Friday, January 30, 2009

Animal Spirits and Action

Good evening, campers! Gather 'round the fire and let's talk about "animal spirits."

Tommy! Stop poking Anna with that stick!

Loooooonnnngggg ago...well...not, really all that long ago...it was early twentieth century, there was a man named John Maynard Keynes (pronounced "cains"). He was a British economist.

What's that Shanana? An economist? Well, an economist is someone who doesn't actually work for a living. They use numbers to scare the poop out of people and they have really messy offices.

Yes, Tina, I know "poop" sounds funny. But, let's continue our story.

Mr. Keynes had a major impact on modern economic and political theory as well as on many governments' fiscal policies.

Yes, Trevor, I know your daddy says "physical" instead of "fiscal" but your daddy also says "relator" instead of "realtor." Why? Well, your daddy's a Clemson fan, Trevor, what can I tell ya.

LET'S MOVE ON.

Keynes advocated having the government intervene in the marketplace using fiscal and monetary measures, like screwing around with...

Yes, Tina, I know I used the word "screwing," I'm sorry. I meant to say "messing."

COULD YOU PLEASE LET ME FINISH THE STORY!

The government might mess around with the interest rate to help even out the bad effects of things like recessions, depressions, and booms. Mr. Keynes is considered among the most influential economists of the 20th century.

Yes, David, I know you're getting sleepy so I'll get to the point.

Mr. Keynes said that a lot of the motivation for making decisions came from what he called "animal spirits." In his book, The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, he said:

"Even apart from the instability due to speculation, there is the instability due to the characteristic of human nature that a large proportion of our positive activities depend on spontaneous optimism rather than mathematical expectations, whether moral or hedonistic or economic.

"Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits - a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction, and not as the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities."

"... human decisions affecting the future, whether personal or political or economic, cannot depend on strict mathematical expectation, since the basis for making such calculations does not exist ... it is our innate urge to activity that makes the wheel go around ..."

Yes, Sheldon? Well, I'll tell you what it means. And don't say, "What the hell does that crap mean?!" It's rude and...

Yes, Tina, I know Sheldon said, "Crap."

It means that a lot of times we make decisions on a deep feeling, animal spirits, of whether or not something will come out positive for us. If we believe it will, we go ahead. If we don't believe it will turn out good, we don't. And as much as we would like to use business decision-making tools...logic, to make a decision, it's almost impossible to move if we don't have the faith that the end result will be in our favor.

Ok, story time is over. Everyone back to their tents.

No, Sheldon, you can't sleep in Tina's tent.

Yes, Tina, I heard Sheldon say, "Crap."

Goodnight, kids.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I Saw It On the Radio

My Tarheels beat Florida State last night, 80-77, on a running 3-pointer at the buzzer by guard Ty Lawson. I was on the road all day yesterday so I saw it on the radio while driving back.

Saw it on the radio?

At the end of every Sunday Morning on CBS, host Charles Osgood, says, "Until next week, I'll see you on the radio." Osgood is a long-time commentator on NPR.

One of the wonderful things older people talk about is listening to the radio and imagining the images that accompanied commentaries, news, radio dramas, and comedies. They often say that when they eventually saw the people who were the voices of the shows they were disappointed. Their mental images were more vivid and flattering than the reality.

Being able to imagine a better day, a better future, is one of the few things that separates humans from animals. Fluffy can't imagine a bigger bowl of dog food. Can you imagine a better workday? A better tomorrow? If you can, you can achieve it. Napoleon Hill, often considered the father of the positive thinking movement, said, "What the mind of man can conceive he can achieve."

But, here's the rub: If you can imagine a better future, you have to start making choices. Do you take the steps to get there, or stay where it might be comfortable? Do you have the difficult discussions that might be necessary to reach what you imagine to be a better future, or not?

The French philosopher Voltaire said, "The good is the enemy of the great." If you can imagine the great, why not go for it? Maybe good, at least in some areas of life, is good enough. Maybe it comes down to whether or not you have the courage to try, or not.

