Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Fine in '09!

Let's say you've done what I asked the past two days. You've rolled the simple questions about life improvement around in your brain and you are getting some ideas about what you'd like to accomplish in '09.

The next step is to be S.M.A.R.T. Creating SMART Resolutions gives you a better chance of succeeding. They are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-focused.

I promised yesterday that I'd reveal my three Resolutions and how I would accomplish them, so here goes:

1. Lose 30 pounds in '09. I'll focus on taking 3 10-minute walks each day, drink a glass of water upon rising and a glass of water 30-minutes before going to bed, in addition to what I drink during the day, cut portions in half when I dine out. That's my plan.

2. Figure out what is really important to me in relationships. As a stereotypical male in some ways, I don't think in specifics much in terms of relationships, and I'm not 18 or 28 or 38 anymore. It's time for me to understand what is important in relationships and friendshps and focus on the people who bring those things into my life. Specifically, I am going to read more about relationships and be able to articulate the 3 things that are truly important to me.

3. Start laying the foundation for my retirement. I'll create 3 new information products that can be sold online and will funnel any profits into a retirement account.

So, those are my three resolutions. What are yours? If you could see my plans for each of them you'd see that they are SMART.

Thanks for reading the blog on '08, it's been an interesting year on a wide variety of fronts. We've all had some losses and some victories. Learn from the losses AND the victories. Forget the former and celebrate that latter.

One final thought about '08: Confucious said, "They must often change who would find happiness and wisdom." You may not have ended '08 in the way you hoped or planned, I know that there are some things I had hoped to have done by now and am falling short, but tomorrow is a new day and you get to keep trying. It's good to believe that the world won't end, that you won't turn into a pumpkin, one minute after midnight on January 1.

Be careful if you go out tonight. See you on Monday. Have a wonderful New Year's Eve.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Resolution Realities

Yesterday I asked you to come up with 3 simple questions in anticipation of creating Resolutions for 2009. Check yesterday's blog to see the questions.

I promised that I'd tell you a secret about the questions, so here it is: Your brain's most important function is to answer questions. If you form a question your brain automatically starts trying to find an answer. It goes through all your current internal knowledge and pulls out information that may help answer the question. Your brain then sends the info to you in the form of intuition, hints, clues, pain, happiness, lightbulbs going off...whatever you want to call it. Then, your brain uses your senses to reach out into the external world and look, listen, touch, smell, and taste for information that can help answer the question.

Here's an example. One of my resolutions for 2009 is to lose weight. Specifically, I want to lose 30 pounds in 2009. That's about 2.5 pounds a month. So, the question I'm posing for my brain is, "How do I lose 30 pounds in a year; 2.5 pounds a month; a little over a half-pound a week?"

In today's paper there is an article,"25 Ways You Can Shed 10 Pounds This Year." My eyes and brain were immediately attracted to the article because it seemed to have information I could use to answer my questions. I ignored the article, "Cholesterol Drugs May Turn Your Roots Black," (even though I take cholesterol drugs) because I don't have an interest in that topic, and didn't have question in my brain about the color of my roots.

Ask yourself yesterday's simple questions and relax. Your brain will do it's work and you'll come up with some solid ideas about how to form your Resolution. You may get a surprising and powerful message that some of the topics you ASSUME you should make Resolutions about really aren't that important to you. They are topics you think you OUGHT to be working on...but not really. You want to discover what is truly important to you; what might help you make a big, positive change in your life.

I've been using this exercise for the last couple of days and my Resolutions are slowing forming. Try the exercise for 24 hours and see what answers you get by this time on New Year's Eve.

Tomorrow I'll tell you my 3 Resolutions for 2009. Maybe some of my Resolutions, and my steps for making them real, will work for you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

RRRRRRRRResolutions Are Comin'!

Welcome back!

Whether you are working or not today, it's time to start thinking about that dreaded "R" word...Resolutions.

Lots of folks don't like making Resolutions because they consistently break the attempts at change. I LOVE Resolutions because...break them or not...they signify the thought of a new beginning. So, even if you break them, Resolutions at least get you thinking about making a fresh start in an area of life.

From today until Wednesday, roll the thought of Resolutions around in your mind. Here are three suggestions for creating Resolutions:
1. In what area of life would you like to see improvement?
2. What change in that area of life, if you COULD make a change, would have a dramatic effect on your life?
3. What SMALL goal, if you reached it, could be the first step in making the change a reality?

During the next 24 hours, roll those three questions around in your mind. Don't try to come up with an answer (tomorrow morning I'll tell you a secret about the questions) and just relax.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the Road to the North Pole

I've always loved Christmas and I loved it even more when I discovered that, after early Christians created the holiday in the early 4th Century (Christmas was originally known as the Feast of the Nativity), they did some heavy marketing.

The end of the fall, around the winter solistice, had long been a time of celebration of the end of the harvest and beginning of winter. The Romans had Saturnalia, there was the Mythraic's sun's birthday, Teutonic Yule, Druid festivals and others. We're talking about bigtime parties; major throw-downs.

So the early Christians incorporated many of the "heathen" traditions into Christmas. Rituals such as the Christmas tree, yule log, giving gifts, lights, mistletoe, holly and ivy, and wassailing (drinking to the health and well-being of others) all came from other cultures.

Let's think this through; if you are going to ask folks to follow your beliefs, make it as easy as possible for them to do so without changing their habits and the rituals they love.

Take a moment this holiday season to realize that almost all of who we are, where we are, and what we have has come from other people, other times, and other beliefs. Be grateful.

We live in the greatest time of opportunity in the history of mankind in a nation based on exploration, adventure, and achievement. Be grateful.

As humans with free will we have the ability to create and shape our futures, unlike any creatures on earth. Be grateful.

If you are under an avalanche of preparations for a Christmas feast, gift-giving, holiday visitors, and seeing loved ones....be grateful.

See you next Monday.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Busted My A** Last Night!

"It is often said that before you die your life passes before your eyes. It is in fact true. It's called living." - Terry Pratchett
*

I fell down the stairs last night. Actually, I didn't fall DOWN the stairs; I missed the last one. Did the same thing the night before, but was able to catch myself and not take a tumble, so you'd think I would have been a little more careful. Sock feet, slick wood, and a large body in a hurry to get downstairs to see the Panthers/NY Giants game was a recipe for a loud BUMP!

As I lay on the floor I thought, "Man! This hurts like a _________!" After running through a quick checklist: ankle, foot, arm, side, I realized that, while nothing was broken, I had taken a pretty bad lick to my left side.

After a fitful night I'm moving slowly this morning and thinking about the quote at the top of the blog.

What happened last night was just part of living...we all experience all kinds of falls; physical, financial, emotional, professional. Many of the young guys who played in NFL games yesterday are waking up feeling worse, physically, than I do, and they do it every week for 16-20 weeks. The fact that they are younger and in a lot better shape (hey, is that a fat joke?) is relative.

The pain in my side is not going away today. In fact, I've been hurt before so I know that it won't be completely healed for awhile. But, if I take care of myself, slow down a bit, and learn from my experience, my side will get better....I will get better.

Have You taken any falls lately?

Friday, December 19, 2008

w'eekend Christmas Parties

This is the weekend for Christmas parties...I love'em. Below are some tips for partying that I wanted to pass along to you.

Enjoy the spirit of the festivities!!!

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies or pralines in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Managing Your Boss

Was in Wilmington today talking about “How to Manage Your Boss.”

A fun group, smart, and asked good questions.

There are two key issues as I see it when it comes to managing a boss: First, are you doing your job? If you are doing your job and your boss isn’t doing his/hers, then you have a reason to gripe…and to try and correct them.

If you aren’t doing your job, and it’s for any reason other than you don’t know how, and your idea of managing your boss is to try and get them to ease off on you…then I hope you get whatever’s coming to you.

But, back to managing the boss. The second key is communication. Whether you think they will listen or not, you have to communicate with the boss to get a feel for their priorities, problems, hopes, management style, goals, and personality.

Your boss has lots of challenges, just like you do. If you are 1% of their challenges, don’t turn it into 100%. If you do, they might choose to get rid of their problem…you.

Very few bosses really are dopes. Most are overworked and undertrained, like you.

Here’s a thought; if you want to have more Perfect Workdays, try to help your boss have more Perfect Workdays.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Trying To Do Too Much?

Are you trying to do too much? Do you stare at your To-Do List at the end of each day, looking at all the things that didn’t get done?

If this sounds like you then a couple of things are going on. First, you are probably over-scheduling. In our society there is a seductive quality to believing that you can get it all done. Unfortunately, we schedule so many things that there is no way it can happen.

Second, you are not anticipating what you have to do you are just reacting to each thing that pops up in life or on your list. That is why I’m trying to get you to look over your list first thing a few times during the day. Your mind will subconsciously work on some of the challenges for but you have to give your brain a heads up.

The third issue is that you’re not saying No enough.

Allow me to make a politically incorrect comment. My experience has been that women are worse about this than men because a lot of women believe that if they say No to something, “I’m a bad mother, bad friend, bad daughter, bad grandmother—bad whatever.” My wife says that is the Superwoman Complex, and to give up the cape.

I have a little different theory about the issue. I believe that a lot of women essentially train the people around them to keep asking for time and effort. Family, friends, and co-workers become emotionally dependent on those women because they don’t say No every now and then. The truth is probably a combination of the two theories.

