagnosed OCD also kept me on track. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, in case you were wondering. Meaning, when it came to the pushups, I had to complete them at least one full month’s worth at a time. I’m at the point now where I can hit 90 pushups non-stop. Something I couldn’t do before.
I feel stronger. I feel accomplished. I have a bit more sense of purpose. Strange, yes, but it’s true for me. I do a lot of things for others, and many times days go by where I forget to care for myself. This small act allows me to remember to take care of myself, daily. And besides, I don’t think I’ve really ever stuck fully to my new year’s resolution… have you?
I’m of average strength, unlike the remarkable Jack LaLanne. R.I.P. Therefore, I never expected to complete 365 pushups in a single non-stop session. I desire to, and maybe one day I’ll get there, but it wasn’t an objective. The single goal was to get through it, however I could. Pace and patience became more influential as the days progressed. I took breaks, yet I completed the entire set in a single time period. In other words, I didn’t spread my set across the entire day. This, however, is something that may change in the second half. It reminds me of a book on leadership by Marshall Goldsmith, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.” He’s an expert at helping global leaders overcome their sometimes-unconscious annoying habits and attain a higher level of success. It’s a book that’s on my ‘to read’ list. At this point, the title alone has helped me reflect on this task.
I’m grateful that at this point in my life that I have the ability to do pushups. There are many that struggle with life challenges that will not allow this type of thing. We all have our challenges. I did this to see if I could set a goal outside of my comfort zone and tackle it. I’ve done this before, but not so much at my own discretion. Usually it’s a work project, a volunteer opportunity, or a 5K run! I’ve learned one significant secret to happiness is gratefulness.
Those with disabilities must adapt. Their minds open up and their bodies change to allow progress, sometimes in ways much more astounding than expected. Those without arms, learn to write and eat with their feet. Those without sight or sound or smell become perceptive with their remaining senses to balance their circumstances. I adapted to my circumstances. I moved quickly when I felt strong, skipped my exercise when I became ill, and made it up on other days when I felt better. I kept my daily goal within reach and never let it get too far away.
Ultimately, what I’m learning is we need to challenge ourselves. And to get most things done, it’s important to examine the situation from multiple angles. When we do, the results can be powerful and surprising.
Part 2 of this written feature will occur when I complete my goal. I’ll be sure to share what I learned from July through December. So, we'll chat then, on Monday, December 31, 2018.
* this is math. I’m not an expert in this area. I did surface level research and I am directional accurate, however I may not be precisely correct. If I’m not, I’d love your final answer.
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An apple will turn brown and shrivel if it just sits there. It happens to us, too. Our body shrivels if we sit too long - as does our brain. Atrophy is defined as “to cause to wither or deteriorate.” Cells of the brain and central nervous system may atrophy in old age because of restricted blood flow to those areas. Yikes! Let’s get the blood flowing, people!
I say, rather than wither, let’s be “fresh.” Now, the dictionary has more than a dozen definitions of the word, including smart-alecky, uncured, inexperienced, sassy, supplementary, and brisk. I wish to discuss none of these. The “fresh” I’d like to address boasts these wonderful adjectives:
To me, “fresh” also means “keeping our edge.” What I mean is - we hone our skills, we experience life boldly, we study, discover, practice, and comprehend absolutely. Fresh is appealing.
Here are five areas that have helped me continue to pursue “freshness” on a life-scale within the 8 to 10 range…
Amend our style
Here, I’m talking our fashion, our polish, our refinement. For instance, if we’ve had the same hairdo since the 80s, perhaps it’s time to trust our stylist for a more modern approach. Men, we have the option to grow a beard or shave our beard. If we grow, let’s keep it trimmed. If we shave it off, let’s just don’t do it during hockey playoffs or we’ll jinx our team out of the run for the Stanley Cup. Every now and again, all of us need to walk into a few clothing stores that aren’t on our familiarity list and see what’s fresh. The folks in those shops usually have pretty good taste and would love to help. Or, just bring a lady with you. My general rule is, if the ladies like it, I’ll wear it.
Bonus: We need to stack this planet with wonderfully moral characters, so whatever we do when it comes to change – let’s keep our character. Unless, of course, we’re an ass. Then let’s look in the mirror, call an expert, and get to work on our self.
Converse with a stranger
My daughter and I were fortunate enough to share a taxi with a nice couple as we arrived in New Orleans one summer. The couple was in their late 80s and very friendly and talkative. They told us of a nice swing band at the Ritz Carlton playing the next evening, so my daughter and I decided to go. It was terrific watching them show the youngsters how to dance. A wonderful evening occurred, all because we were open to a chat.
Bonus: Be cool with this one. Let’s not be creeps. Or converse with creeps. This isn’t a trolling expedition, it’s about hearing the stories of others. Sharing stories and hearing others’ adventures creates wisdom and memories.
Listen to the unfamiliar
Classical music for instance. These are the genius composers of music, played by genius musicians. It can be candy for our ears. Visit a park to listen and we’ll most likely hear kids playing, birds chirping, river water, and the breeze, among other things. If we don’t hear these things, we’re at the wrong park! Yes, I enjoy a Hallmark movie every now and then. Don’t judge.
Bonus: Periodically, take away all sound by using noise-canceling headphones. Back in the day I did this with the Clash song, Train in Vain and realized there were not one, but two singers in harmony. It was a spectacular sound that I never knew prior to that moment.
Master a unique talent
When I was in my early 20s I decided to learn five things that were quirky and unique. Something that would set me apart from others, just for kicks. And occasionally, they show up in conversation or action, and people smile because of it. They are a simple magic trick, walking on my hands, juggling, unicycle, and a quick joke. Yes, I’ve heard it before… I should combine a few of these and join the circus!
Bonus: During my 30s, I came up with five more unique areas, and did the same in my 40s. I’ll continue as long as I’m blessed with a new decade. Hope you decide to join me in this venture.
No need for us to go crazy on this one. Let’s be smart and safe, otherwise we may be to blame for a missing person’s report. Instead, let’s make it simple. It can be as easy as taking another route home from work. It’s quite nice seeing something new. If you ride a bike, take a different trail. Enjoy spaghetti for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. If you work in a large building, visit some floors where you’ve never been and introduce yourself to a couple of folks. Robert Frost, the 19th century American poet, said it best, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Bonus: Take a friend or loved one and pack a couple of sandwiches or some fried chicken to enjoy with a blanket under a tree. Wine helps too.
Basically, try “fresh” things. Pretty soon, we have better stories to tell - audience-captivating stories. Stories that intrigue, persuade, and sell. So yes, this practice is great for our business as well.
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I was shaving my face the other day and things got ugly. Blood, sweat, and tears ugly. In the process of this single shave, I cut my neck, my lip, and the skin alongside my jawline. The white sink began to splatter red.