Going for great is change and change is always risky. But, you have to be able to imagine the great before you even get to make the choice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Hope So

I’m still thinking about Obama’s inauguration speech. It’s been interesting to see that some lauded it as a great call-to-arms for the nation, while others saw it as a less-than-grand hopscotch around a wide variety of issues. The wonderful thing is—America being America—the reactions were all over the place.

The speech was printed in full in the Wall Street Journal and as I read through it I again got the same feelings of pride. Last week it didn’t seem so much a cliché to talk about how much you love America.

I continue to understand that so much of who were are and how we view life is tied up in where we are born. On the one hand, it’s sad that everyone does not have the freedoms we experience. But…and this is not my better angels showing…we’re America. If they…whoever “they” might be…don’t have our freedoms, then let them step up and make the changes in their society so they can democracy and see how it works for’em. I know that sounds simplistic, but that’s how we did it.

I was surprised at how emotional I got during the speech. I am not too proud to say that I walked into the kitchen, put my face in my hands and cried. I thought, “How unbelievably lucky I am to live in a country that can peacefully do what I’m seeing on television.”

People without a sense of history don’t understand how rare last Tuesday, and the rest of the week, really was. No one tried to assassinate people at the inauguration. No one tried to seize power forcibly. No one asked for anyone’s “papers” when they crossed state lines or walked onto the mall in D.C.

And here’s the irony that keeps hitting me. I was not going to vote for Obama. I was a McCain supporter all the way through….until Colin Powell endorsed Obama. It was one of those few moments in my life in which maturity got in the way of my basic judgment.

I came to believe that someone with General Powell’s experience had a lot better idea of what it takes, and who has the potential, to be the great president we need right now, than I did. So, I put my faith in Barack Obama because I had faith in Colin Powell.

When I realized why I was voting the way I did I came to have a better understanding of leadership, and of America. We are who we are because the people in our past had faith and stepped up. They believed in a few people and what they stood for. And it didn’t just happen in Washington, or Raleigh; it happened in small towns, in football fields, on the streets we grew up on, and, if we were lucky, in our homes.

Those people whom we respected, admired, and loved showed us the way. And the only way we can ever pay them back…is to act in a manner that shows others the way.

I think that that is why all this makes me so emotional. I have so much to be thankful for…so many gifts and opportunities I probably don’t deserve. At the same time, in order to come even remotely close to repaying that debt, the responsibility to step up is tremendous.

When I tried to talk about it the other day someone said, “Well, Mike, you’re a good American.”

I hope so.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Take Back Your Time

Today is the first day of National Take Back Your Time Week.

According to the creator of Take Back Your Time Week, author and consultant Jan Jasper, “Good time management habits are not enough. You need clear values to tell you where to spend your time. Prioritize and say “no” to unwanted and wasteful uses of your time.”

When it comes down to it, the three biggest problems we run into with our time are: Lack of Focus, Miscommunication, and Disorganization.

The best way to deal with Lack of Focus is to do a To-Do List. Do a Master List of EVERYTHING you have to do. Then set some priorities. Break the priorities into tasks; set a reward you’ll receive when you complete the task, and you are off and running.

The key to lowering Miscommunication is to ask more and better questions. Asking What, Why, Who, Where, When, How, and How Much more often keeps you on a clearer communications path.

Disorganization is usually caused by having too much stuff. But, really, the stuff isn’t the problem. The problem is that you don’t have a system to find the stuff you need when you need it. And leaving it all lying around is not a system. A simple system such as having one place to store your car keys when they are not in your car’s ignition or in your pocket or purse is a good start. The real key to getting and staying organized is by using the 30-Second Secret. Don’t walk out of your house in the morning or away from your desk at lunch or at the end of the day without taking 30 seconds to put a few things away. The cumulative effect of 30 seconds, 30 seconds, 30 seconds, means you’ll get and stay organized.

Final point…look for someone or something this week that you would normally have said “yes” to (but wanted to say “no”)….and say “no.” You’ll be amazed at how much power you’ll feel.

The most accomplished, successful people I know are not constantly adding activities to their lives, they are looking for what they can pare away so they can focus more energy on the things that really matter to them. They are saying "no" all the time. Again, saying "no" puts you in control of your life. And more power like that will give you the juice to do more of what you want with your time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Four Letter Word

As you may know, I listen to 94.9 The Surf, a Myrtle Beach beach music station, online every morning. The last song was "Four Letter Word," by The Castaways.