NO! How One Simple Word Can Transform Your Life, by Jana Kemp, is a great resource to teach you how to say NO! in the right way.

I would suggest that you look for tactful ways to say to people, “I would love to be able to take that on, but right now here is my plate is pretty full.” Can you say that in your personal life? In your work life you may want to try to find a way to say “Great. That sounds good. Now I’ve got all these other things due. Help me figure out which of these things I can take off my plate so I can bring this other thing on.” Get them to help you prioritize. If you can do that you can help them become a better manager.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Barney and Barbie Backlash Day

Today is Barney and Barbie Backlash Day...no kidding.

For all those parents who cringe at the unimaginably perfect Barbie life or the maddening Barney tune, today is the day they can tell their children, "This is why that stuff isn't real."

What, you think I'm makin' this stuff up?

No.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Is Every Day Monday?

It seems that every Monday I start thinking about how we see...Monday.

Everything we experience, including Monday, is conditioned by the thoughts and patterns we create and allow ourselves to have. Many of the thoughts and patterns come from childhood; others gradually develop along the way or are seared into our conciousness by emotional experiences.

An extraordinarily smart woman I know from Los Angeles, Felice Richter, says, "Most people never get out of high school. The attitudes they developed from thirteen to eighteen are the same ones they have as adults."

That's scary. To think that we might never grow beyond the fears, prejudices, hopes, dreams and silliness of a time when we are ruled by our hormones is scary, sad, and depressing.

I was considering Felice's wisdom on Saturday afternoon at the NC High School Football Championships. I love high school football; the bands, the smell of cut grass, the youthful yelling, the live-or-die importance of the moment. But, I also thought of the young men for whom Saturday afternoon would be the high point of their lives. And, it will be the focal point of what they will talk about for the rest of their lives. Life has to be bigger and better than one Saturday afternoon when you're 17.

That brings me back to Monday and a flip of the attitudes. In at least one area I think the kids may have it right. I believe dreading Monday is an adult attitude. When you talk to young people--at least the smart ones, from first grade to seniors--they look forward to Mondays. Going back to school means seeing friends, learning something new, and being alive. They are developing a pattern and thought of expectation.

What do you expect...not just of Monday, but of yourself...of your life? Do you look at the rest of your life like everyday is Monday? I think that's a good thing...if you do it like a kid.

If you hate every Monday the rest of your time ain't lookin' so hot, now is it?

Have a great week!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bored to Death

I spent yesterday in Chapel Hill teaching in the Executive Masters Program at the UNC School of Public Health. The program is ranked #1 in the nation and the students are always smart, quick, and fun professionals.

One of the discussions involved the effects of stress on time management and we made a distinction between good stress and bad stress:
- Distress...the bad stuff
- Eustress...the good stuff like Christmas, buying a new car, having a baby

But, in fact, there is another type of stress in addition to the good and bad; it's Hypostress, the stress people feel when they are bored.

I truly believe that the vast majority of American workers are afflicted by hypostress. They know what they are supposed to do and how to do it. But, they are bored to death by doing the same things over and over.

Most people are not challenged in their work. And, unfortunately, they do not know how to challenge themselves and their managers don't know how to effectively challenge them.

I'm definitely one of the fortunate ones. While driving over to Chapel Hill yesterday morning I was thinking about how much I enjoy what I do; it's challenging, but on the whole, it's a lot of fun. When it starts to get boring I try to change it.

Are you bored with what you do? In tough times you may realize that you need to stay where you are for the foreseeable future. So, how can you change what you do where you are right now? Can you make it a game? Can you take on new resposibilities; connect with new coworkers?

How can you re-invigorate what you do?

How can you create a new you?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

14 Days

Two....weeks....until....Christmas!

As a little boy, I would get so excited about Christmas that I would break out in hives. I'm pretty close to that now as an adult.

Today is wake-up day if you have not started thinking about getting ready for Christmas. I know, I know...you have things to do, there's too little time....I've heard it all.

Try this: If you haven't really started getting ready for Christmas, do one thing today. Not a big thing; something small and easy to do. The activity gets you started. In fact, you will have taken advantage of Newton's First Law, "A body in motion tends to stay in motion." If you don't get started, you will actually prove the rest of the First Law, "A body at rest tends to stay at rest."

Now, do you know the rest of the Law? It's this, "Unless acted on by an outside force." Did you get that? Bodies in motion or at rest tend to stay that way unless acted on by an outside force.

OK, I'm your outside force. Do one thing today that gets you closer to being ready for the big day!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finding a Need and Filling It

Whether you agree with his business or not, you have to admire Hugh Hefner. On December 10, 1953, Hefner published the first Playboy magazine. He invested $7,600 and edited the magazine on the kitchen table in the apartment he shared with his wife and infant daughter.

The first issue didn't have a publishing date on it. Hefner didn't think he'd be able to publish another issue. Two years later he had a staff of 30 and published out of his office/apartment in downtown Chicago.

Simply taken as an entrepreneurial venture, Playboy Enterprises was wildly successful.

Recently, Christie Hefner, the infant daughter now grown up, announced that she was stepping down as CEO of Playboy.

Hefner made a fortune and achieved icon status by filling a need in a creative way. In tough economic times there are still needs to be filled and fortunes to be made.

What need do you see that needs to be filled?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stop! For the Sake of a Perfect Workday

Let’s face it, there are some things you should stop doing. You know what they are. They might relate to time management, communications, organization any of a range of workplace issues.
Maybe you should stop:
- Interrupting people
- Leaving a messy desk
- Driving home the same way
- Wasting time in the morning
- Being late
- Not eating breakfast
- Procrastinating
- Trying to do it all yourself
- Making snap decisions
- Neglecting your To-Do List
- Buying a $5 latte every morning
- Letting people take advantage of you
- Walking into a meeting without an agenda
- Going to work where you are
- Not having fun
- Backing away from conflict
- Being afraid
- Saying “Yes” to everyone

Believe it or not, the people who have the most Perfect Workdays are not the people who know the most tricks. They are the people who are willing to stop doing the things that slow them down.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Secrets of Success?

This is the 100th post for perfectworkday.blogspot.com.

Are there secrets of success?

Thousands of authors have written tens of thousands of books promising the secrets to finding whatever your definition of success might be. Most of the books are simply padded versions of all the stuff your parents told you: have a goal, work smart and hard, give something back.

However, there is an increasing body of knowledge that shows what really does lead to success. Below are three wonderful resources that actually can lead you to the promised land.

In Mastery, by George Leonard, the concept of plateaus is key. Leonard says that when we are attempting to master any pursuit we will reach plateaus; those frustrating times when we don’t seem to continue to lose weight, or improve in our pursuit, or step up to a new achievement. He emphasizes the importance of continuing to strive, to practice, in order to break the hold of the plateau and move to the next level.

There are two types of practice: First, you continue to do what you have done. Second, you use “determined practice” that focuses on your weaknesses increases your chances of jumping to the next level. In Talent Is Overrated, author Geoff Colvin, explains the importance of determined practice and why it is the secret (there’s that word again) of top achievers.

And who are the top achievers and do they really have secret (ok, I give up) strategies? In Outliers, Michael Gladwell’s new book, we find that if there really is a secret it definitely is practice and top achievers spend about 10,000 hours practicing their skill.

Try this exercise: Look into your life and find some activity, skill, talent that you enjoy or appreciate. Calculate how much of your life has been spent practicing. I did some quick math and discovered that I have spent about 5,000 hours presenting seminars and 6,500 hours in gyms lifting weights. Looks like I’ve got a distance to go.

If you are going to read the books in order of logic or importance, read Mastery, then Outliers, then Talent Is Overrated.

Finally, the word “secret” infers something others don’t have. In reality, there are no secrets. There is….having a goal, working hard and smart, and giving something back.

Have a great week!

Friday, December 5, 2008

What About Me?

Was in Columbia, SC, yesterday morning presenting for the SC Home Care Association, and in High Point, NC, last night presenting for the Human Resource Managers Association of Greensboro.

Both these groups have something in common. In both cases the professionals often do not do a good job of taking care of themselves because they are so focused on taking care of others.

I’m not advocating selfishness, but if you don’t take care of yourself it’s highly likely that no one else will.

It’s kinda like flying and having the attendants do the pre-flight spiel. They will say, “If there is a sudden drop in cabin pressure put the mask on yourself first; then put the mask on those who need help.”

Do your needs always seem to come last? If so, you may be patting yourself on the back for being so wonderfully selfless. But, is that good for you or them?

After awhile you start wondering, “When do I get to be happy?”

I am convinced that three of the most dangerous words in life are, “What about me?” When you start asking that question a lot something’s gonna give sooner or later.

We are bearing down on the holidays, and they are often so other-directed that it is easy to forget to ask, “Am I taking care of me?”

Have a wonderful weekend.

PS. Today is Krampus Day in Austria. Krampus is a mythic, devilish companion to St. Nicholas who punishes bad children, just as St. Nick rewards good children. Krampus is a dark, hairy, cloven-hooved beast with red horns and a leering mouth. He carries chains and a switch wherever he goes. At the Krampus Festivals in Austria children are encouraged to throw snowballs at the Krampus.