Now, at the gamble of getting gross, I’ll stop my story here (too late?) Anyway, it made me think. I concluded that a few factors are in play here – the person, the circumstance, and the tool. In most cases, the setup of these three factors is what determines our failure or success. In my case that morning, my mood was on the positive side, the circumstance was very familiar, and the tool was excellent. So, what went wrong?
I didn’t let the tool do the work.
I tried to force the tool to cut deeper and faster. I pushed. In other words, I led from behind. This can be the pattern of poor leaders as well. Poor leaders push others from behind. They force individuals to do things through manipulation and fear. They call their employees “staff”, or “workers”, or “operatives.” Poor leaders treat individuals as if they are expendable – like the cheap, flat, wrench tool that comes in an Ikea box.
Of course, we must guide the tool, as good supervisors do. Guidance is leadership. The dictionary states that synonyms to ‘guidance’ include: leadership; instruction; direction. Choose the right tool and let it perform to the best of its ability, with our guidance. Similarly, hire the right person and let them perform to the best of their ability with our guidance. The person and the tool go hand-in-hand, so to speak.
Great leaders create a vision – a daring destination – and go first to show others where we’re going. They inspire, guide, and partner with the individuals on their team. They lead by example because they love what they do, and they truly value the individuals on their team. They value the people in their lives because of who they are, as opposed to only what they accomplish.
This notion of leadership has been adopted in many ways, by many respected leaders:
The person. The circumstance. The tool. All need to align to produce the best results. Respect the tool. The tool is the instrument that is the catalyst for a job well done. The tool can be anything – a razor, a saw, a pen, a laptop. The one thing it cannot be… it cannot be your employee. If we see our employees as tools, we need an intense lesson in leadership.
Treat a person like a tool, and they’ll move on. As they should. Guide a person into success, and when they’re ready to move on, they will be a more talented and wiser individual. As will we.
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“When a meeting gets cancelled… I actual hear a sigh of relief… that isn’t good!
That’s a part of your (employee) culture.”
“We can save (companies) millions of dollars…”
“What happens when people get engaged at a company? They start to share ideas with each other… they start to care for each other… productivity goes way up.”
“If executives start walking the talk, engagement levels can go up by 50%...
you’re going to get more productivity, make more money, expand and grow…”
“I know how to make it work.”
Special thank you to Justin Spicer of Globeville Studios - he's a terrific man and a wonderfully visual artist.
Sure, we can talk about the weather. Aaaaaand, now you’ve lost me. That’s about how long I stay interested in whether I should wear a coat tomorrow or not.
Unless, it’s a blizzard, a drought, a tornado, or a biblical blood-red moon moment, the weather is the weather. Its everydayness is about as interesting as a nat. Even the meteorologists often make snippy side comments: “It’ll be a blah day tomorrow, with some scattered showers.” “We’ll need to wait a few days as this storm passes before we see the sun again.” “It’s partly cloudy today.”
Partly cloudy? How about partly sunny! Let’s kick it up a notch, shall we? Or, let’s learn to embrace it. Embracing (acceptance of) our situation is one secret to an elevated enjoyment of home-life and work-life. Here are two examples of how I spun my perspective 180 degrees:
I used to say I didn’t like the rain. I liked nearly all other weather patterns – wind, snow, sun, clouds. I just didn’t like the rain, until… one day, I decided I will like the rain. I embraced the rain, so to speak. I looked for the good in rain. It waters the grass, it washes my car, and it provides a reason for me to cozy-up inside and read a good book. More - it helps me concentrate, it relaxes me, it provides a great sound for napping, I love to drive in the rain. And after a good rain, the neighborhood is clean and the air smells wonderful.
It’s Monday. It’s Tuesday. Ouch. Those are the two toughest days of the week, don’t you agree? In fact, Tuesday has been diagnosed as the most stressful day of the work week, according to The Telegraph among other sources. And Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. – forget about it – worst day AND time! Therefore, I chose to embrace it. I offered up bagel Mondays at my workplace. I set my calendar for an extra hour of ‘me time’ during these mornings, to allow more time to acclimate. I did not schedule weekly team meetings on Tuesdays, or if I did, we met for breakfast (yes - food works in the realm of boosting happiness!)
And now, back to the weather…
If you say to me, “Hey Blaise, let’s discuss the weather today.” My head will think, and perhaps my mouth will spit out, “Ok, fine…you’ve got 10 seconds,” or the unrulier side of me may take over and say, “No. Let’s not.”
At times I’ve hosted a workshop for kids titled: How To Make Something Boring Into Something Interesting. Now, I do that for a living. I’m a writer and a storyteller. I turn the 'boring' into the 'interesting', so my audience will enjoy receiving the information. Most people work off the same concept: boring, we’re done; interesting, I’ll listen.
Merriam Webster defines it as follows: interesting is an adjective that describes the thing that a person or people are responding to. Things that we like and want to know more about are interesting. If we turn something boring into something interesting, we’ll capture our audience. Consequently, if we wish to speak of the weather, here’s how to kick it up a notch:
More interesting topics, specific to weather patterns:
The last one, yeah, I’m doing a bit of research. This may be a Spring project.
More interesting topics, period (how dare you speak of this!):
Careful with these last two. Let’s be civil, people. Limit, or don’t, bring these up in the workplace – unless our workplace is a church or a government facility. Now, where can I purchase a small palm tree…
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For me, the biggest Heartbreaker was when Tom Petty passed. A living legend for more than 40 years gracing us with his talent for songwriting, his grit, his love for his fans, and for his legendary stage performances.
Petty’s 40th Anniversary Tour was led by this man who had broken his hip, and yet continued to perform until the end. Literally. He had a fractured hip for the 53-date tour. Tom loved his job and he was remarkably dedicated to his band and his fans, of which, 600,000 of them were lucky enough to see him live on his last tour.
Imagine, loving our job and being so dedicated to performing well, that we’d continue to work through this type of adversity for our team and for our cause. It is possible, if we want it.
Tom Petty’s servant leadership can be an example for us. It’s inspiring in so many ways. His reflective storytelling pours out within his tunes. During his live concerts, he most often complimented other artists by playing their songs. He was genuine, humble and giving. Did I know the man personally, no. To understand what type of character he was, I didn’t have to.
It’s the same for us. People know our character – our reputation – whether they meet us or not. Especially in these prolific days of data capture, social media, and the town gossip. Somewhere out there on the nearly 5 billion pages within the internet, our character floats around and is accessible. And as we float around speaking to folks, expressing our opinion, sharing our stories, producing work product, and posting photos, our character continues to expound. Word gets around.
Petty released thirteen studio albums as the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, in addition to three solo albums. He was the lead of the band Mudcrutch and one of the five musical all-stars on the albums produced by the Traveling Wilburys. In total, he wrote 200 songs, give or take. And they were good. Word got around.
Tom Petty didn’t compare himself to others. He did his own thing. He was original. And we are too. Each one of us is a unique brand with talents to share, if we so choose to share them. Since Tom did such a good job sharing his talent, I’m listening. Pun intended. Here are a few tunes that will help us handle what life tosses at us, compliments of Mr. Petty:
Listen To Her Heart
Here Comes My Girl
Dogs On The Run
I Won’t Back Down
Thank you, Tom. Rest in Peace.