The point of the song is that LOVE is a four letter word, and not all four letter words are bad. There's a wonderful line that says, "I know you love me but you don't ever say it."

Now, that's a stereotypical lament that a lot of men hear from a lot of women. But, sexist stereotypes aside, there is some word or phrase that we all want to hear on a regular basis. It may be "I love you," or "You're great," or, "I trust you."

It could be anything. But, it's positive, and it makes the other person feel like they need to feel to feel whole. I understand the logic that we shouldn't rely on others to create the lives we want, it's up to us. However, humans are communal creatures and most of us, if not all, need positive contact with other humans to feel...well, human.

What most people don't understand is the power of whatever that phrase is. Truely, it is magic. The happiest, most successful people I know have someone in their lives who validates them; someone who makes them feel like they can do ANYTHING. The feeling helps them save lives, make money, or conquer the world.

What is the word or phrase you need to have that feeling? And, from whom do you need it? It takes a lot of courage to ask for what you need if you are not getting it. Asking, and being denied, can be hurtful. No one likes pain. But, not getting what you need means feeling less than you could feel.

Whatever that Divine Reality is that's at the core of who we really are, it meant for us to have great and happy lives. It didn't mean for us to be "sniveling, clods of complaints," as George Bernard Shaw observed.

LOVE is a four letter word. So is MINE. Those two words, used with the right person, are magic. If you have the opportunity, use them with someone this weekend.

See you Monday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It Ain't Me, Babe!

While presenting a program, "Succeeding in Tuff Times," for a local chamber of commerce today I was struck by how many times people said, "Folks today just aren't acting right."

The point that was consistently made was that a lot of people who had always acted in a reasonable, pay-ontime, mature way, weren't doing that now. When the group delved deeper, and with a little guidance and prodding, they started to understand that the recent financial stresses have pushed many people to act in ways that might be uncharacteristically unbusinesslike (I think that's a phrase...if it isn't it should be).

And, considering the short memories many of us have, we will probably be able to go to the crazy-acting people when things settle down and remind them of their behavior and they'll call on Sonny and Cher, "It Ain't Me, Babe!"

Stress often makes people do crazy things. That's why there's so much truth in the thought that it's easy to act right during good times, but people really show who they are when they are under pressure. So, if that is true, then the real statement, especially in tuff times, would be, "It IS Me, Babe!"

The other side is the opportunity side. There's the old cliche' that a diamond is just coal under pressure. Jimmy Buffett sings, "Cliche's say what they mean and mean what they say," so, there you go. Pressure provides an opportunity to be better, greater, more gracious.

A good friend told me not long ago that she envied me because, "You live a low-stress life," she said. Then she added, "But, when you get really stressed you don't do well." I would not have said that that was true until I started looking back on my reactions to some stressful situations. I could have done better. I've taken that comment to heart. I'm trying to do better about dealing with stress by understanding that it will always be there in one way or the other, and that there are consequences to my actions and comments while under stress.

At the same time, I believe that I did the best I could with what I had, what I knew, and what I felt at the time.

The object of the game, though, is to learn, not make the same mistake again, and move on down the path. The coach of the perrenial National Champion UNC Women's Soccer Team, Anson Dorrance, talks about living an "ever-ascending" life. Learning from your mistakes and moving on is the only way to do that.

The alternative is not very appealing, and, as we Southerners say, "It ain't pretty."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Whisper, or the Brick

One of the Universal Laws of Life that I appreciate (and, unfortunately, often ignore), is that life will continue to offer you a lesson until you learn it.

Recently, I heard a different version of that thought; "Listen for the whisper, or wait for the brick."

I thought about the line yesterday while watching President Barack Obama's inauguration speech. His call for responsibility was the sound of a brick falling. Too many of us (and I'm certainly in the herd) have probably spent more and saved less than we should have. Nationally and individually, we have to make a choice; do we catch the brick or let it hit us? If you've ever caught a brick, and I have, it isn't a comfortable feeling. But, I can assure you that it is better than getting hit by one.