Use the Krampus info to scare your children into acting better until Christmas! The Austrians do.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tell It Like It Is

Yesterday was the last class of a program I presented for Leadership Johnston, a series of presentations for potential leaders in Johnston County.

I've done this for about five years and the last program in the series is always the one about making presentations. During the program I present basic instructions about public speaking and then offer suggestions to make the experience easier and less stressful.

Most studies show that 68-72% of Americans are more afraid of speaking before a group of strangers than they are of dying. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said that those statistics mean that if you are at a funeral where a eulogy is being given 68-72% of the people in the audience had rather be the person in the casket than the one giving the eulogy. In past years in the Johnston program I've had people who were so nervous they threw up, almost fainted, begged to not have to speak...you name it.

However, a recent study including CEOs and other leaders asked, "What skill, in addition to function skills, is most important for a leader?" The overwhelming winner was....public speaking.

Being able to present effectively is an outstanding addition to your workplace skills. You stand out from all the others who fear public speaking and, honestly, make yourself more marketable in the workplace.

There are three simple words to remember if you are asked to make a presentation: Tell'em, Tell'em, Tell'em.

First, Tell'em What You'll Tell'em. Give people a preview of your presentation.
Next, Tell'em. Present the body of your information.
Finally, Tell'em What You Told'em. Summarize your remarks and put a finishing touch on the presentation.

Few people in your audience will listen to every single word you say. But, they will catch most of the preview, body, or summary of your program.

Keep Tell'em, Tell'em, Tell'em in mind and you'll do a great job most of the time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stress Is Not Bad

In a stress management program this morning I made the statement, “Stress is not bad.” People looked at me like I was crazy.

Here’s the deal. There are three types of stress: Distress, Eustress, and Hypostress.

Distress is the bad stuff; the type of physical or emotional stress we don’t like. Eustress is the stress we feel with good experiences such as Christmas, buying a new car, or having a baby. Hypostress is the stress experienced by being bored.

Here’s the problem. We experience events in our lives—things that happen—and the events have no power other than the power we give them. That person at work who gets on your last nerve, they’re just doing what they do. Your perception is what creates stress for you.

The key, as researchers point out, is to have internal skills and external resources that allow you to handle the event in a positive way. Maybe the best thing to do is to ignore the person who annoys you; that’s an internal skill. Or, maybe you have the external resources to find job or go somewhere you won’t be bothered.

If you have internal skills or external resources the potential stressor is simply an annoyance; if not, it’s stress.

Here’s the wonderful key. You get to make the choice. In most cases, you decide what stress is and what it isn’t. Do you have the self-control to do that?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The T Theory of Life

The people who have more Perfect Workdays use what I call The T Theory of Life. Imagine a funny looking capital “T” with a long, horizontal cross bar at the top and a short, vertical stem.

Across the top of the “T” are all the ideas, skills, activities and sensations these people experience. The stem signifies the 3-5 priorities that that are really important to them.

These people know a little bit about a lot of things (signified by the top of the “T”), and they know a lot about those three to five things that make up their priorities.

The T Theory people distinguish themselves from others by looking for new ideas, skills and experiences every day. They are trying to constantly stretch the top of the “T.” They then decide which ideas can be pulled down into those three to five priorities.

The Japanese call this process kaizen, constant improvement. Looking for ways to improve each day leads you to a Perfect Workday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Last, Wonderful Month

Welcome Back!!

One of the great things about the Monday after Thanksgiving is that it is the start of a month of positive anticipation. Parties, Christmas, family, New Year’s Eve are all ahead of us.

Did the two previous sentences send a shiver up your spine? Are you dreading what’s coming, and not looking forward to it?

The stresses that accompany the coming events are understandable. But there is another way to look at the coming month. And the story below makes a wonderful connection with “the reason for the season.”

I received the essay below this morning. It was written by Roy Williams, The Wizard of Ads. Google him and check his website. He does some good work.

Gather Up the Fragments

Chapter six in John’s story about the life of Jesus tells us how he fed 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 small fishes. I have no problem reconciling God and science, so the miracle bit doesn’t stumble me in the least.

The thing that fascinates me – the piece I woke up thinking about – is what Jesus said when the meal was over. “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”

Consider. This was a person of unlimited resources, a man who could create abundance from nothingness, yet he said to his followers, “Gather up the fragments.”

Have you ever stopped to “gather up the fragments” of your life?

We find ourselves at Thanksgiving and Christmas confronted with life-fragments we’ve been trying hard to forget. Encounters with uncomfortable relatives bring sharp fragments to the surface. Memories of past failures and embarrassments, hard times and weird relationships emerge from conversations with people who remember us differently than we are today. And then we have to visit places we’ve been trying to forget and recall events from which we’re still recovering.

Am I the only person who goes into the holiday season with mixed emotions?“

Gather up the fragments.”

Unresolved fragments are shrapnel, cutting us deeply.
Handled fragments are sandpaper, wearing off our rough edges.
Softened fragments are building blocks, giving us insights to get things done.
Celebrated fragments are nutrition, remembering past miracles in our lives.

Bright mosaics are made from gathered fragments. Broken. Colorful. Unique.Just like the pattern of your life.

Negotiate your broken places. They allow for new connections.

Appreciate the weirdness of your past. It adds color to your future.

Celebrate your personal heritage.

It beats the hell out of whining.

Roy Williams…The Wizard of Ads

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Santa and the Wall of Eyeballs

Twenty-five years ago I was Santa Claus at North Hills Mall in Raleigh on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Friday started out as a Perfect Workday…hey…think about it…I’m Santa Claus!!

Smiling kids and parents. Not too many criers (kids or parents). A steady stream from about 9 am until 1pm, then half an hour for lunch…the sign “Santa is Having a Snack” in front of the throne.

After lunch on Friday the mood started to change. More tired kids and parents, more criers, more “I WANT THIS!!”

There was a noticeable deterioration of discipline and simple civility. After a snack for dinner I remember smelling alcohol on the breath of some of the parents as they were putting their kids on my lap.

Saturday was a free-for-all from the get-go. A long line as soon as I walked up to the throne, too many people around mid-day for lunch (and try eating a snack and drinking a Coke through the beard), more teenage girls and grown moms who wanted to sit on Santa’s lap for a photo (OK, some of it wasn’t all that bad). And an increase in beard pulling as the day went on.

The one thing I was conscious of for two solid days was eyes. The eyes of the kids and parents that were locked onto me from the instant they saw that Santa was present.

So, I was very careful not to snap at kids…or parents, not to make sudden movements, not to do anything that might lessen the experience of being around Santa.

I mean, the last thing you want is some kid to grow up and get cornered on the top of the Bank of America building with a high-powered rifle and the last thing he says before the cops take him out is, “All this would have never happened if I hadn’t heard Santa use a cuss word.”

Now, what does all this have to do with having a Perfect Workday?

Would you act or react differently during your day if you knew children were watching? Especially, your children?
The economic news is going to get worse before it gets better. The economy will continue to recede for months before it regains its footing and starts the inevitable climb back up. The stress caused by less “geedus” (money), as my father used to say, will make people act in ways they might not normally act.

If we, they, you and I, act as if we know our children are watching, then I believe we will act in ways that show our young people positive and honorable ways to face challenges.

Showing our young people how to have Perfect Workdays during good times is easy; doing it in tough times is what really matters.
*
Thursday and Friday are holidays, so I’ll see you on Monday.

Take a moment on Thursday to do two things: Say a prayer for Americans in and out of uniform, around the world, who make it possible for us to have a wonderful, safe holiday. Then, write down three things and/or people for which/whom you have to be thankful.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

And Go Tar Heels! Beat Duke!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's Your Business?

I have a small company, The Perfect Workday. I consider the activity that contributes to my livelihood my business. We all have a business.

No matter if you are an employee, whatever the activity is that pays for your beans is, essentially, your business.

The word business is Anglo-Saxon in origin. The original word appears to be bisigian.

Now we come to the interesting part. The original meaning of bisigian was, "to worry, to fatigue, to occupy." Is this what your business does for you?

By 950 A.D., bisigian had evolved into bisignes and then, business. The new pronunciation was an expression of "anxiety, distress, and uneasiness." Again, is this what your business does for you?

Our current definition and use, as a description for "an occupation, profession, or trade," began in the 1400s.

It appears that if your business is something you are concerned about, an activity that worries and fatigues you, it is doing what it's supposed to do according to the way we label it. In fact, your business is giving you the business.

Here's your thought for a Perfect Workday: What if you called your business something else? A calling, fun, play, your mission are all potential labels.

What label do you use?

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Devil's Advocate is a Turkey of a Phrase

Yeah! Thanksgiving Week!

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I know, I know. When it comes to holidays Christmas is probably the big boy on most peoples' lists.

Or, July 4 may take the top slot. You can't beat flags, cookouts, hot weather, cold drinks, and not having to wear a lot of clothes.

But, especially if you are a male, give your consideration to Thanksgiving. All the food you can eat, football, and you don't have to buy presents.

Now, some of you are doing the cynics stroll. I can hear you right now; "Not everyone is male, and females often end up with the brunt of the Thanksgiving work." "But Mike, not everyone has all the food they can eat." "Not everyone likes football." "Some people like buying and receiving presents."