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Today, I’d like to offer up the backgrounds and circumstances of two people and let you decide which one has an advantage.
The one that has an advantage? The correct answer is A.
Here’s the reality. The two people - they’re both me. Each description is simply a matter of how I decide to view my circumstance. Person A has an advantage because he is thinking positively. Henry Ford knew this in the early 1900’s when he said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t - you’re right.”
Scientific evidence backs this up as well. Professor Barbara Fredrickson is a social psychologist from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and has been a researcher in human emotions for the past 25 years. She suggests that positivity is the mindset that helps produce emotions such as joy, amusement, happiness, serenity, gratitude and inspiration.
She said a few more things that caught my attention and made me, literally, sit up straight:
Therefore, for the fundamental rhythms of my heart and the easiness in my torso, I choose to think, “I can.” Together, let’s try an experiment: For the remainder of this year, let’s focus in the areas of our talents and surround ourselves with the things we enjoy. Let’s do this with business and personal decisions. It’s won’t be easy, and it’s for the good of our health and wellbeing. So, I say we do it! Who’s with me?
Quick note: when I say that I’m close to my sibling and in another case, I rarely speak to him - both are true. We’re brothers, 15 months apart and we’re close. And yet, we only speak about once a month. I can only figure this is the case because we’re men, and these men don’t have a lot to say to each other. Although, I’d do anything for him, and he would for me as well. That’s just us. I love him.
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“My charter is to make sure that people in companies don’t live for the weekend…
...that they are excited about Mondays and Tuesdays…
...because they are doing their life’s work…
...and they are surrounded by people who are doing the same.
That’s the kind of organization that I help to create, and that’s the way I live my life as well."
Special thank you to Justin Spicer of Globeville Studios - he's a terrific man and a wonderfully visual artist.
What do these three-word amalgams have in common?
For us music fans out there, we’ve most likely guessed it by now. They’re all band names. Today I will suggest words can be a catalyst to our success, or a detriment. Why? Because words are powerful. Words can be the most significant method to manipulate. Interrogators know this. Salesman know this. Teenage girls know this.
Words are also powerful resources for connecting, branding, encouraging, and inspiring. Use them wisely, for they can create wonder with proper storytelling, blunder with improper use, or thunder if AC/DC had its way. Let me illustrate this through a simple story.
There once was a band who mastered their talent in their garage for years. They could play in any chord, in any key, on nearly every instrument, and in any genre. They had the job skills.
This band melded together in friendship, openness, and trust. They were innovative, creative, and had moral character. They were a fit.
The group had a unique sound, they understood the industry and created music that appealed to their niche. They had a differentiator in the marketplace.
They got hired for gigs at local establishments, they proudly displayed their band name on the marquee, they sent flyers to locals, displayed ads in music magazines, and delivered social media to music fans. They had a good marketing strategy.
On the days of the performances, the band was pumped and ready to go – but nobody showed. They didn’t connect with their audience in a way that made them react and respond. They had poor communications.
The name of their band - “Closed for Remodeling."
My point – all elements of a strategy and plan need to align. And since I’m in the field of communications, I will boldly say that communications is the most important element. That’s right, I wrote these words. Why? Because, I repeat, words are powerful. They allow us to create an intended action and deliver results.
Now, consider these band names:
Regardless of whether we like the music these bands produce, in general terms, their band name is terrible. Even the members of the Goo Goo Dolls admitted they made a mistake with this one. Imagine we’re in a band and we have the opportunity to give ourselves a name. Anything goes! The world of words is ours for the taking. We have talent and a record deal, and we settle on the band name, “The The.” What I figure, is the sex and drugs may have gotten in the way of the rock ‘n roll naming convention for some of these band members.
“Words That Work.” It’s a wonderful book by Dr. Frank Luntz. In it, Luntz offers a behind-the-scenes look at how the tactical use of words and phrases affects what we buy, who we vote for, and even what we believe in. With chapters like "The Ten Rules of Successful Communication" and "The 21 Words and Phrases for the 21st Century," he examines how choosing the right words is essential. Oh, and yes, it comes in all forms of readable consumption – hardback, soft cover, audiobook, radio interviews, etc.
Words. Use them wisely, for they are our communications. I will conclude by reverting to band names through some fun and pun. These are a sampling of my favorite pairings, who at some point should have toured with each other, if not just for the marquee presentation alone.
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Brace yourself, this starts off rough. And there’s a point to it, so bear with me. I know good friends or family members with at least one of these conditions, and so may you: cancer, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, depression, ADHD, dyslexia, blindness, deafness, infertility, PTSD, severe arthritis, alcoholism, drug addiction, and homelessness.
Recently, I found out a valedictorian of a high school in my county, an A-student, and well-spoken young man was homeless. This reminds me of a statement by Ian MacLaren, a noted Scotsman and author, who cared deeply about those around him. He offers wise counsel with the words, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden.”
Today, I’d like us to consider how well we really know the people in our lives. I mean REALLY know them. The world today is like that moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy’s house is lifted by the wind of the whirling tornado - people fly in and out of our lives. Unlike Dorothy in that moment, it is something we CAN control.
Growing up, I was the kid who knew a lot of people, but very few at any level of depth. I didn’t purposefully set out to do this, it just happened, perhaps because of my immaturity. My brother, who’s just 15 months younger, had an approach quite unlike mine. He knew a few people at a remarkable depth. In time, I matured and adopted his method, for those that I truly admired. The shift has been wonderful.
As I’ve gotten to know individuals at a deeper level, life has become more profound, relationships more meaningful. It has been enlightening and compelling. People are incredibly giving and helpful, regardless of the ask or the situation. And those that aren’t aligned with my values, I purposefully haven’t allowed them time with me to influence. Therefore, here’s what I’d like us to consider:
Questions for all of us…
· The relationships I care about, how deep do they go - besides a beer and a game or a wine and a whine?
· How many of my LinkedIn connections have I spoken to, met with, helped in some way, or thanked in some way? (Do I even have a LinkedIn network?)
· Have I donated lately to a cause that helps our fellow human beings? (time, items, money, etc.)
Tougher questions for all of us…
· What actions have I taken to make my workplace better for me and those around me?
· What actions have I taken to make my community a better place to reside?
· What actions have I taken to make my world a better place to live?
These types of actions don’t have to be enormous to better our lives. My example is this… do I walk in my work place, hop over a crumpled paper on the floor, and complain how dirty the place is - or do I pick up the piece of trash, toss it in a wastebasket, and make it better for me and everyone around me?
Likewise, the interactions with people in our circle of friends and peers do not have to be enormous. They simply need to be thoughtful. Genuine. And it can make an exponential and positive difference. Pay it forward, so to speak. The Boy Scouts taught me when I was young to leave a campsite (or wherever I was) better than when I arrived. It’s one of my favorite life lessons.