I have a couple of issues in life that have grown from whispers to shouts, and I'm thinking that the shouting is akin to the whistling sound a brick makes when it falls from a great height. Catching these bricks will be painful, but it's got to be better than getting hit by them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Let it Snooooooooooooow!!!!

We have 3-4 inches of snow in Raleigh and it's still coming down!

I'm 56, and I still think of snow like I did when I was younger. Yipppee! No school today!

I had a seminar scheduled for tonight, but it's cancelled. I have one tomorrow morning, it might be cancelled, also. I won't like it later in the month when I would have been getting paid for these two gigs, but for now, it's a fun day!

It's cold in D.C. for the inauguration. I checked the weather at 6 am and it was 19 degrees. You get three guesses on where I'd rather be, here or there.

Back to snow. There is something wonderfully cleansing about the white stuff. My friends in the upper mid-west love snow because you can't see all the trash on the roadside.

And speaking of roadsides and roads...what is it about snow that makes people lose their minds and forget how to drive? Better to stay in, read, and lay about like a slug.

Time for reading and laying about...see you tomorrow. Stay warm.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Two Ends of the Same Stick

While today is the observation of the Martin Luther King National Holiday, January 15, last Thursday, was actually Reverend King's birthday; had he lived, he would have been 80 years old.

An ironic twist is that Reverend King shares his birthday with Edward Teller, the father of he hydrogen bomb. I see these two men as different ends of the "what can we do to help humanity" continuum. Although, Teller's discoveries opened the door to the generation of clean, bountiful, cheap energy, its original use was about as far from Reverend King's work as you can get.


*
One other point about MLK Day, the historic inauguration tomorrow, and how we differ and are the same. I continue to be amazed and chagrined by friends, aquaintances, talking TV heads, and print media mavens who suffer from what I call "white guilt."
If I had a dollar for every word I have read or heard from a white person apologizing to people of every color for perceived or unperceived transgressions, past or present, I'd be writing this blog from a beach in Hawaii. Or, more likely, I wouldn't be writing it, I'd be living in a McMansion in Governor's Club.
If anything, we--all humans--should be ashamed of ANY way of thinking that limits the potential of humankind. It doesn't matter if the issue du jour is race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, physicality, education (okay, maybe there should be some special way to handle the folks from Duke...but that's it!), ANYTHING that keeps us from using all the available brainpower at our disposable is simply stupid.
As Michael Douglas in his role as the president in the movie, The American President, says, "We have serious problems and we need serious people to solve them." Any time we--individually or collectively--create an environment in which we do not give everyone who is willing to step up the opportunities and tools they need to help solve our problems we should feel "people guilt." Tomorrow is, to quote Neil Armstrong, "a small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind" when it comes to maximizing our greatest resource, ourselves.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby It's Coooooold Outside!!

I'm sure that sometime next August when it's surface-of-the-sun hot and I'm doing the quick step across the deck to get a beer I'm going to look back on this morning with longing....but it ain't August.

It's 17 degrees in Raleigh at 8 am and we're looking for 10 degrees tonight. I know, I know, our friends in Chicago are looking at 2 degrees with a windchill of 10 below. But, I'm not in Chicago and this is waaaay cold enough for me.

Having said that, here's my reality:
-I'm sitting in a warm house with a refrigerator and cabinets full of food
- A car filled with gas is waiting in the garage under the wonderful office in which I sit
- I have enough clothes to be somewhat embarrassed about it in the closet behind me
- I'm listening to beach music on my computer and getting it over the Internet which means that it is being beamed from a radio station in Myrtle Beach to a satellite in outer space and then back to me
- I have more books than I can possibly read in a lifetime scattered throughout my office
- In a few hours I'll venture out to one of the best gyms I've ever been to and I am healthy enough to do a workout that will be great, and I won't have to worry about someone checking my "papers" or shooting me from a rooftop or blowing up a device beside my car
- In a few moments I'll use a telephone system in which I have utmost confidence to call my mother to make sure she's ok (she's 80) and warm
- There are people in my life whom I love and people who love me...or, at least they seem to...there is a disagreement about that French maid's outfit but that's another story

Three years ago, in a University of Miami study, researchers found that people who, at the end of each day, listed five things they had to be appreciative of in their lives, tended to have lower blood pressure, fewer depressive episodes, and were "happier" with their lives.