All that stuff comes from that Devil's Advocate state of thinking; the part of us that wants to come up witha Gotcha! kind of comment.

If you want to have more Perfect Workdays, forget The Devil's Advocate. In fact, if anyone ever uses the phrase, stop them, and tell them that you don't believe in The Devil's Advocate. Nothing good ever comes after "The Devil's Advocate."

I'm not saying you shouldn't think ahead and anticipate challenges. But, The Devil's Advocate squashes ideas and makes it less likely that people will open up and tell you what they are really thinking.

So, I'm telling you what I'm really thinking. And I'm thinking that Thanksgiving is great! Look ahead to have a wonderful week.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What If?

I woke to a light dusting of snow. A promise of the winter to come, I guess.

My first thought was, "Is it time to pull out the winter clothes and get the car winterized?" I was playing What If? in my head in order to anticipate problems, challenges and opportunities.

Yesterday's newspaper included a story about layoffs at a company my son works for. I called and asked if he was one of the unlucky ones; he is not. I then offered some parental advice (appreciated or not). I said, "This weekend, when you are kicking back, drinking a beer, you should take a few minutes and play What If? As in, 'What If the next time they lay people off I'm one of the ones who takes the hit?' "

I have to believe that there are investors in America who are waking every morning and smiling because they saw the sub-prime loan situation, played What If?, and put their money ultra-conservative investments.

Taking some time to ask, "What If?," and anticipate challenges is simple good planning. This weekend might be a good time for you to ask What If? in your life. A lot of folks don't like to think about the bad scenarios because, "If I think about it it might happen." That sort of head-in-the-sand approach to life begs for trouble.

Finally, what if you also looked in the opposite direction. Take a little time on Sunday and ask, "What If?" about good things in life. What if I had exactly the job I wanted? What if I did lose 20 pounds? What if I had the difficult conversation I have been putting off?

How would your life change for the better if those types of What If? came true?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Fundamental Currency for High Performance

Kinda running on empty. Wild day yesterday and up and at'em this morning.

Unfortunately, too many of us are keeping a schedule like mine all the time. Did you know that 63% of American workers are sleep-deprived at work? And 67% are dehydrated at work.

Understanding the importance of your energy level at work, and in your personal life, is key to having a Perfect Workday.

In The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz advise that, "Energy is the fundamental currency for high performance."

If you are concerned, at all, about having better workdays...a better life...start asking yourself, "How can I manage my energy level more effectively?"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Have a Bad, But Historic, Day

Talk about both ends of the spectrum…

Today is National Have a Bad Day Day. It’s for all those folks who get their drawers in a wad when someone says to them, “Have a nice day.”

I’m as lost on those dopes as I am on the ones who get cranked up when a Southern waitress calls them “honey” or “sweety.”

Help me out on this; someone says something nice…even wonderful…to them and they don’t like it! I heard a guy once say, “Well, they don’t know me.” I replied, “From what I can see, if they did know you they wouldn’t have been so nice to you.”

Moving on…

Now, if you want to talk about a historic day; today is also the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

On November 19, 1863, noted orator Edward Everett spoke for two hours. Then, President Abraham Lincoln stood and spoke for five minutes. His address is considered one of the most eloquent in the English language.

North Carolina soldiers advanced farther than any other Confederate warriors at the Battle of Gettysburg. One story says that as a Tar Heel group maneuvered into the face of a Union cannon unit the Union commander ordered his men not to fire. He stepped up on the stone wall in front the cannon and reached out to the closest Tar Heel saying, “Come over to the Lord.” The Carolina soldiers survived the day.

Whatever your thoughts about the Civil War, you have to recognize the moments of heroism and humanity.

War means everybody has a bad day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Toe In the Water

I lift weights like some guys play golf; not that well, but as often as possible. Today was a great day in the gym. I tried some new things, and reveled in some movements that I have been doing for the 42 years I’ve been lifting weights.

It took me a lot of those 42 years to figure out that I can’t just pile a lot of weight on a new movement and then start cranking out repetitions. I’ve done it and was so sore I couldn’t walk the next day. Or, I had to put tootpaste on the brush, lay it on the counter, and rub my teeth back and forth on it 'cause I couldn't raise my arms.

Now, I ease into something new. In and out of the gym, I’ve found that almost every time I’ve jumped into something in life without adequate preparation or testing I made a mistake that I wouldn’t have made if I had taken a little more time.

I certainly understand the logic that you can’t jump a stream in two leaps. But, in so many cases, if you take a little time to steady yourself, and focus on the next small step, you’ll end up being more successful.

Today’s message isn’t about taking more time to make a decision. It’s about trying something new…a…little…at…a…time.

What is something new you would like to try in your life? How could you take baby steps, or touch your toe in the water, or try a pilot program, for a pioneering effort?

Try something new today, a little at a time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bring On the Funny!

Ok, ya gotta spot me this one…today is Lorne Michael’s birthday, he’s 64.

Michaels was the brains behind Saturday Night Live and continues to be the producer. If anyone in entertainment ever guessed right it was Lorne Michaels.

Everything I’ve read about him says that he isn’t some “wild and crazy guy.” He has a great sense of humor, an incredible sense of timing and talent, the good sense to surround himself with talented people, and force of personality to make tough decisions and stick to them. You have to appreciate those characteristics.

The irony of Michaels’ birthday landing today is that I’m presenting one of my programs, “FUN Is Not a 4-Letter Word!,” today in Tarboro, NC, for the Social Services Department. If anyone needs a laugh in today’s world it’s those folks. So, I’ll get’em cranked up.

Another birthday today, another 64-year old, is Danny DeVito. Now, this guy ain’t Jack Nicholson or Arnold Schwartzenegger; although he has worked with both actors. But, he’s had a successful career being…Danny DeVito.

The older I get the more I understand that if you will scratch your funny-bone on a regular basis there will be people around you who have the same itch. Granted, the more outrageous, esoteric, or scatological your humor, the more people may laugh or scream at you instead of with you…but, the ones laughing with you will be the best.

Bring on the funny!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Loosen Up, Lighten Up!

Today is Loosen Up, Lighten Up Day (no kidding); a day to remind each other of the benefits of joy and laughter.

Answer this: What would you do if you had 2-5 minutes; 5-30 minutes; 30 minutes to half-a-day; or, more than half-a-day to do anything you wanted?

Try this activity: Give yourself two minutes—that’s all—and write down as many activities as possible that you would like to do in the time chunks above. For example, in 2-3 minutes you could play with your pet; in over half-a-day you could go to Hawaii!

See how many you can get. Go.

How many activities did you come up with? 10, 15, 20 or more?

Now, go back and look at your list. How many activities did you list that would take 30-minutes to half-a-day, or half-a-day or more?

Here’s the question: How often do you get chunks of time that large to do anything you would like? Not very often, right?

If you are looking for ways to Loosen Up and Lighten Up you have to look for those short chunks of time during your day to take mini-vacations.

What can you do with 2-5 minutes? Listen to a song, enjoy a cartoon, wash your face, take a walk, or get in touch with a friend and share a smile or a laugh.

Loosening Up and Lightening Up can put more life into your life in the difficult, stressful times of change in which we live.

Remember, no sense in taking all this seriously, you never get out alive anyway.

Have big weekend….and lighten up!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Life That Mattered

During challenging times the loss of creative decision-makers is especially troubling. That is why I was saddened to learn of the loss of Claude McKinney, former dean of the NCSU School of Design, champion of the Centennial Campus, and a guiding light for the Research Triangle Park. He died last week.

In the late 1980s I interviewed McKinney in his office at the School of Design. Fashionably attired, he sat behind a spotless desk on which, at the front edge, rested an 18-inch reed, a large marble, a small pyramid, and three seashells.

When I asked about the assortment of items he said, “When I’m confused about how to approach a problem I arrange these things in what I believe is a three-dimensional representation of the problem. It helps me think it through.”

Creativity is not rare, it simply hides. Claude McKinney spent his life coaxing creativity out of himself and helping others find it in themselves.

Truly, a life that mattered.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Do You Focus On?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting "I Didn't Sign On for This! Change In the Workplace" for a group of CPAs.

At the end of the program I offered four suggestions for dealing with change; the first two are especially helpful when dealing with the stress caused change.

Here they are:
-Make sure you exercise, but don't overdo it.
-Stay hydrated.
-Minimize your exposure to the media.
-At the end of each day write down 5 things you have appreciate in your life.

The third and fourth suggestions are based on the fact that what we give our attention to persists in our experience.

Media professionals have a saying, "If it bleeds, it leads. Bad news sells." That's why you see, hear, and read all kinds of bad news first on TV and in newpapers. And the more you are exposed to the bad news the more you believe that that is all there is.

The fourth suggestion is based on a study from the University of Miami. Researchers discovered that people who, at the end of the day, wrote down five things they appreciated in their lives experienced fewer depressive episodes, some had lower blood pressure, and almost all the test subjects experienced more positive thoughts.

A disturbing thought is that compelling research shows that over half our thoughts and conversations are negative in some way. You've got to make an effort to focus on positive issues if you want a Positive Workday.

What do you focus on?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Don't Forget

Today is Veteran's Day. Don't forget that for over 200 years our peace has been bought by other Americans who were willing to step up.