Next time, we leave our table at the coffee shop, our buddy’s basement after the game, or in those rare moments when our eyes raise up from our mobile device – let’s look behind us. How does the scene present itself for those in our wake?
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This, I believe, is one reason why they’re so successful. We want a place to go outside of our work or home. A place to sit, talk, and enjoy each other’s company – or be left alone. Starbucks made that happen.
How? They displayed lots of chairs, couches and tables. They erected fireplaces and outside patios. They built in locations where people naturally gather – outside of shopping centers, inside of shopping centers, inside of grocery stores, and near hospitals, colleges, and office buildings. And they sell coffee and tea, and in some locations, alcohol. These are the beverages most people drink when we sit, talk, and enjoy each other’s company - or want to be left alone.
I embrace loitering too. Why? First, it’s easier than fighting it! Secondly, it allows me to accomplish several things by removing me from the norm and commotion that is life. In this unique and lively space, I get to write, read, relax, ponder, produce, and people-watch (not in a creepy way; I enjoy the characters that wander this earth!)
Yes, I said ‘produce’. I’m a writer, thinker, team leader, visionary, and content producer, among other things. I don’t make this stuff up. My Enneagram tells me I’m an “enthusiastic visionary” (a busy, fun-loving type: spontaneous and versatile) with a wing of “loyalist” (a committed, security-oriented type: engaging and responsible). Now that I know this about myself, I set myself up for success, by surrounding myself with things that inspire me – people, coffee, WiFi, and a nearby electrical outlet.
This alternative (insert coffee shop of your choice here) space allows me to open my sensors and create. I’ve also met some extraordinary people in these spaces. “A coffee shop is a great meeting place,” said Blaise as if everyone already wasn’t aware of this. It’s also a great place to look up “Enneagram” to find out more about yourself and ask deeper questions to the people you meet.
As we begin this new year, I hope to see you in a cool meeting place “loitering” outside of your home or workspace. I challenge each of us to embrace the things we love, share the things that inspire us, and buy a cup of coffee for a friend. If you see me in one of these spaces, please come up and introduce yourself. And if you mention this article – I’ll buy you a cup of joe.
Yes. I wrote much of this note to you in a coffee shop. More dark-roast, please.
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I’ve met so many wonderful people in 2017. Thank you for your time, genuineness, encouragement, and optimistic spirit. I will continue my weekly content throughout 2018. It is fun to write, and my wish is that it provides to you a unique perspective, some enlightening content, and a smile every now and again.
Over these next two weeks until the end of the year, may you be blessed with love from your family and friends. And I offer this to each of you…
Happy New Year! May our 2018 be better than 2017. Cheers to a year where relationships blossom, divisions narrow, joy spreads, love sinks deep, friends and families bond, and we all give to our fellow men, women and children.
That’s it for me until January. Thank you all for supporting my weekly content. If you like it, please share, like, visit www.FiveLevelsConsulting.com, and let me know. If you don’t like it, please let me know why. I’m always looking to improve by learning from the wisdom that surrounds us.
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My wife put me up for sale today. She sent a note out to all her friends with some of the following selling points: free to good home, sleeps in the dog house without blankets, no need to provide food or water. And then she added: priced to sell, porch pick-up available. What she didn’t say was: expanding older model, makes poor decisions, enabler. These were the real reasons she wanted me sold.
Why? Because I ok’d my 16-year-old daughter to sleep over on Saturday night at her best friend’s house. Her best friend is a boy. Now, before you judge me, I’d like for you to consider the following: it’s a mortal sin to judge others. And please consider these additional points as well…
In communications, whether in business or with our spouse, there are two items we must make primary for our message to be most effective – knowing our audience and the clarity of our message. My daughter knows these items very well. That’s why she asked me, instead of her mother (the audience most likely to agree) and why she texted me the direct message, “may I spend the night” and included terms like “please” and “as a reward for me doing well this year in school” (texting was the most rapid form of delivery; message was brief, clear, and cordial with compelling reasoning.)
Bottom line: it worked. Madison is my youngest daughter, by one minute. She’s the fiercely independent one. The tenacity of this kid rival professional military and law enforcement negotiators. Sophia, her older sister by 60 seconds, is the profoundly emotional one. Emotions are another wonderful method for achieving audience buy-in. We see this storytelling technique quite often, especially from savvy and successful corporations. Budweiser’s Clydesdales, Coca Cola, and McDonalds are three organizations that have mastered this practice for decades.
Powerful imagery tells a story as well. We’re reminded of this in the 1921 quote by advertising executive, Fred R. Barnard, “One picture is worth a thousand words.” You’ll find momentous imagery examples on the cover of National Geographic, sports athlete still shots, and on my daughter’s face when she wants something.
Convincing evidence suggests that emotions play a central role in consumer buying journeys. According to a study published in Psychology Today, by Antonio Damasio, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, here are some excerpts:
As we venture into the world each day as caregivers, salespersons, business leaders, service specialists, parents, students, or retirees – let us remember to tell our story with these two items at the forefront: understanding our audience and clarity of messaging.
By the way, I’ve already received a few hits from my wife’s “spouse for sale” advertisement. Seems I need to study up on the “understanding our audience” concept when it comes to my wife. Hmm, where are my reading glasses…
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I drink coffee until lunch. I happily consume the juice of the gods because if done right, it’s delicious. Thank you, Farmer Brothers! The way I see it - when my coffee is done, so is the morning. And I like mornings, so I try to stretch them out as long as possible. I’m most productive in the morning, at least that’s what I tell people who ask.
During social events and conversations, that question comes up a couple of times each year – “are you a morning person or a night owl?” I’ve been pondering this one lately because the experts say to work on the tough stuff first. Mark Twain even said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” I must agree… at least with the part that says, ‘nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.’ Unless of course, you’re the frog in this scenario.
Dr. Travis Bradberry, cofounder of TalentSmart, takes it a few steps further and recommends that we make a habit of eating three frogs before you check your e-mail, because e-mail is a major distraction that enables procrastination and wastes precious mental energy. Good advice on delaying email and directly attacking the important items first. But three frogs? Dude! I prefer to remind myself that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Granted, I’m sure frogs have plenty of protein, but so do bacon and eggs!
So… after my bacon and eggs, I’ve recently been focused on doing the tough stuff first. And it is working! I’ve written many daunting correspondences, scheduled crucial business discussions over morning coffee, and designed creative works before the clock hits 10:00 a.m.
Of course, I’ve also had some of my most powerful and clear ideas during a late evening shower, just after a 3:00 a.m. sleep disruption, and inside a crowded restaurant during dinner. Sure, I’ve pulled all-nighters, close most socials, arrive early for meetings, and often stay up late working on important items. There are also times I get tired in early evening or can’t stop hitting snooze on the morning bell. Maybe I’m actually a 9:00am to 3:00pm person.