It's easy to focus on the stresses whether they are weather, physical, or financial. But, what's going right in your life? What does your list look like right now?

As the financial clouds continue to swirl (who knows what the storm will eventually look like?) your ability to focus on what is going right will be increasingly important.

Try the exercise...and don't do it in your head...do it on paper...or on your computer screen (actually writing it on paper is better...there is a psychomotor connection that increases the effectiveness of the exercise)...here's the question...What do you appreciate in your life?

See you Monday. Stay warm.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dream a Little Dream for Me

How appropriate to talk about dreaming the day after looked at the need for more sleep.

A few days ago a friend told about a dream in which he had fallen through ice and watched in horror and sadness as his friends, who were standing in safety, turned and walked away.

I'm not a dream expert, but that sounds like a fear of abandonment expressed as a dream. A wise woman once told me that our dreams express our greatest hopes and our greatest fears. I have a recurring dream of meeting an old friend whom I haven't seen in a long time. The dream is wonderfully vivid and when I wake I always wonder for an instant if it was real.

Dreams can be used in a variety of constructive ways. When Thomas Edison faced a significant problem he would often nap in a chair in his laboratory. He would put a metal pan beside the chair, and as his arm rested on the arm of the chair he would dangle his keys from his hand. When he dozed off and entered a deeper sleep state his fingers would relax, dropping the keys into the pan and waking him. Edison would immediately grab a pen and paper and write any thoughts he had in that "gray area" we all recognize as light sleep. He often found the solution to his problems in the dreams he had.

What have you been dreaming? And don't say you don't dream. Everyone dreams, we simply aren't often aware of them when we awake.

Start asking yourself to remember dreams and it will happen. As you lie in bed, early in the morning, in the gray area, ask, "What did I dream last night?" You will find the habit to be valuable.

No telling what you are telling yourself in the gray area.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

In today’s workplace 63% of workers are sleep-deprived. Fatigue related accidents cost U.S. industry at least $150 billion a year according to a Cornell University study. A 2003 report by Circadian Technologies, Inc., an international consulting firm specializing in the studies of extended work hours, states that a 10% increase in overtime in manufacturing firms represents a 2.4% decrease in productivity. They also found that in white collar jobs a 25% decrease in productivity occurs when workers put in 60 or more hours a week for prolonged periods of time.

At the same time 45% of adults say they would sleep less so they could accomplish more.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale asks the likelihood of dozing off if you are engaged in activities such as sitting and reading, watching television, sitting inactive in a public place like a theatre, sitting and talking with someone, riding in a car as a passenger, sitting at a stoplight or resting after a meal. If you answered Yes to any of these activities you might want to consider that you are sleep deprived.

I know; I know. You lead an active life with a family and responsibilities, and a lot is going on at work. But if you’re getting so little sleep that you can’t function at as high a level as you would like, you have two choices: do something about it or put up with a lower level of production.

And, yes, I know people who pride themselves on getting by on 4 hours of sleep a night. But you aren’t them, now, are you?

More sleep can make you more productive.

Think of it this way: why have a Perfect Workday if you're too tired to enjoy it?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Questions

A few years ago I was trapped in the Denver airport by a snowstorm. I spent 3 hours in the terminal sitting near a 92-year old fellow trappee who was full of energy and seemed to know the answers to all my questions about the 20th Century. I asked if she had a philosophy of life. She said, “Mike, confusion about life is a waste of time. All you need to know are the answers to two questions, ‘Where and Who.’”

I must have looked confused so she continued.

“You need to know Where you are going in life and Who you want to take with you. If you know those two things, the answers to a lot of the other questions will fall into place.”

First: Where do you want to go?

The answer may not be as obvious as you think. Ask yourself where you want to go professionally, physically, spiritually and intellectually. If you are not happy where you are in life, where do you think you would be happy?

Ron Rice, the inventor of Hawaiian Tropic Suntan products, once told me that the key to a happy life is to go where you want to be, then think about what you can do for a living that allows you to live there.