When I think of the sacrifice of veterans I often think of a George Orwell quote that many of us had rather not consider: "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

If you know a veteran, call them and say, "Thank you."

If you see someone dressed in a military uniform, shake their hand and thank them for their service.

Thank you veterans, today and in the past, for stepping up.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Can Money Get You Into Heaven?

Today is the anniversary of Martin Luther’s birthday.

Why is this important?

To get to the point: Martin Luther, considered the “Father of Protestantism,” is the guy who made it impossible for us to pay our way into heaven.

In 1517, he wrote “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” Indulgences were payments made to the Roman Catholic Church in lieu of doing good works (or, in some cases, living a good life) to receive blessings…and…essentially…to get into heaven.

Luther believed that only God could declare a sinner righteous. So, he wrote that the Roman Catholic Church did not have the power to grant the ultimate Get Out of Jail card; and if they didn’t have the power in the first place, they sure couldn’t charge for it. He believed that living a life of good works and faith was what gets us into the ether of 24-hour buffets, no worries about money, and the Tar Heels winning EVERY football game by 30 points. Heaven!

Now, what in the name of all that is sacred on Monday does this have to do with having a Perfect Workday?

Here's what I think: There’s got to be a day when all the dopes who got us into the financial mess we are experiencing come to the realization that their golden parachutes won’t get them into the Eternal Easy. And, in their sleep, they will see the faces of all the people whose retirements have been aborted, whose homes have been foreclosed, and whose financial lives have been ruined.

If newspapers, TV stations, and news blogs REALLY want to help during this tough time they will start publishing and airing the names, pictures, and addresses of some of the politicians, bankers, hedgefund managers, and real estate moguls who got us into this mess.

My Perfect Monday Workday would start with Good Morning America on location in Times Square with a lineup of those folks grabbing their ankles and someone the size of Carolina Panther’s Defensive End Julius Peppers standing behind them with a canoe paddle.

Smack!!!!

Thank you, Sir…may I have another?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Vacation Hustle

Do you hustle up on Fridays to get some things done before the weekend? What about the Friday before you go on vacation?

You know how we all get super-organized, energized, and efficient just before taking off on vacation?

Here’s the question: Why aren’t you doing that every day?

Imagine what you could get done if you worked at the day-before-vacation pace most of the time.

Here’s an exercise that may not be too flattering for you: Ask yourself this question, “If you could get your week’s work done in four days and have Friday off could you do it?”

If your answer is “Yes” then you are already 20% overpaid.

If you could get your work done in four days and have another day to be productive, why not do it? When you were hired they committed to pay for all of you. Are you giving it?

We’re easing into a time in which resources are going to be incredibly tight and being both efficient and effective will be of paramount importance. I believe that people who can maximize resources and really get the job done will prized…and employed.

If you want to get more, you’d better be willing to give more. Think about this over the weekend, “Where could you be in one year if you consistently worked at day-before-vacation pace?”

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

National Men Make Dinner Day

Today is National Men Make Dinner Day…no kidding.

If you think it’s a joke (ok, maybe a little, but these folks are pretty serious about it) go to menmakedinner.com.

Barbecues are not allowed. This is a day for men who do not usually cook to head to the kitchen and whip up some culinary delight.

The thing I like about this is the reversal of roles and the challenging of assumptions.
Nothing like a good assumption to get you in trouble.

Everyone remembers what happens when you assume…right?

Whether or not you are a man, and whether or not you are going to make dinner tonight, today might be a good day to ask yourself what some of your assumptions about life might be. Are they helping you or hurting you?

Here’s the issue: whether you want life to change or not…it does. And if you make assumptions about people, things, or situations, and life changes, you are in for a rude awakening.

Challenge your assumptions.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Are You Mad, Sad, or Glad?

So, after yesterday, are you mad, sad, or glad?

The thought that keeps rolling around in my mind is that millions of people around the world would give anything to have the privilege to vote as our nation just did. In the history of mankind the privilege to vote as we do has been a rare thing.

However, for what it’s worth, one of the smartest people I know, when asked how the election would change America, said, “Not much. There is no real clear-cut majority that would have the power to make significant changes. If one candidate has 48 or 49 percent and the other has 52 or 52 percent, things won’t change that much.”

The tally last night was, Obama...51%, McCain...48%

If you are worried or sad in one direction, that’s a comforting thought.
If you are worried or sad in another direction, it’s not.

Tons of lumber turned into newsprint and zillions of electrons turned into energy for computers and televisions will be used to predict what will happen in the next few months. Let’s wait until this time next year and see what has really changed.

As aviators and astronauts say, “It’s best to maintain an even strain.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Porkchop Pants Week

This is one of those classic weeks in which I feel like life is a bear and I have on porkchop pants. Lots of seminars to do, some tough audiences, an important and stressful personal commitment next weekend; it’ll be like game day every day except tomorrow, Election Day, until next week.

Months ago when I was scheduling this fall I purposely kept Election Day open. Not many people want to do seminars on Election Day anyway, but I wanted to be able to try and relax and pay attention to the election results.

I voted last Thursday and got lucky; minimal waiting and out the door.

No matter who you are voting for, you should vote. I keep thinking about the millions of people around the world who would give anything—up to and including their lives—to have the opportunity to vote as we do.

My next thought, and prayer, is for whoever wins the election. If I think it’s a porkchop pants week for me….the next president is going to have a porkchop SUIT for 4 years.

Get out and vote, and have a big week.

Friday, October 31, 2008

No Relatives and Candy Out the Wazzoo!

You know what I love about Halloween? No relatives and candy out the wazoo! Ya gotta love any holiday like that.

Yesterday was one of those days that started wonderfully, took a nosedive that was a surprise, and ended up great. I had tricks AND treats.

Yesterday morning, as I was waiting to present my seminar, I was reading a couple of paragraphs from John C. Maxwell's, Your Road Map for Success Workbook. He was talking about getting knocked down and quoted a guy as saying, "I'm either up, or getting up."

Later in the day, as I was going through the challenge, I thought about that quote and realized that it was, and is, a wonderful philosophy of life. "I'm either up, or getting up."

Maxwell is one of my favorite modern philosophers. He's the speaker/writer who said, "Your probability of success is based on your willingness to have difficult conversations."

Sometimes being "up" or "getting up" involves having some of those "difficult conversations." I've said that for a long time, but I'm just now starting to truly understand the reality of how difficult those conversations can be. A wise woman recently said to me, "it's amazing how powerful we are and how powerless."

We are responsible for the power, or lack of it, in each instance.

After my nosedive/challenge yesterday I had to have a couple of difficult conversations....and you know what?....they turned out great.

Sometimes the worst part of "getting up" is the worry part.

I think the key to moving through challenges is a lot like the dynamics of Halloween. It's dark, it's scary, and sometimes we don't know who is going to open the door when we knock. But, if we have the courage to walk up the steps and knock, it usually turns out great.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Walk It Off!

Rob Sweetgall has walked across America 7 times. He is an absolute apostle to the glories of walking.

What does that have to do with a Perfect Workday? Sweetgall told me that walking is a contra-lateral movement. It means we move our limbs parallel to each other and in opposite directions. Well, what on earth does THAT have to do with having a Perfect Workday?!

It means that the activity pushes more oxygen into your brain. Walking can calm you down, energize you, be the generator of new ideas and serve as a moving meeting.

President Harry Truman used to talk to reporters on daily walks and moved at a pace that would leave men half his age bent over and panting.

Walk before work, at lunch, on breaks or after work. Encourage a walking program at your workplace.

Walking and swimming are the two most popular forms of low-impact exercise…and can you visualize some of your coworkers in bathing suits? Not a pretty sight. Stick with walking.

As President Truman once said, “Everyone should take their dog for a walk every day, even if they don’t have a dog.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tight Times Are Great Times for Low-Cost Rewards

Sorry about missing yesterday; was out of town.

Yesterday I was in a restaurant and saw a great example of a low-cost reward. A waitress..mmm...waitperson?...or, should it be wait-individual? or, food attendant?

Sorry, the political correctness virus catches up with me sometimes.

Anyway, a waitress had done a great job with a couple and the manager had evidently observed the service. I heard the manager praise the person, and watched as the waitress' face beamed.

Tight times--anytime, for that matter--is a good time for low-cost rewards.

A great strategy for getting people to do things for you—which leads to a more Perfect Workday—is finding and using the rewards that show appreciation or serve as motivational tools. But if you are going to reward people on a regular basis you’ll be better off to look for low-cost rewards.
There are six categories of low-cost rewards that often work:
1. Say, “Thank You.” Find as many ways as possible to say, “Thank you.” Most surveys of what people want for recognition show that once they understand that you can’t always give big raises they want recognition. You can do it verbally or you can write a thank you note and mail or email it, although face-to-face is always best.
2. Show respect by asking their advice. If the person is an outstanding worker ask how they do what they do. Also, ask if they know how to make things better in your organization and follow up on what they tell you.
3. Spotlighting. In essence, this technique is about bragging on the person in public. Say good things about them in front of their co-workers, to management, to their families. Find ways to put the person in the spotlight in reports. Get them in the newspaper. One real estate near the North Carolina coast puts their lead sales rep’s picture on a billboard.
4. Stuff. A well-known strategy of giving stuff can include hats, t-shirts, sports apparatus, toys, pens, tools, pins or anything the person will see as valuable.
5. Money and Time. Small cash rewards, $5 or $10, can be a surprise reward for a job well done. Or, instead of cash give movie, theatre, concert or sports tickets. Hire a babysitter for the person. If you can’t or don’t give money try giving time. Some people had rather have an afternoon off than a comparable amount of money.
6. Fun. Find more ways to have fun at work. Have a funny tie day, a joke day or a wild shirt day. Bring ice cream and toppings to work in the summer or cook a big pot of soup or chili in the winter.