How am I supposed to answer that type of question – what type of person am I? Answer “9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.” and I’m a sloth. Answer “morning” and there may be expectations that 5:00am is an ok time to have a vibrant chat. Answer “evening” and I may be expected to party ‘til the sun comes up.
Sure, I get a second wind. Heck, I’ve had third and fourth winds! One cool moment for me was when my older-self outlasted the younger talent at my place of business. We were only getting 2-hour night naps to support our national meeting. Why? Because we had a commitment to produce a daily printed newsletter for the 3,000 employees that attended the event. This had never been done before – so, we wrote all day, printed all night, and delivered in the early morning – for five consecutive days. Coffee was an important tool to getting it done.
My advice. Get the tough stuff done when you’re at your best, on that day. If you arise with a spark – go for it. If you’re sleepy throughout the day, work out and hit the tough stuff later that evening. I’m no scientist, just a genuine individual looking to help others. And what I do know is that we’re all unique.
Breakfast with coffee is my favorite meal. Of more concern, according to doctor Christy C. Tangney, a clinical dietitian at Rush University Medical Center, is that an association has been found between skipping breakfast and other risky behaviors like smoking, and experimenting with drugs and alcohol.” That statement, however, dips into the tools of how I conquer my evening activities.
Hmmm. Now, I’m quite clear in what area of my life I need to work on next.
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Would we rather be happy or good? The best answer here is “both.” And the best part of this question is – it is possible. Wise people that have come before us, and many that are still among us, have provided ways for us to live this type of life. They remind us with a simple statement. A memorable quote.
Imagine a world where everyone is happy and good. We can create this world if we wish. We can create it in our home life and throughout our work environment, whether we are the newby or a chief officer. We simply need to pay attention to it. Our world exists through the people of which we surround ourselves. We have that choice. Family… well, that’s another thing. We don’t get to choose family, and therefore, we all have that nutty aunt or uncle out there – and frankly in most cases, that makes for a wildly entertaining holiday gathering.
Outside of family, we make the choice of the people in our lives as said so eloquently by American author, Marlo Morgan, “We automatically give to each person we meet, but we choose what we give. Our words, our actions, must consciously set the stage for the life we wish to lead.”
Here are my starting five. Five quotes that remind me to be a good person and choose wisely. And these same quotes also bring joy to my life. They are words that remind us how to act. How to exist.
“A good conscience is a continual Christmas.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Provided you have a conscious, how well we sleep at night may be a direct reflection on how we treated people throughout the day. Personally, a continual Christmas (or any holiday we wish to insert here) can create an awesome feeling in our head, heart and gut - especially if we serve mashed potatoes and gravy.
“Begin with the End in Mind.” ~ Stephen Covey
This allows us to see the results before we’ve started. It provides a clean slate and a fresh approach to a powerful vision. Yes, we need to put the steps in place to get there. Nonetheless, visualizing us standing on the mountain in the end, is a glorious sight.
“Be the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are.” ~ J.W. Stephens
We can’t really deny that if we own a dog, they love us unconditionally. It’s as if we are the greatest, kindest, most wonderful human being that ever existed. Feels good, doesn’t it?! Let’s be that person! After all, we don’t want to disappoint our best friend, now do we? If you have a dog that doesn’t feel this way about you – call me. There’s more to discuss.
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
I vote yes. All of us have an important role in this world, and it is determined if we are lucky enough to live to the average age of 78 years old, we will meet 80,000 people in our lives, says Adioma founder, Anna Vital. That is the impact we have on those around us. It is also our moral responsibility to “be a good one.”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
Thoughtful, committed citizens. That’s us. Let’s go change the world for the better.
These quotes outline the deliberate and thoughtful approach that I deliver to organizations in my communications consulting. The Scottish comic book writer, Mark Millar, also sums it up well, “Organizations who win, think deeply, choose wisely, and act decisively.”
This philosophy has made an impact on bottom line results for many organizations who understand the power of positive words teamed with action – significantly reducing turnover, increasing employee and customer satisfaction levels, and fostering a positive and meaningful company culture. I hope some of my five favorites have resonated with you.
P.S. Yes, I did sneak in a few more quotes beyond my starting five. Here’s another, just for kicks… “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~Cicero.
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I’ve found that these five two-word combos out perform all others in building a stronger team. Besides “free food,” of course. And we must mean it! If we simply go through the motions in uttering these words, our team will see right through us. That’s good, because it helps separate the weeds from the garden, so to speak. I’ll go out on a limb right now and say that very few people want a weed as their supervisor. Weeds prevent growth of what we desire.
Great supervisors are hard to come by. Most likely because they’re responsible for everything that is generated by the team – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the budget. And because of things that take time away from the individuals on their team – the meetings, the travel, the meetings, and the budget.
I write this list to remind myself of what was shared with me by the teams I’ve been fortunate enough to have led and been a part of. Life is unpredictable and at times downright terrifying, like me ending the last sentence with a preposition. So, before you read my list below, let’s soak in the wise words of Danielle Cormack (AKA: Xena the Warrior Princess), “Be mindful, exercise kindness, to yourselves, to each other.”
These two words generate answers, options, new ideas, innovation, and fun. Let’s ask the individuals on our team and the team as a whole. We must provide space and ensure that the quieter ones on our team have an opportunity to speak. So much can be gained by involving our team in decisions – bonding, buy-in, and increased productivity, to name a few. I’ve experienced companies that continually ask their team members their thoughts, with some having crafted the name of their company, their company’s core values, their style of workstations, and how they’d like to celebrate the latest team victory.
These two words continue to carry significant meaning for individuals day-to-day. There are unique ways to utilize the power of these words, including a one-on-one coffee meeting, a handwritten note card, a fun phone video, and within a team meeting so all can hear. Oh, and yes, we can also simply say “thank you” in front of them at their workspace. Sometimes that is most appropriate.
These two words create and develop positive momentum for the individual and the team. Let’s use it carefully – too often it loses meaning and too few it doesn’t propel the team forward. Let’s recognize individuals for their good work, realize the small victories and the larger accomplishments and track milestones. Some milestones to consider may include annual programs that have made a difference, best-ever results when they occur, organizational victories in years in business, numbers of employees, and new location openings.
These two words help break the ice for new team members and assist in understanding the dynamics of our team. Let’s not get creepy, let’s just meet our individuals at a semi-personal level – what do they prefer? Coffee or tea, sunrise or night owl, week-long vacations or day trips. It may be fun to pose a question at the beginning of each week as a team bonding exercise. Showcase birthdays and work anniversaries, ideally monthly as a group.
These two words remind us to be servant leaders. Let’s get in there, make coffee, and power-out the tough stuff with our team. Sometimes supervisors will need to move from coach to quarterback and actually touch the ball to generate movement. Be careful not to do something that others can do, or need to learn to do. Show them, and then get out of their way - because if we’ve hired right, we can now let them grow by failure, adaptation, success, and improvements. Support their wishes by creating individualized work spaces and allowing work-from-home opportunities, if possible. Each organization is unique. Embrace it. I’m right there with you.
