Thursday, October 30, 2014

Drip-Drip-Drip



When water comes into your home it doesn’t know what it’s going to be used for; drinking, cooking, washing…the water doesn’t know and doesn’t care.

(and yes, I know some of you are thinking…”well, water isn’t a conscious thing so it can’t think or care” yada, yada, yada…don’t overthink this…just roll with me)

Your energy is the same. When you get up every morning your energy doesn’t know or care if it’s going to be used for good or bad, or for constructive or destructive purposes. The energy is simply there to be used, like water when you turn on the tap.

So, whether you are setting goals and accomplishing the tasks that get you to your goals or you are on Facebook or burning energy thinking about that sluggo at work/home/the car dealership or wherever who just got on your last nerve!…you’re burning up valuable energy.

Wasting energy is no different than having that spigot outside that drip-drip-drips water onto the ground.

It’s your decision, how are you using your energy today?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Likker Store Boxes and Life



Most of us look at successful people and think are amazed at all they accomplish.

What we don’t see is what the successful people don’t do.

The people I know who are truly accomplished and getting things done are not trying to pull more things into their lives they are trying to cut things out…so they can spend more time/energy/money and focus on the things that really matter to them.

Here’s an example: I’ve made an important decision in life that will require more focus and one of the things I’ve got to do to accomplish my goal is to have fewer books. There simply isn’t enough space where I’m going to accommodate all the books I have. So, I’ve but a box (likker store size) in front of each bookcase and when I walk by I look for a book I can do without. I take it off the shelf and drop it in the box (and yes, it’s painful, but whatcha gonna do? Right?) In a few days I’ll reach my goal of gone-books and can move on to the next stage of reaching the goal.

How about you? What are the issues/situations/people/things that really matter to you? And, which are the ones that, if you could cut them out, slide them aside, forget about them, not call them ever again, not spend time with them, give them away or flush them, would leave you more resources to spend on what really matters?

Start tossing stuff. I’m sure that literally or figuratively there’s a likker store in your area.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Four Dollars and Change

Four dollars and change. That's what it took for a car salesman  to turn me from a lover to a hater. Now, don't zip away, this isn't a hater's screed, it's a point that can get you closer to the life you'd like to have so hang with me.

I'm looking for a new ride. My bomb is on its last wheels and as much as I don't want a payment I realize it's time to make a change.

There are two things you need to know about me and automobiles: First, call it small minded or not, but I like cars. I get the logic that they are simply boxes that get us from Point A to Point B, but  you know what, some people like dogs or houses or surfboards or rings; I like a ride that's kinda cool.

There have been hot cars (a black Trans Am and three Mustangs), convertibles, a van, a couple of SUVs and a small Mercedes sedan among the 16 vehicles I've owned.  I want to see something I like when I'm walking up to what I'll drive away.

So, last week I stopped by a large dealership on US 64 close to Wendell, NC,  and found something that seemed to fit my needs and tried not to dance. You know the sales dance when you're buying a car, the one where you go back and forth and lie to each other and they act like you're family and you act like they have Ebola?

Now, here's the second thing: I don't like the dance. I think it's demeaning for them and insulting to me and it's worth money to me to not have to play it. I'm not going to spend a lot of time weaseling a salesperson down to a greasy spot. Usually, the difference in their offer after I say, "C'mon, what's your best price" and what I might get if I weaseled is about what I make for having fun talking to folks for a few hours or writing something. If we can get even remotely in the neighborhood of what I think is fair I'll pay it.

And, that's what I told the sales folks. I even told them the dollar amount, "Get us to X per monthly payment and we're fine." I KNEW they'd be making a better-than-average chunk of money on me, but it didn't matter. It would be a win/win.

Well, they either didn't believe me or they couldn't fathom that someone would be that open with them...'cause they came back with a figure that was four dollars and change over what I told them I'd pay.

I know what you're thinking, "After running the numbers they found that X plus $4 and change is what they had to have."

Nope. It's gotten ugly now. They're begging like a drunk for a drink five minutes after closing time. They've come back with a monthly payment that is X minus $10. If they had come back, originally, with X minus 2 dollars I'd have been their friend for life, buying'em drinks and saying good things about them. They would have gotten first look for vehicles in the future. As it is, I'm writing this blog and telling my neighbors not to buy cars from them.

Here's the lesson: All of this could have been avoided if they'd listened. They had a customer who was being honest with them and they couldn't believe it. They couldn't believe someone wouldn't want to dance. For four dollars and change they've converted a customer into a hater...and this happens every day in every industry.

In your career, in life, are YOU listening?

Friday, October 24, 2014

UNC-CH and Putting a Mustache on a Pig

This is one of those days on which you'll have to spot me a personal blog that may have an impact on your life and work.

Unless you've been quarantined for Ebola for the past 4 years you're probably aware of the academic/athletic scam that happened at UNC-Chapel Hill. A professor and an administrative assistant created bogus courses with the blessing of a few counselors and administrators. The courses were created to help athletes remain eligible for play. The scam evolved over a twenty-year period.