Great Resource: 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, Bob Nelson

Monday, October 27, 2008

Be Cranky Today

Today is National Cranky Co-workers Day!

Sooner or later we run into a co-worker who is having one of those days. Unfortunately, some folks seem to be having one of those days every day.

The best thing to do with someone having a bad day is to steer clear of them, if possible. I know, I know, some of you think, "But maybe I can make them happy."

No, people are about as happy as they are going to be when they roll out of bed. President Abraham Lincoln said that.

But, OK. I'm willing to give it a shot. If you run into a co-worker who seems cranky today, ask if there is anything you can do. Maybe they just want someone to listen.

However, if they tend to be one of those people who seem to have a permanent case of crankiness, pass them by. Crankiness is a type of negativity, and they can infect you, just like passing on a virus.

I'm all for having a National Cranky Co-Worker day, but not if it turns into an epidemic.

This should be called National Steer Clear of Cranky Co-Workers Day.

Have a big week!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Barrel Over the Falls!

Today is the anniversary of the first person to go over Niagra Falls in a barrel and live.

Annie Edson Taylor was a 63 year-old former dance teacher and was looking for fame and fortune. She used a 160-pound barrel in 1901 to accomplish the feat. No one tried it again until 1911.

You have to imagine what was going through Annie's mind just as the barrel sailed off the foam and into the air. It had to be somewhat like what will be going through the minds of at least one of the two young people who will get married this weekend at a wedding I'm attending. It's that, "Is this the right thing to do?"

Any time we try new things there is the potential for that, "Uh, oh," feeling. It's fear, and fear is a natural reaction to change. Fear has kept humans alive throughout our evolution, so it's not bad, it's a good thing.

Not long ago a smart person asked me, "What do you fear?" I keep thinking about that. In the tight financial times we are experiencing the greatest fear for most is the fear of loss of security (as if we are ever truly secure).

When you are contemplating a change ask yourself, "What do I fear?" Then ask, "What's the worst that could happen?" If the potential downside is something you could live with, why not try?

Living the life you imagine for yourself, if it is different at all from what you are living now, involves change, big or small.

If the upside outweighs the downside, why not try? Annie Edson Taylor tried and gained the fame she sought. Over a century later the people in Niagara Falls, New York, celebrate her.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Are You Trying to Do Too Much?

Are you trying to do too much? Do you look in dismay at your To-Do List at the end of each day, looking at all the things that didn’t get done?

If this sounds like you then a couple of things are going on. First, you are probably over-scheduling. In our society there is a seductive quality to believing that you can get it all done. Unfortunately, we schedule so many things that there is no way it can happen.

Second, you are not anticipating what you have to do you are just reacting to each thing that pops up in life or on your list. That is why I’m trying to get you to look over your list first thing a few times during the day. Your mind will subconsciously work on some of the challenges for but you have to give your brain a heads up.

The third issue is that you’re not saying No enough.

Allow me to make a politically incorrect comment. My experience has been that women are worse about this than men because a lot of women believe that if they say No to something, “I’m a bad mother, bad friend, bad daughter, bad grandmother—bad whatever.” My wife says that is the Superwoman Complex, and to give up the cape.

I have a little different theory about the issue. I believe that a lot of women essentially train the people around them to keep asking for time and effort. The people become emotionally dependent on those women because the women don’t say No every now and then. The truth is probably a combination of the two theories.

I would suggest that you look for tactful ways to say to people, “I would love to be able to take that on, but right now here is my plate is pretty full.” Can you say that in your personal life? In your work life you may want to try to find a way to say “Great. That sounds good. Now I’ve got all these other things due. Help me figure out which of these things I can take off my plate so I can bring this other thing on.” Get them to help you prioritize. If you can do that you can help them become a better manager.

There is a wonderful book, 1001 Ways to Say, "No!" You might want to track it down.

Trying to much is very..mmm...trying. Getting a few things done well is better than trying to get a lot of things done in a mediocre way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Work?

Have you ever stopped to think about why you work?

Sounds like a silly question to some people..."Of course, I have to work because I have bills to pay." Some folks go a little farther and talk about the satisfaction, working with others, advancing a greater good...some even talk about the fun, although admittedly, they are, unfortunately, in the minority.

For every person there is a reason for working. What's yours?

I certainly understand financial realities, especially in these times of uncertainty. But, knowing why you work gets you through the difficult times.

The Buddhists talk about the concept of "Right Livelihood." The concept has more to do with your work being something that helps the world be a more positive place.

However, I look at the phrase from a more practical angle. Is your work "Right" for you? Is it something that maximizes your talents, skills, interests, and desires. Even if you don't take off tomorrow to run a dogsled team in Alaska just because you think that that's what you should be doing the exercise of asking yourself, "Why?," is a healthy one.

And remember, if you are having a tough week, today is Wednesday, Hump Day. If you can make it to lunchtime it's a downhill slide to the weekend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Man Who Made BOOOOM!

Today is the 175 birthday of Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896), who, in his will, left much of his enormous fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes.

In case you didn’t know, Nobel was also the creator of dynamite. He discovered that by combining nitroglycerine and diatomaceous earth (an easily crumbling rock similar to pumice) the resulting product was safer and more convenient to handle.

It is commonly believed that the erroneous publication in 1888 of a premature obituary of Nobel by a French newspaper, condemning him for his invention of dynamite, is said to have brought about his decision to leave a better legacy after his death. The obituary stated Le marchand de la mort est mort ("The merchant of death is dead") and went on to say, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday."

Biographers believe the one personal trait of Nobel that helped him to sharpen his creativity was his talent for information access, via his multi-lingual skills. In short, Nobel sought information sources and asked more and better questions.

Do you ask more and better questions every day? Try the exercise below to bring you more information, cut down dramatically on erroneous assumptions and miscommunications, and increase creativity.

From this day forward, if you are in a meeting, write these seven questions down the left-hand side of your notes: What? Why? Who? Where? When? How? How Much?

Make sure you have answers to those questions before you leave the meeting and/or use the questions to spur creativity. I promise you will have fewer of those, “Duh?” moments.

And sometime today wish Dr. Nobel a happy BOOOOOOOOOM!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Second Kid Had It Right

Five years ago I took on the role of president of the alumni association for my college fraternity. Unfortunately, the chapter had turned into something like Animal House without the laughs. A short time before we shut down the chapter and sold the fraternity house one of the members said to some alums, “You guys could come in and get us motivated to change.” One of the more mature young men replied, “If we can’t motivate ourselves maybe we don’t deserve what we have.”

Thirty years ago in their song, Heroes, The Commodores sang, “Looking back in time we are in debt to the leaders, angels of mercy every one.” Like the young guys in the fraternity we are looking for the angel of mercy, the leader who will lead the way out of the wilderness. It seems that in three decades we would have learned the lesson the second young guy already knew.

We are the ones who have spent ourselves into the worst saving nation in the developed world. We have elected a congress more interested in pork than the folks at Barbecue Lodge or Bill’s. We demand freebies that candidates are more than happy to promise in exchange for votes. We pay more attention to how candidates look and sound on television than to what they do or do not say.

The key to the future is in the second line of The Commodores’ song about Heroes, “…if you look in the soul of everyone they can be found.” As Americans, we know what needs to be done, we just haven’t been very good at it lately. While we need leaders courageous enough to tell us what we don’t want to hear and to lead us where we don’t want to go, we already know. Whomever we elect in two weeks, it really isn’t up to them.

The second kid had it right.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bean Art At Its Finest

Today is the first full day of the North Carolina State Fair! Yeah! Cotton candy, Emu burgers, ice cream, midway games and rides, agricultural exhibits and contests....ahhhhh, the smell of fresh manure.

I believe that every citizen of a state should attend their state fair at least once ever 3-5 years. The trip is one of those events that kids remember all their lives. My strongest memory of a state fair trip is the one where my younger brother, Joe, got lost (I don't remember the particulars, I think we were somewhere around 14 and 12). Our mother panicked but when we returned to the fair to find him he was calmly sitting on the grass at a rest area drinking a Coke. He had run out of money and found a dime and bought a drink. When Mama asked why he didn't call our friends' house to tell us where he was he said, "I was thirsty and knew you'd show up sooner or later."

My favorite part of the fair is the craft exhibits. No kidding. No matter what year, some kid from Ayden or Bear Grass or Climax or Fletcher will have created a map of North Carolina using every variety of bean grown in the state. I love that!

Think about it; for months a piece of plywood has been lying on newspapers spread out on the the dining room table. It's surrounded by bowls of dry beans, glue, a map of the state, pencils, and the spray stuff that will secure the beans and make them shine. The kid's mother has been bragging to everyone at work, church and in the neighborhood about the project. Dad thinks it's all a little silly but he's not saying that if he's got any sense. A little brother or sister has knocked the bean bowls off about every other day and has now been told to stay away from the dining room. The kid has been hurrying to finish school work every night so he/she can work on the bean art. Weekends have been consumed with the project. When the family transported the bean art to Raleigh they did it with as much care as the Secret Service uses to transport the Constitution.