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If you think this sounds like the results most men’s weekend projects, you’d be right. I won’t speak for most men – well yes, yes, I will. There’s a certain level of “fix” that men are comfortable with in many cases. For the most part, the tools involved in the fix include masking tape, a hammer, a screwdriver and a beer in hand.
I was raised in this way. My dad actually said to me, “son, if you want it done right, pay someone to do it.” And then we laughed at the fact that he called me “son.” The rest of the statement was no joke. And so there I was as a teenager in a hard-working, blue-collar family with my life advice for when something breaks - to pull from my barely-above-zero bank account to get it fixed. Fortunately, I only followed that advice for three decades. I lived past my 30-year high school reunion with fear of carefully disassembling an object, with every intention of reassembly, and instead losing the functionality of said object for the rest of eternity.
Today, thanks in large part to Google videos, I’ve begun to showcase my skills in the repair arena, specifically for things outside of my comfort zone. One recent project was my daughter’s car. It was an old car, mind you. Bought off a cheesy car lot for $4,500 with a mess of issues. Don’t ask why, I just bought it. Figured it wouldn’t take too much money to get all the little things up and right again. Mhm…
It needed work, and I was going to tackle it. No, not the engine. I could seriously injure myself wrenching at things in the gaping mouth of a Touareg. The headlight electrical was shot and it needed a new lighting compartment and wiring unit. Sounds like a project for dad, I loudly exclaimed to myself. And so, I began. It was mid-morning, I had my Google video, my tools, a discount card from Ace Hardware, and the garage refrigerator stocked with cold beer within arm’s reach.
A wise green chap once said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda’s words are certainly wise. And so, I do… uh, I mean, I did. I fixed it four times. Four times I took it apart, put in new parts, put it back together and tested. At points, some lights worked. Other times, nothing worked. In fact, I broke a plastic holder piece deep inside the casing and it fell somewhere into the engine compartment. A baptism of sorts. My hope is the plastic will hit a hot spot on the engine and slowly melt away with no one the wiser to my gaffe.
Took four hours, two trips to the auto parts store, one Amazon shipment, and one Amazon return. Still broken. Worth every second. Here’s why…
I did. I implement in an area that was unfamiliar to see how I managed the situation. I didn’t procrastinate; I simply started and ended up directionally correct.
I bonded. A curious neighbor stopped by and we worked together for some time. His young son even became our runner for tools and such. It was nice to know that I wasn’t alone in my quest. In most cases, we never are.
I accomplished. Ok, fine, I eventually paid someone to fix it. The metaphorically good news is the mechanic had the car for two full days and the issue was much more than the casing and wiring. When I finally picked up the car, it still wasn’t fully working. So, yeah, my talent is up there with the best of them.
I discovered. Now I know a little bit more. More about who I am, how I respond to an unfamiliar challenge and why it’s important to do. I also discovered that I prefer the Fall beer medley of Sam Adams over any other seasonal selection.
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"Nancy, what do you think?” said a co-worker.
“Can you repeat the question please?” said Nancy, looking up with half-mast eyelids.
Nancy’s body occupied the room, but that’s about it. Nancy represents an estimated 70% of all workers at any given company in America who are disengaged employees. Nancy’s name has been changed to protect the guilty.
According to Dale Carnegie, out of the 70% of disengaged employees, as much as 26% are actively disengaged. ACTIVELY disengaged? Yikes! No wonder these people don’t hear a wit of the conversation in front of them. Actively disengaged is a frightening condition for an organization that wants to flourish. At some companies, if you listen closely, you can hear the sucking sound. That’s the sound of the positivity and productivity being propelled out of the rooms where these people are sitting.
The team at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill describes these people in the following way: actively disengaged workers are the most damaging employees in the workplace. They are unhappy and let that unhappiness show in words, attitudes and actions. They undermine the performance of others by constantly voicing their displeasure and listing the many reasons why they are so miserable in their jobs.
And I’ll add… they can’t wait for that next employee satisfaction survey where they can share their thoughts with the entire organization, anonymously.
So what do we do about it? For me, a good general rule is to mentally triage them in groups as follows:
– Group A: one-third can be somewhat easily encouraged
– Group B: one-third can be encouraged in time and under the right conditions
– Group F: one-third will never be encouraged no matter what anyone says or does
If we have team leaders that act this way (employees with one or more direct reports), we will encounter a significant impact for all those team members in that lane. They are our priority. And if these leaders are in group F, it’s time to let them be successful in a different organization.
Three quick ways to make an impact on groups A and B…
“And that’s it for the annual ‘My Listening Hour’, thanks for letting me speak to you this entire time. Hope I was clear and concise,” said the CEO with gusto. Conciseness flew out the window 9 minutes into that hour. And hoping our employees understood what was said, once per year, is just fantasy.
Here’s what to do. Speak briefly and then listen. If our speaking time outlasts our listening time, we’ve missed the mark. We must know what is disrupting productivity. Therefore, ask and listen. Often. Provide the opportunity for our employees to share, anytime, to any level within the organization. Yes, the C-level team must be available, even if it’s only for set monthly or quarterly sessions. Let our employees tell us what’s on their mind, and then set a plan to do something about it. That leads me into my next point…
Say, Do, Share
“Thanks for working so hard to learn the minutia of the old system – however, tomorrow we’re launching a new one called OneSizeFitsAll, the training is intensive, but we hope it will be better for you in the long run,” said the new CIO to the entire organization via video clip. Dropping news like this takes time and input from all levels of the organization to unite and foster buy-in.
Building trust is important at all levels. And it must be kept up constantly – like brand new parents with twins. Here’s what to do. When we’re making decisions on programs, products and organizational design, think things through in detail on how our decisions will impact employees. We’ve already done the asking and listening – now’s the time to tell them what we will do together, then do it, and then share what we’ve done - and the positive and personal stories that are wonderful because of it. That leads me to my next point…
“Hey, let’s give Nancy a plaque and parade her up in front of the entire division to make a short speech. She’ll be thrilled!” Unless, of course she’s an introvert, loves her solitude and her greatest fear is public speaking.
Here’s what to do. Recognize – only in the way each individual wishes to be recognized. That means we must get to know our employees on somewhat of a personal level – their likes, pet peeves, favorite color, fears, hobbies. Quick note: introverts and extroverts are tough to identify by their outward appearances and actions.
Our employees are our greatest asset. Yes, more important than our customers, our clients, our shareholders or the media. I will defend that statement any time, any day. Our employees have the opportunity to reinvent our organization. After all, this philosophy continues to create the best and brightest organizations full of happy and fulfilled employees and customers. And these organizations can make the world a better place.
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Put yourself in the mind of your six-year-old self. What happens is that your imagination comes to life, coloring outside the lines becomes the norm, and you even see the world from a different perspective, both physically and mentally. Now, when someone at work asked you to help them brainstorm or solve a problem, invite your six-year-old self to the table.