During the past twenty years some 97,000 undergrads have gone through the
UNC-CH system. Of that total, approximately 3,000 undergrads (1400 were
athletes) of that total took 6,000 bogus courses in the AFAM Dept (average
of 2 courses per each of 3,000 students) which were established and given by
one rogue professor and his one administrative assistant.

You need 40 courses to graduate from UNC so the 2 (on average) courses that
these 3000 students took for the 'bogus grades' represent 5% of the needed
courses to graduate.

So,  bottom line is that only one UNC academic department (AFAM), one UNC
professor and one administrative assistant were committing academic fraud at
UNC.

This still does not excuse this happening and why the highly paid
administrators at UNC were not managing the business at UNC and thus
preventing the scam.

Reading the news and listening to the TV/Radio one would think that all the
Departments and students were taking bogus classes at UNC-CH.

My point is simply this, while it is wonderfully correct about the numbers 3000 out of 97000 students and 2 out of 40 courses, in terms of real life none of that matters...other than in our attempts to rationalize the issue

Here's the deal...the public, folks outside the UNC family, don't care and in most cases aren't smart enough to understand the numbers...they are convinced by the stories...I can assure you that there have already been job recruiters asking students in job interviews if they took courses and if they did I believe the recruiter's perception of them goes down

I know for a fact that recruiters were asking about the Marvin Austin/Butch Davis stuff (the incident that prompted the investigations that have led us to this point) in interviews as soon as it happened...the issue gives people a negative image of Carolina that has impacts most of us don't think about.

Try this simple exercise: You are a recruiter on campus and you have a UNC senior sitting in front of you. You ask, "Did you take bogus classes?" If they did, even if the rest of their grades are good, what are you thinking? If they didn't, due to the fact that you asked the question, what are THEY thinking? Students better be coming up with answers that put a mustache on this pig.

We all get the organizational changes that need to be made, but this is now a PR problem and will be for a decade. The best way to deal with it is a strategy we can't use...if Bill Friday or Dean Smith could be interviewed telling the 3000 vs 97000 story it would calm our folks and give a balanced perspective...Roy can't do it, Michael Jordan's loved but he's a jock and we have no one else well-known enough....'course, the comedian and UNC alum Lewis Black could do it but everyone would want to shoot themselves in the head.

Walt Whitman said, "The public is a thick-skinned beast and you have to keep whacking it on it's side to get its attention." That is true whether the message is good or bad. All we can do now is start whacking people with the positive message.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Create a Plate

If you could spy on our living room most evenings you'd see us watching Chopped, Bizarre Foods, Diners/Drive-Ins and Dives, or Man Vs Food.

We especially like Chopped. If you've never seen the show, chefs have to prepare 3 meals. In each case they are given a basket of various ingredients that never seem to go together...and they have to create a dish that is not only edible, but attractively presentable. The results always look and sound great!

We just saw entrees created with chicken livers, fish, turnips and some kind of candied fruit. If someone gave me that I'd probably have to put it all in a blender with tequila.

The chefs are always wonderfully creative and how they figure out what goes together is beyond me.

When was the last time you did something creative at work? Would your managers and coworkers appreciate your imagination and effort?

Are you just putting in time waiting for the gold watch? You realize they don't do that anymore...right?

Monday, October 20, 2014

One of the Good Guys Wins

Whether you're a football fan or not you have to admire Peyton Manning's record-setting setting career in the NFL. Last night, Manning, quarterback of the Denver Broncos, threw 4 touchdown passes for a new career  total of 510 in a 42-17 win against the San Francisco 49ers. The old record was 508 career touchdown passes by the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre.

Manning spent most of his career with the Indianapolis Colts but was counted out after injuries. He has had four neck surgeries--the last a spinal fusion procedure.

His career has been renewed during the last 3 years with the Broncos. Manning is a consummate professional who makes the players around him better. There's never been even a whiff of scandal about him and every interview reinforces the image that, while he's a sports superstar, he'd be a fun guy to have a beer with.

Good guys win on a variety of levels.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Start at the Hole

I'm always concerned about using sports analogies around people who don't get into sports. They're turned off almost automatically or they just don't get it.

But, hang with me on this, it's going to sound obvious to the point of being simplistic: Professional golfers play the game differently than amateurs.

ALERT THE MEDIA!

Here's one of the biggest differences...professional golfers walk a course before they play it and they walk from green to tee. That's right, they start where they want to end up and walk the course...backwards.

They'll stand at a hole and look back into the fairway and ask, "Where should I be lying so I can hit a shot and end up on the green?"

Then, they walk to that spot and look back towards the tee and ask, "Where do I need to be to hit a shot and end up here?"

Depending on how long the hole is they may repeat the process one or two more times until they get to the tee.

Engineers call it reverse engineering.

What if you did that? What if you started at your goal and worked your way back?