And the piece wins a ribbon! It doesn't have to be a blue ribbon, any ribbon will do. So now the family can return home triumphant!

In the movie, "The Replacements," Gene Hackman is the coach of a team of replacement football players during a strike. He tells his players, "Glory once won never leaves a man." However silly you might think the bean art might be the kid will never forget he won. And winning once sets the stage for winning again. And that can mean a successful life.

Whatever you've won at, glory in it. Use the fact that you have won as a step to a little bit bigger win. Or, to a really big win. Everyone, at some time in their life has been a winner. Take that and run with it.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pull Up! Lay Down!

Yesterday in the Raleigh News and Observer a columnist lambasted the people who steal political signs from supporters yards. Seems that most of the signs stolen were Obama signs so the finger pointed at McCain supporters, but she did point out that some McCain signs were being stolen, too.

While I would never endorse thievery...well...unless you're in a fraternity and that beer cooler was unlocked and..well...ok, that's a story for another day.

But, here's my point; these little stick-in-the-ground signs are a blight on the land. I think the world of my friends in real estate but the little roadside signs are trash.

A couple of years ago when the real estate sign trend took off I wrote a letter to the editor of the News and Observer suggesting a strategy for beautification. It's called the PULD Strategy. They never had the courage to print it (it wouldn't make the real estate people happy), so here it is.

Here's how it works; you don't steal the sign. I mean, that would be...stealing. You simply Pull the sign Up, and Lay it Down. Pull Up, Lay Down...PULD.

Yes, signs laying on the ground are trashy looking. But that's the point. Once we get enough PULD signs on the ground the people who use them will recognize that that type of media doesn't work anymore and they'll move on to something else. Like maybe tattooing peoples' foreheads. But we'll worry about that when it happens.

So, try the PULD Strategy. If you see some signs on a corner, pull over in a nearby parking lot, walk to the signs and PULD a few. I've done it and it makes you feel wonderful.

It's almost like having some control over life and the folks who believe they run the world.

PULDers of the World! Unite!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today's the Day!

I had a great message in mind about stealing political and real estate signs but there is too much good stuff going on today for that. As one of my heroes, Scarlett O'Hara would say, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Here's the lineup for celebrations today:

National Grouch Day. Go into work today and ask someone, "What the hell are you smiling about?" When they bust out crying tell them it's National Grouch Day. Don't offer a tissue.

The Circleville Pumpkin Show starts today in Circleville, Ohio. More than 100,000 pounds of pumpkin, squash and gourds; attended by over 300,000 people. Those Ohioans love their gourds.

The East Texas Yamboree starts in Gilmore, Texas. Attendance, over 100,000. Yeeee, haaaaa!

Wishbones for Pets (Oct 15-Nov30)...pet sitters do food and fund drives for their favorite pet charities. What is tan and red and goes 90 miles an hour? A Chihuahua in a blender.

The anniversary of the first manned flight. Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent, Marquis d'Arlandes, became the first people to fly when they ascended in a Montgolfier hot-air balloon in Paris. Think about it, the French in hot-air balloons...and no one with a slingshot.

Premiere of "I Love Lucy" in 1951. Did you ever wonder if Ricky had a thing for Ethel?

Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day. Those folks do good work. Call your local chamber and thank them for making your town sound better than it probably is.

White Cane Safety Day. Oooops!

Mata Hari Execution Day. In 1917, history's most famous spy was executed by a firing squad. She refused a blindfold and blew a kiss to her executioners. Ya gotta admit, that takes......mmm...ok, well, some women have'em, too.

Cool Birthdays:
John Kenneth Galbraith would have been 100 today. Author, professor and economic advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Galbraith had a great take on the economics of American society. He busted the military/industrial complex and smacked American consumers for being too simple-minded and lacking in community values.

Friedrich Neitzsche was the German philosopher who said, "Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger." Which led to a great next line in the movie, Blazing Saddles. Basic philosophic premise was contempt for the weak and the ultimate triumph of a superman. (He was probably a Duke alum and basketball fan) Died in 1900 a decade after suffering a mental breakdown. See there, lookin' down on the weak gotcha, didn't it Fred?

P.G. Wodehouse was an English writer and humorist. Born in 1881, Wodehouse's main character was Jeeves the English butler. Jeeves' take on the prewar upper class was dry, spot-on (as the English say) and the basis of a lot of the English humor we experience. However, I'll take lots of Monty Python and a dollop of Benny Hill any day.

NOW, GET BACK TO WORK!! That's my best grouch for the day. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, President Eisenhower!

On October 14, 1890, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas.

In addition to being an American hero Eisenhower was a master of preparation. As the commander of American forces in Europe during WWII he asked that reporters submit questions in writing before any news conference. The practice allowed Eisenhower to prepare answers that were short, fact-filled, and succinct. Reporters loved him and he was characterized as efficient, effective, and in total command.

Later, as president, Eisenhower’s news conferences were much like what we see today; lots of spur-of-the-moment questions shouted in a style that rewards quick thinking but allows little preparation. Almost immediately after his election Eisenhower was characterized by the same media that had covered him during the war as slow-witted, uncommunicative, and ill-suited to the Oval Office.

Eisenhower was the same person he simply did not have the same opportunity to prepare that he had as a general.

Winging it is fine in some situations, but if you want a Perfect Workday you’ve got to do your homework.

And by the way, this is also the anniversary of the breaking of the sound barrier for the first time (1947) by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1. Yeager named the plane, “Glamorous Glennis,” after his wife.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grab the Day...and Life, You Want!

If you follow sports, especially in the Southeast, you know that my Tar Heels beat Notre Dame on Saturday. As the evening and game wore on I was SURE the refs were going to steal it from us. But, no, at the end it was all good and all Carolina Blue. Thanks for indulging me.

For almost a year I 've been looking forward to the program I'm presenting today. The NC Department of Labor is again hosting a conference in the Research Triangle Park and lasts year's conference was a blast! They've been kind enough to ask me back and I'm going to talk about "10 Secrets to Grabbing a Great Life."

Let's talk about grabbing.

“To seize suddenly, eagerly or to roughly snatch,” is how Webster’s New World Dictionary defines grab or grabbing.

If you are going to have a Perfect Workday you are going to have to grab it. Since the Industrial Age society has successfully conditioned most workers to walk into work every day like zombies, trade hours of their lives for money and then waddle home to a life filled with stuff television convinced them to spend their money on. And as long as they keep buying business keeps humming and everyone continues to have a place to go to work every day.

I know that sounds cynical, but look around. Many of the strategies for having a Perfect Workday go against the grain of the previous paragraph. Decide what you want your Perfect Workday to be like and then make a choice to make it happen. The simple fact that you are making a choice sets you apart from the vast majority of your co-workers.

If you want to read a wild spin on the world of work find The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferris.

Grab!

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's a Big Friday!

I know this is supposed to be about work but this weekend is too big to keep quiet any longer. If you don’t like sports then sign off right now and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Here’s the deal: My Tar Heels are playing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday in Chapel Hill. The last time we saw the Emerald and Gold in Chapel Hill was 33 years ago. I was at the game and watched us lead until late in the game when the Irish sent in an unheralded freshman who led them to victory. His name was, and is, Joe Montana.

Notre Dame is not having a great year but anytime the winningest college football program comes to town it’s a big deal. According to some reputable sources this is the most sought-after Carolina football ticket in the last 30 years.

Here’s what all this has to do with The Perfect Workday. All work and no play…well, you know the rest. You have to have some interests outside of work that get your heart pumping.

My biggest outside interest is Carolina Football. The basketball program will always win at least 20 games and go to the NCAAs. We have a great chance to win a national championship this year…but to tell the honest truth I’d be more excited if we win 9 football games and go to a bowl.

If you want to catch me this Saturday afternoon watch NBC at 3:30. I’ll be the one wearing blue and cheering.

So, here’s my prediction…hold onto your hat…Carolina 41 Notre Dame 10. If you’re gonna wish, you might as well wish big.

Go Heels!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Early Bird Gets Shot!

Woke up this morning at 4 am, wide awake. You have to understand, I am NOT a morning person. But as I have gotten older it seems that I need less sleep, seem to sleep more deeply, and awaken earlier.

I'm trying to put the extra time to use (like writing the blog) by working on a book, doing paperwork, and reading. So, the extra time is a boon, but I still don't like the idea of being up this early.

Are you a morning person, or an afternoon and evening person? Psychologists call morning people "Larks," and afternoon and evening people "Owls."

The scientific name for this phenomenon is "circadian rhythms." They are the energy rhythms of our days. The slang term is "Prime Time." When is your Prime Time?

One of the keys to having a Perfect Workday is to work within your rhythms. If you are planning a meeting that might be stressful try to plan it for your Prime Time. You think and plan more effectively during your Prime Time. Save some of that onerous organization (putting away files, straightening your office or home) for energy down times when you don't really need to think.

Understanding what your energy flow is like and matching tasks to energy is a great way to have a more Perfect Workday.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Are These Really Fleas?!