Yep, I tap into my grade-schooler self quite often. Here are four traits on how he benefits me:
Albert Einstein said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing." Children aggressively take this advice like they do full-sized candy bars on Halloween. Kids question everything. A bit rough for the adults in their lives, but good for them!
It was curiosity among other things that sent our United States astronauts to the moon, and keeps us intrigued about the workings of our brains, the creatures at the depth of the oceans, and the yet unknowns of deep space. Even the discovering of America was a result of the curiosity and boldness of Christopher Columbus and others.
Curiosity begets inspiration, which in turn produces insights; insights lead to ideas and then on to inventions. In short, curiosity is the catalyst to invention.
As a kid, I used to run around barefoot in the sunshine, build forts, climb trees, and come home only when dinner was ready. Since I was so active, it made me healthier. I rarely got sick, I healed quickly, and I was in many ways a tougher version of my current self. If I met myself today, I couldn’t keep up!
Physical exercise comes naturally to many kids, so, in the mind of my six-year-old self, I get out there more often. I ride my mountain bike through the dirt trails, I sign up my non-runner self for 5K runs, and I climb trees with… well, my wife won’t let me climb trees anymore. Fine, I’ll play in the snow with my daughters when the season hits.
In one simple study by Jubilee Media, they asked adults and children one question: “If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?” The individual adults mentioned things like, having smaller ears, wanting to be a bit taller, shrinking the size of forehead, and help to correct their walk.
The kids were asked same question, but answered quite differently. Some would like a mermaid tail, a shark mouth, legs like a cheetah, wings to fly. Cool huh? One little lady said she’d like to have teleportation. TELEPORTATION! Me too! And a couple of them said nothing. Meaning, they wouldn’t change anything, because they liked their body the way it is. Talk about confidence!
Kids are brilliant brainstormers. Why? Because they challenge normal thought and they are naturally creative and solution-driven. I challenge us to invite our inner-kid into the room more often. We may just find that cure or solve that issue or invent that product, much faster than if we let only the adults weigh-in.
Vegas, baby, Vegas! When was the last time you played it by ear and just hopped in the car and took off? Imagine leaving the house without plans, like neighborhood kids do - the wonder that might develop in our adult minds. I’m intrigued just making that statement. I did that quite often, especially when I was in my teens and twenties. I lived moment by moment.
Today, I often weave within my storytelling, some of those moment-by-moment examples from my youth. I do still live like that, only in much smaller doses. And those doses are some of the best experiences in my life. The memories are beautiful - getting lost with my wife on a hike, taking a new road and two days across multiple states rather than flying, and challenging myself to write a thriller novel. These are some that come to mind.
That six-year-old will always be with you, and he’s brilliant in many ways. Personally, I make sure he shows up often in certain situations at work, on the weekends, when I’m exercising, and when I’m with friends. Although the kid needs to be tamed at times, because he’ll periodically move into the conversation when I’m with my wife, clearly defining for her that there’s now a third child in the house.
Every now and then, let’s invite our six-year-old self out to play, to explore, and to ask crazy questions - and we’ll be surprised how fast she can build a rocket ship that’ll take us to the stars.
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But what if my message is important?! Put it this way, if it’s not important, then you shouldn’t send the message at all! Every message that is delivered needs to be important. And here’s the key… important to the audience of which the message will be delivered. Unless you’re toothpaste or toilet paper, you’re not everything to everyone. Here are four reasons why not to use the word “important” in your subject line, and some tips on how you can make your point, much more effectively:
It cheapens your other messages
One message says “important”, the next one doesn’t. That provides an opt-out for your audience to skip your non-important messages and only read the ones that actually say “important” in the subject line. At that point, you’re in a catch 22 of needing to add “important” to every message. That’s what happened to so many shopping establishments with the word “sale.” Today, most people won’t shop without seeing the sale sign, therefore the stores must have a sale for every holiday, weekend, weekday, and full moon.
TIP: Every message you deliver needs to be worth the read. No need to use the word “important”; just ensure the content of the message is.
Your message means the world to you. It’s big news to you, so you must add the word “important” to your subject line. At this point, you’ve elevated your message beyond all others. Now your audience is expecting big things, and most of the time to them, your message lacks luster. I’ve seen subject lines listed as “important message” that featured content about a small side parking lot closure, a fifth reminder note to take a survey, and even one stating that potted plants need not be moved around the organization.
TIP: Most people love to be the first to know, surprises, to be part of the ‘in’ crowd – so when you can include that type of information, do it. And please only send your message to the smallest audience that needs to know; most of the time, that’s not the entire organization or all of the folks that feel the warmth of the sun each day.
It’s lazy writing
“Really, that’s the best you could come up with?” That’s what I say to myself after I’ve written something. I like to challenge myself to be better than average, to deliver only content that matters. After all, it has my name on it. The intent of a subject line is to attract attention and get your audience to read further. And individuals can’t read further if they don’t open your email. In fact, 47% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on subject line alone, according to Hubspot Marketing. Let that sink in, one in two people choose whether to read what you’ve written based ONLY on the subject line.
TIP: Take your time writing your message, be brief, use powerful words that convey your point, and read it out loud before you send it. And I like to write the subject line last. Many times, when I’m done writing the article, the subject line pops out quite clearly for me.
You can’t top it
It’s human nature to strive for better. And that’s good… to a point. If I’ve elevated my previous article’s subject line to say “important.” What’s the next one going to say – “spectacularly significant?” It becomes overkill. It’s like I continually take a dragster to a pinewood derby or whiskey to the water cooler. Ok, the last one may be fine in certain situations. I’ve asked many people in business – “when you get an email, what’s most important to you?” Many times they say, “Just tell me what you want me to do.” Subject lines don’t have to be crazily creative or provide a “wow” factor every time, they just need to be relevant to your content and connect with your audience.
TIP: Don’t pull the bait and switch with FREE COOKIES when there aren’t any. Your subject line needs to be consistent with your message. You can certainly have fun and get creative - as long as it’s on point and attracts your audience to open your message and read further.
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Being boring is one of my greatest fears. I mean, besides being eaten by an animal, clowns, or falling down the stairs. Boring scares me. Boringness to me is a bump-on-a-log type thing - nothingness, uselessness, turd-like.
I’ve always been terrified if I live an extensively boring life for 50, 70, 90 years, then I would have been a wasteland of existence. Or worse, I may have brought down others along the way. It’s not that I need to jump up and down and shoot off firecrackers every day, but I certainly don’t want to be the catalyst for waste-of-time business meetings, palpable yawning, or flagrant nod-offs. Therefore, I pay attention to it.
I pay attention to it because I want my life to be stimulating and because it makes others’ lives more invigorating. At times, my job in communications takes me to areas that may not be interesting to some – it’s my job to turn that around. And frankly, I enjoy turning the boring into the interesting!