Second: Who do you want to take with you?

You should not only think about your family, but who are the people with whom you would like to surround yourself in your work life? An interesting way to figure that out is to ask what topics make you feel alive when they are being discussed? A friend says that different professions speak different languages. What language makes you feel authentic and alive?

For now, simply roll those two questions around in your mind. Where do you want to go? Who do you want to take with you?

Monday, January 12, 2009

What Do You Know?

What do you “know?” There’s a whole body of thought about what we really know and what is illusory.

Most folks, if you pin’em down, will admit that what they know is what they can experience with their senses. What they taste, touch, smell, hear, and see is what they know.

But, what about the spiritual? Do you know that there is some ...mmm…something out there watching over you? Some divine reality you can call on in times of trouble that will respond to your plea? George Carlin said that arguments about religion are basically arguments about who has the best imaginary friend. Do you know that there is something out there?

Increasingly, neuroscience is helping us understand that what you know is, to you, real. And the reality your mind perceives can help you create a new life, new accomplishments…a new you. There are some wonderful resources that can help you understand the science behind how we think and believe. The Answer, by John Asharaff, has what young people call a high "oooo-wow" factor (from the '60s Hippy comment, oooo-wow!), but it does a great job of explaining the neuroscience in easy-to-understand ways.

On January 12, 1959, fifty years ago today, Motown Records was created by Barry Gordy in Detroit. No one told Gordy that Detroit had just gone through the ’58 recession and that it might not be a great time to start a record company.

When asked why he thought he could be successful Gordy said, “I don’t think about it. I know it.” Certainly, hard work had a lot to do with the success of Motown. But, the seed was Barry Gordy knew it.

What do you know? Is it positive or negative? Are you worried about something you just know will happen? Worry is a prayer for the thing you are worried about. The worry may attract the very thing you don’t want.

What do you know?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dancing With the Doldrums

Below is an article I wrote for Dance Teacher Magazine. I'm presenting a marketing program for them in late February in Las Vegas. Thought you might appreciate it. The basic points work in any business.

“All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit.” Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit.

How’s business? Are you slowing down, holding your own, or growing? The first step in facing tight economic times is not to panic. Many bankers, real estate experts, and business forecasters are saying that our greatest problem is fear. The more fearful you are, the worse the future looks.

The next step is to ask the question: How will I manage and grow my business during the next 12-24 months? A recent survey of economists predicts an economic recovery beginning in mid-2009, or the end of the year at the latest. This, too, shall pass; so use this time to creatively position and grow your business.

It’s easy to glide through the good times, but when business tightens the best business owners get creative. Start looking at today as an opportunity to be more creative in your marketing. You’ll find that most businesses are going into a “hunker-down” mode. They are cutting back on marketing, which means less exposure…this is a great opportunity! Whenever you see your competition’s brake lights, it’s time to hit the gas and pass them. You won’t be spending lots of money; you will be spending time and energy. Here are five strategies that can make the next two years your best.

1. Start by pulling out a calendar that you will use as the basis of your marketing plan for the next 2 years. Mark any notable dates from dance history; note birthdays of any and all dance greats you love and admire; Nureyev, Balanchine, Graham, Joffrey; write down the birthday of your studio or group. Create a date at least every quarter that will be a student, parent, family, or school appreciation day. You will be using these celebrations and dates to create promotions and to get publicity.

2. Retention is the key in difficult times so “show’em some love!” Over-serve the families and students you already have. Doing a better job of encouraging students and parents, saying “Thank You,” more often is a great start. What low-cost incentives might you offer current students to raise the value of their experience? Extra lessons, information and more opportunities to learn, an opportunity to teach are all ways you can add value. Adding value especially helps families with children—who may be asking the “Is dance an expense or investment?” question—decide in your favor.

Also, give your current students an incentive to reach out to people like themselves. Might you give a discount to families in specific neighborhoods? Or give a family a discount if they bring in more students? The discount does not have to be monetary. It could be, again, more lessons, more opportunities to be engaged.