In life, what's one of the holes you're shooting for?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Betcha a $1000



Two of the first things I do every morning when I get a computer in front of me are check whose birthday it is today and what happened today in history. Simply search “birthdays today” and “today in history.”

I’m always kind of amazed at how many of the folks in the birthday list are people I’ve never heard of. Musicians, royalty of all nations, writers and artists, sports stars, business people, religious figures and political figures.

For instance…I’m betting $1000 you can’t tell me who either Rafael Puyana or the Empress Farah Diba were.

Tick, tick, tick….

Ok…times up!

Puyana was a baroque harpsichordist from Bogota, Columbia and Diba was an empress in Iran. I know, pretty obscure, but you see what I mean?

Betcha know who Ralph Lauren, Roger Moore (007) and Usher are, though, don’t you? Their birthdays are today, too.

Here’s my point; all the folks whom I have no clue of who they were/are did something notable. They used their skills, talents and abilities, saw an opportunity and took their best shot…ok, so Diba was born into royalty, but you catch my drift, right?

No one automatically becomes someone to remember. We all start out pretty much on the same footing.

And yes, you can whine all you want about not having opportunities, you can sing “I Am the Victim” all day long…but, there are waaaaay too many folks who start out with nothing and end up with their names on the Birthdays Today list for you to convince me that being a slacker is anything other than choice.

Make the choice. Do something.

And, if your birthday is today…or this week…Happy Birthday!

PS…that whole $1000 thing…just for legal purposes, I was kidding.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Answer a Question, Tell Us Who You Are



If you notice a lot of questions in these blogs it’s because I like questions.

Questions engage us and make us think; statements simply direct us.

A lot of the question articles you see in newspapers or magazines, or the questioning interviews on TV or the Internet, are take-offs of what is called, “The Proust Questionaire.”

Marcel Proust (1871-1922) was a French novelist considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time. When he was young he answered a series of questions in a confession album, a popular pastime for young people that showed what they thought about various topics of life. For instance, what are your favorite foods, who are your heroes in history, whom do you most admire? The album was supposed to show what type of person you are. (go to Wikipedia and search “The Proust Questionaire”…take it and see what you think)

Today, magazines such as Vanity Fair and Esquire use the questioning technique as a way to let celebrities reveal themselves. James Lipton, creator and interviewer on television's Inside the Actors Studio, asks famous actors questions as a way of teaching students.

Anthony Bourdain, the American foodie, chef and TV personality says he can tell who you are and where you’re from if you answer the question, “What is your favorite meal?”

But, lots of people don’t like questions, especially difficult ones. Why, because questions make them think and thinking is hard work. Most folks want the easy way out, the path of least resistance. Questions may reveal difficult answers; answers that make us uncomfortable.

What is the most difficult question you’ve been asked? Not a question on a test, but a question about you.

(see, that made you think…and you probably don’t have a quick, easy answer…and now you’re thinking, “I don’t have time for this” and you’re ready to move on…or, you’re thinking , “Well, Mr. Question, what’s your most difficult question?”…and I’m thinking, “I’d tell you, but it might get me in trouble.”)

Your…most…difficult…question.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Win or a Waste



On Monday, we had lunch at the Strawberry Street Café in Richmond, Va. It's a wonderful little place with a salad bar in a big, claw-foot tub. One of the last times I dined there was in 1978 while living in Richmond; sat in the same booth on Monday that I sat in so many years ago.

While having lunch I thought about all the events of the last 36 years. As my brother pointed out, “that’s a couple of lifetimes ago.”

That got me to thinking about Muhammad Ali's comment, “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

What have I learned in the last 36 years? I certainly make some of the same mistakes…not all the same mistakes, mind you…but my toes are often sore from tripping over some of the same old things.

I would have to also say that some of the demons that haunted me in 1978 sure seem small today. I can certainly say that some of the decisions I’d make then I wouldn’t…and don’t…make now.

So, some learning has to have taken place; and yes, I certainly have the burned fingers and sore toes to show for it.

Would I do some things differently if I could go back? While I’ve never been one of those, “I have no regrets,” kind of folks I have to believe that if I changed something I probably wouldn’t be who I am and where I am and with the people I’m with today.

Tough choice.

Try this simple exercise over the weekend. Ask yourself: What’s one lesson you’ve learned? One path you regularly trod in the past that you don’t take now? What’s one area in which it seems you've learned the lesson?

And…

What’s one area of life in which you just…haven’t…gotten…it? A good way to spot the thin ice is to ask yourself, “What one decision in life, if I chose the opposite of what I often do, would have a definite, positive impact on my life?” 

It could be something affecting your life physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, career, socially, family or mentally (what you’d like to learn).

The area doesn’t have to be monumental. It could be a simple, small choice that would have a definite, positive impact.

Play the game. On Monday you’ll be glad you did.

And remember, fall’s here! Have a great weekend!

PS....the North Carolina State Fair opens this weekend. I can see an Emu burger in my future!