Here’s why being interesting matters, personally and in business…
It’s been proven to increase purchases. Well you say, so do items that also feature pretty girls, puppies, and the word “you.” Yes, they do, because they are more interesting with those added features - sometimes even more interesting than the item itself! Let’s review a product that used ‘interesting’ to increase sales – how about beer.
According to USA Today, the Most Interesting Man in the World has increased sales of Dos Equis nearly 35% during the nine-year campaign. These are shockingly high numbers for any beer, and even more so when you consider the poor state of mass-market beer against craft breweries. The art of selling taps into our emotions, our wants and our likes, and pulls us closer. Interesting things are equivalent.
We learn something.
Uninteresting people learn little. Why? Because they are nauseatingly predictable, they watch too much TV and only the most popular TV programs, they eat the same foods over and over, they talk about the weather, they read from sources that always are on point with their beliefs, they repel us with too many examples to prove their point – wait…what?
Interesting people learn much. Why? Because they are adventurists, they ask deeper questions, they tell their stories, and they are always searching for knowledge. Dale Carnegie famously said, “To be interesting, be interested.” A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who engaged in a debate with a partner online rated the partner more favorably if they received a question from that partner, as opposed to participants whose partners asked no questions regarding their viewpoint.
It stimulates our mind.
New York Times best-selling author and developmental molecular biologist, John Medina, discovered that the brain has a very short attention span. It took us how long to figure this out? Thanks, John, for finally making it official. Our brains are attracted to intriguing, interesting, engaging people and things. Storytelling is a powerful way to move the mind. The human brain is stimulated by stories, and according to an infographic by OneSpot’s “The Science of Storytelling”, 92% of customers want brands to produce content that feels more like a story.
Boring is dreadful.
Boredom is generally viewed as an unpleasant emotional state in which the individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in and difficulty concentrating on the current activity. Psychology Today tells us that boredom is a universal experience. Almost everyone suffers from it during their lives. Boredom is predictive of loneliness, anger, sadness, and worry. Boredom is such a motivating force that people do all kinds of things to ease the pain. The chronically bored are at higher risk for drug addiction, alcoholism, and compulsive gambling.
The Lazy Law states: “The lazier you are, the less interesting you will be.” The opposite of ‘lazy’ is ‘energetic.’ Even the word itself is more interesting to say! Therefore – may I have your attention people who wish to be more interesting – let’s get off our duff and ‘be interested.’
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Besides being delicious, I’ve learned some deep life lessons from bacon over the years. Although I’ve narrowed it down to just five, there are many more. Why do I know this? Because it’s bacon! It’s hot and its popular. So popular, in fact, that in a survey conducted by Smithfield, 65% of Americans would support bacon as their "national food." Personally, I think the percentage is higher.
So, bacon, what say you?
In sociology, taste is an individual's personal and cultural patterns of choice and preference. Taste is drawing distinctions between things such as styles and manners, and relating to these. Social inquiry of taste is about the human ability to judge what is beautiful, good, and proper. Like golden-brown cooked bacon.
Beautiful, good, and proper. I like those words in respect to taste and so I have chosen to aim for having taste in many areas of my life. I started with my shoes. I bought some nice ones for working, hiking and playing. I keep them shined or cleaned and I care for the soles. The soles are like the tread of a tire. Keeps you from slipping, so to speak.
Bottom line: Bacon has taste. So should we.
Mix well with others.
During our waking hours, most of us eat some sort of breakfast, lunch and dinner. And if we’re lucky, we squeeze in a tasty dessert. Bacon does the same. It shows up and pairs quite nicely with its associates for every meal - bacon and eggs, bacon bits in salad, bacon-wrapped steak and even the savory bacon-maple cupcakes.
Notice in each example, bacon comes first on the billing! Bacon even took it a step further with two cohorts and created a name for himself – bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich. And Americans love bacon; we eat almost 18 pounds of bacon a year. You’ll find bacon all over town mingling with people from all walks of life, making them smile. As we should. After all, if we want to be loved like bacon, healthy relationships are one proven key to happiness.
One of my all-time favorite smells… freshly baked bread. Ha! Yes, bacon, of course. Bacon continues to reign as a top-five favorite scent of all-time, in polls across the world. In following bacon’s lead, we should smell good as well. This goes for both body and breath.
Women seem to have mastered this one. Most women smell nice all-day long. Thank you, ladies. A few reasons for this is because they layer complimentary fragrances in lotions, oils and perfumes, they know when and where to apply it, they keep their skin hydrated, and so on. Not much to say to women at this point, but men…
Men, let’s just please get rid of the stench with a pleasant or non-scented deodorant, a light touch of some smart cologne and some mints or mouthwash throughout the day, because coffee = good; coffee breath = bad. And when we work hard, we sweat, even in the office. And it shows… and smells.
Pleasant scents work well in business in all sorts of ways. For instance, if we’re selling a house, let’s cook bacon and let the aroma fill the rooms! Some realtors bake chocolate chip cookies for a nice fragrance. Personally, I’d purchase a bacon-scented home over one with the smell of warmed-over dough any day of the week.
Be open and available.
Yes, we’ve all seen it. Bacon shares itself with us in the display section of its packaging. We know just how much meat and fat is involved. Not to mention the printed package where we’re exposed to the salt content among other non-pronounceable words. Frankly, that’s what most of us like to see, transparency.
I’m not saying we expose ourselves. What I am saying is we need to be open, authentic and approachable. In business according to Inc. Magazine, authenticity is one of the traits of the most successful people.
Being available is also important in business and friendship. Let’s have an open-door policy, as they say, and share our experiences with friends and business partners. These are two more identifiers of successful and respected people. Bacon does this well. According to market researcher, Technomic, about 80 percent of the top-500 restaurant chains have some sort of bacon item on the menu. Bacon is a mover and a shaker.
That’s right, let’s be unique and bold. In today’s world there are thousands of messages per day that cross our paths. To be successful, we need to differentiate ourselves in our jobs, our relationships, our cooking, and our extracurricular adventures, to name a few. We need to set ourselves apart from the chaos and clutter. Boldness has lent notice to companies like Nike in its “Just do it” campaign, in Amazon with broadening into food space and drone delivery, and in Southwest Airlines with its fun and personable approach to air travel. So, let’s go out there and hit it.
Bacon is a leader in this area. Across the entire pork category, Nielsen research shows bacon was the only area seeing significant growth in the 52-week period ending in April 2017. In other words, bacon was doing better than its competitors - fresh pork, luncheon meats and sausages.
What’s more, a University of North Carolina study said a micronutrient in bacon, called choline, is essential to healthy brain development for babies in the womb. Choline contributes to the development of the parts of the brain associated with recall and memory. So, there we go… bacon makes us smarter!
And to my friends that are, dare-I-say, non-bacon fans… there’s always coffee. But that’s another post.
Thanks bacon. I love you even more now.
Visit me and say hello!