During a break in my seminar yesterday I snuck away and made a new friend. Long blond hair, soulful eyes, no-questions-asked affection.

Unfortunately, it is doubtful that I will ever see her again.

Probably a good thing, too....she gave me fleas.

I was at the beautiful conference center at Bryan Park in Greensboro presenting a day-long program for the NC Association of CPAs. At a break I walked outside and met a beautiful dog. No tag so I don't have a clue what her name was. She was wonderfully affectionate and I had a great time petting her.

On the way home I started itching. Fortunately, by this morning the itching was gone.

The encounter made me realize that our meetings with a lot of people are similar. We get a lot out of the situation but there may be one or two things that don't click with us...that make us itch. If we concentrate on the good things and understand that there will often be a few things that we wish were different, but aren't, we can maximize our relationship with them.

I have a few aquaintances, friends and associates who have fleas. I'm going to try and start looking beyond the fleas and focusing on the good stuff.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Top Tip for Tuesday

It's 5:30 am and I hate getting up early!

Am on the way to Greensboro for an all day seminar.

So, here's your quick tip for Tuesday: Ask yourself, "Where will I be 3-5 years from now?" When you get an answer...you did get an answer other than, "the same place I am now," didn't you?...ask yourself this, "What steps can I take today that will get me closer to my 3-5 year goal?"

Taking small steps each day helps you make sure that you are where you want to be in the long term. One....small...step....each...day.

My one small step is out the door right now!

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Just Know!

Welcome to Monday!

What type of week will you have? Have you already gotten yourself kinda cranked up because you expect a good/bad week? Has that feeling led you to...well...feel good or bad?

When making decisions we can easily take ourselves down the wrong road with "confirmation bias." We confirm in our minds that a situation is going to turn out a specific way because we "just know."

Jim Porto, the executive director of the Executive Masters Program at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Public Health, has been helping me understand what keeps us from making good decisions. He has come up with an acronym, CAT MAGIC, that signifies the eight areas in which we make mistakes. I'll be exploring them during the next few days.

Plato described Confirmation Bias as "the acquisition and maintainance a belief (or, at least, the avowal of that belief) in the face of strong evidence to the contrary." In essence, it is self-deception.

How many times do we act on a long-held belief about other people or situations only to find that we were wrong. How often does self-deception keep us from living magnificent lives.

Look ahead into your week and ask yourself, "What am I making an assumption about (you've decided to think a certain way) based on a belief that I might have little or no evidence to prove the belief?"

Your week could turn out to be so much more wonderful if you didn't make the decision based on a faulty assumption.

More about CAT MAGIC later.

Have a great week!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Go Animal House!

If you’ve seen the movie Animal House (and if you haven’t put this book down right now and go rent it!) you know that the Deltas’ answer to any challenge to their fraternity was….action! The dean puts them on double-secret probation so what do they do? Road trip! Get their charter revoked what do they do? Terrorize the homecoming parade!

While I don’t condone their methods I love their bias for action.

The ability to take action, to get started…on anything… is power at work.

Let’s go to science class for just a moment. According to any resource about Sir Isaac Newton his first law of motion is, “An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force.”

In your Perfect Day evidence of Newton’s First Law can be found in you and your co-workers, clients and family. Unless you apply some external force (i.e. motivation, rewards, punishments) it can be hard to get yourself and others moving to get anything done.

However, the great thing about the First Law is the second sentence. Once you get moving it is much easier to keep moving.

Whatever it takes to get yourself moving, do it! Get Started!

Take small bites of a big project, do one thing a day, go for a short walk instead of running a mile, make one phone call. Just as in health and fitness the ELMO Rule (Every Little Movement) works.

And remember, nothing gets done on the back row. I present seminars and when some of the early arrivers go straight to the back row I pull them forward. Sitting on the back row encourages disengagement. Some of them use the silly excuse, “We’re Baptists, we always sit on the back pew.” As a minister once told me, “Nothing good happens on the back pew.”

Take a tip from the Deltas, get moving.

If you don't have plans for the weekend go out and rent Animal House. It's hard to watch that movie and not want to do something a little wild. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I love the Christmas carol that starts, "Do you hear what I hear?" And I realize it's a little early to celebrate Christmas so let's talk about what you hear.

Think about this: Listening is the cheapest concession you can make in a relationship or a negotiation. When we listen to others it tells them we respect them and care about what they have to say.

Don't just hear people, actively listen to them.

There is a wonderful active listening model, The CARESS Method.

Concentrate on what the other person says.
Acknowledge that they are talking to you. Give them a nod and a smile as they talk.
Research means asking questions to clarify.
Exercise emotional control. Listen to what people say not how they say it.
Sense the non-verbal.
Structure means listening for the most important point. Do they tell you the most important thing up front or do they wander around before getting to the point.

Active listening can be hard work but it is worth it. Don't just hear people. Listen to them.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

OK...So, Things Are Getting Crazy

For the last week or so I've been trying to dance around the fact that the financial markets are roiling and the economy is getting scary.

Unless you are a member of the Congress of the United States or a bigwig with a financial institution you only have two choices: take your money out of your bank and put it in your mattress, or be prudent in your spending and continue to live your life as you have.

I spent part of last weekend paying bills. One of my goals for this fall was to pay off a couple of credit cards and cut them up. I did that this past weekend. I could have saved that money, paid minimum payments and held on to the cards, but that was not my goal.

FDR said about the Depression, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." Last night on TV a financial talking head pointed out that the reason credit markets are drying up is because bankers are afraid of not being paid. While that is certainly prudent we're seeing fear as the main motivator for decision-making. Again, the key is to be prudent but not fearful.

So, here are three things I'm going to do: First, keep my gas tank reasonably full and not sit in a line waiting to get gas because it costs 15 cents less a gallon than at the station across the street. The waiting raises my stress and fear level. Second, keep a few hundred dollars in cash on hand. Third, live.

That's it. To a great degree those three things are the extent of my control over the craziness that is going on right now.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Does Happiness Matter?

Welcome to Monday and another wonderful week!

Seeking happiness in your work and workplace is a relatively new phenomenon. Only in the last forty years, as Baby Boomers raised in the age of “Do your own thing” entered the workforce, has the concept of happiness carried much weight as a work value. Does how you feel about your work matter to you?

In the past a lot of folks had the feeling that if you had a job you were lucky so just do your job and collect your paycheck. In today's wildly volatile financial world that may not be a bad strategy. Some people still have the, “Show up. Do the work. Get paid” attitude and if that works for you, it works for you.

However, most people understand that happiness in work is a good thing. No one wants to trudge to a job they hate every day for 30 years. It seems like a waste of life.

What many people fail to realize, though, is that the concept of happiness is internal; it is based on what we think about the work. Work that might be onerous to one person is a delight to another. I hate painting a house. My neighbor sees it as making art.

I often encounter people who tell me that the external issues of work—money, title, office size or placement, perks—don’t really matter. “What really matters is the work,” they say. Maybe, maybe not. Whatever matters to you, matters to you.

Considering how crazy things have gotten with the financial environment in which we work this might not be a bad time to ask yourself why you work. Is it the money? Using that as a sole reason is getting pretty scary.

What actually gives you the "feeling" of being happy? Does work have anything to do with it or are you just putting in hours?

Good luck this week.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Time and Another Form of Wealth

"An unhurried sense of time is, in itself, a form of wealth." Baltasar Gracian

Gracian was a Spanish writer in the 1600s who, like many good writers, called into question the traditions of the day and the habits of the populace. Trained as a Jesuit, he once read a letter from the pulpit that supposedly had been sent from Hell. I love that. His superiors were not pleased. His most significat work was Criticon, a long novel chronicling two characters journey through life.

Now, what does Gracian have to do with a Pefect Workday?

This week has been incredibly intense, scary, bizarre, and confusing. It has been one of the rough weather periods in our journey. I believe that I am at least a marginally intelligent person but the financial labyrinth that has become our economy is beyond me. My basic question is probably the same as yours, "Am I going to be able to buy a gallon of milk and fill my car with gas?" In some parts of North Carolina they are experiencing gas shortages.

So it could be that we are enterring some rough weather when it comes to life.

Here's what I am going to try to do....calm down. I'm going watch less news on the tube and read fewer stories on the front page of the newspaper. If my money is worthless when I go to buy groceries I'll find out then.

However, I believe that there are lots of folks above my pay grade who are smarter than me and who are paid to worry about this stuff. So let'em. We'll get to decide in a few weeks who gets to solve this mess.

I'm going to take an unhurried view of time this weekend. Relax. Watch some college football. Go for a walk. It will all be here when Monday morning rolls around. And that is when you and I will get together again.

Have an unhurried weekend.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Need a Thought for the Day?

I'm having one of those days in which I need a lighter thought; something to take my mind off what is going on and put it onto something that has nothing to do with the challenges I'm facing.

If, by chance, you're having a day like that, too, here are some of the thoughts I'm using to attack the blues:


1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me alone.
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.
3. It's always darkest before the dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.
4. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.
5. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.
6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
7. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of your car payments.
8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.
9. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you. 1
0. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
11. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.
12. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
13. Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield.
14. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.
15. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
16. A closed mouth gathers no foot.
17. Duct tape is like "The Force". It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.