3. Look for “Low-Hanging Fruit.” These are the students who are “easy-pickin’s,” as Southerners say. They are individuals and groups who have an obvious need for your service. You don’t have to convince them of the need, you simply need to persuade them that you are one to fill the need. A percentage of the people you contact will enroll. Sales is all about the numbers.

Once you have identified the potential students find low-cost ways to expose them to your message. You might post flyers on the bulletin board in an office building. You might give a short presentation to a parents’ group about the fact that dance has been shown to improve students’ grades. Or, you could give a demonstration using dance as an energy pick-me-up to a business. The key is to hit as many individuals and groups as possible. Go to gmarketing.com and register for a free, low-cost marketing tip each week from Guerrilla Marketing International.

If you have a profile of your perfect student, create a promotion designed to attract them. What about promoting a dance evening as an opportunity for singles—different promotions for different ages—to meet. Or, market a “Cheap Date” night for couples.

4. Go where the money is. The great bank robber of the 1930s, Willie Sutton, was once asked why he robbed banks. He said, “Because that’s where the money is.” Look for potential groups and individuals who do not seem to be affected by the economic downturn. For instance, health care is not taking as big a hit, financially, as banks. Creating a special promotion for doctors and nurses, or their families, is a creative way to target a new market.

5. Offer dance as a solution to a problem. When people have a problem they are in pain, psychologically. Can you offer dance as a creative solution to easing pain? What about dance as an escape; a way to feel better about oneself, an economic way to get out and have some fun?
Look back at your marketing of the last few years. What message were you trying to send to current and potential students? A new message, dance as a way to ease pain and have fun, not only makes you new in the minds of your current students, the message creates awareness in the minds of new, potential students.

A final point. There will continue to be “nattering nabobs of negativity” as Vice President Spiro Agnew once said. Don’t listen to them. Stay positive, be creative, and make the next two years your best. When the economy recovers you will be in a stronger position and the competition will be seeing the bottoms of your shoes.

Dance on.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Busted!...with a Cellphone

Missed talking with you yesterday; was on the road.

I was in Charlotte presented seminars. The program attendees were interns and new hires for a large financial services company. The program title was, "Making the Transition from College to Work." The point of the program was not to say, "it's time to grow up." It was all about improving work skills so the attendees could be more successful in the workplace; time and people management, how to deal with stress, how to ask better questions...that sort of thing.

About three minutes into the second program a young man sitting about 8 feet from me--right in front of me!--pulled out his cell phone and started checking emails. I stopped the program and called him out about it. I wasn't loud or forceful, but I explained that his generation had grown up with technology tools and that they saw nothing wrong with what he was doing, it was just a part of their...his...lives.

But, I warned them that as long as people my age are running the businesses that hire them they needed to understand that what the young man had done was rude...damn rude. We...Baby Boomers...don't like the fact that technology has put us all on a 24/7 hook.

He took the situation well and I didn't see a cellphone out the rest of the program. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall and heard the conversations about the situation later in the day and last night.

I love the fact that my Palm allows me to check emails and stay in touch with people in my world. But, I try to be careful about how I use it.

There is compelling research that shows that the email alarm on our computers costs U.S. businesses $6 billion in productivity a year. The alarm goes off signaling that "you've got mail" and we stop what we are doing to answer it.

Use technology, don't let it use you.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Coin of the Realm

I was a typical boy in elementary school, running wide open and not too fond of homework, So, it’s fifth grade, and I’ve blown off homework again. My teacher, Mrs. Myers, assigned me the homework task of writing an essay, “Why I Should Not Waste Time.”

It’s getting’ late that night and my father comes into my room to find out what’s keeping me out of bed; I tell him about the essay…and he ain’t happy.

But, instead of being mad he gives me the essence of the essay and a lesson in life. He says, “The reason you should not waste time is because once it’s wasted you can never get it back.”

The poet, Carl Sandburg, said, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

Not a bad take on the “Time is money” thought.

We all realize that today is the first REAL day of 2009. Let’s be honest, a lot of us have been vacationing since last week. Nothing wrong with that; we all need some fun/down time. But, today is the day to get to work making some of those goals and resolutions happen.

How will you spend your time today so that you are one step closer to being the person—and having the life—you imagine?