Friday, April 29, 2011

Don'tcha Just Hate That?!!

Yesterday I promised I'd reveal the secret to having fun at matter what you do.

You aren't going to like this.

The secret is that you choose to have fun.

That's to make work a positive effort and to have fun at it.

And yes, there are people at work who are buttheads and there are things you wish you didn't have to do.

But, every morning you roll out of bed and make a choice about your day. You choose whether or not it's positive or negative, good or bad.

'Cause if it's "them" who makes your life or work a hellhole then you can blame "them." If you understand that it's you who makes the choice and every day is a slog in the mud then you only have yourself to blame.

Don'tcha just hate that?!!

Make your choice.

In fact, choose to have a great weekend. I'm headed to the beach. See you Monday.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

If You're Not Having Fun, Why Do It?!

On Tuesday I had the chance to talk with Dale McInnis, president of Richmond Community College.

He’s a new president and I asked him if he was having any fun.

“Absolutely!,” he said, “If you’re not having fun, why do it?!”

You have to love that positive attitude.

I certainly understand financial realities.In the society in which we live there are bills to pay if you want a lifestyle that is reasonably comfortable and enjoyable.

But, spending every day slogging through work like it’s mud is no way to go through life. And, yes, I’ll agree that tens of thousands of people go to work like that every day.

Here’s the deal, though. The average person spends 11,000+ days at work. For the “I Hate Work ‘Cause It’s Work” folks, what does their life look like when they look back on it?

I’ll tell you the secret (and lots of you won’t like it) to finding fun work tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2 Hours? You're Kidding!

Some researchers believe that in the course of a day we only have about two hours in which to get any real, focused work done.

The rest of the time is spent in meetings, goofing off, being confused, miscommunicating and trying to find stuff.

Here’s the question: How can you increase the time in the first sentence above, and decrease the time in the second sentence?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Powerful Beyond Measure

On this day in 1954, the Salk polio vaccine field trials, involving 1.8 million children, begin at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia.

One year later researchers announced the vaccine was safe and effective and it quickly became a standard part of childhood immunizations in America. In the ensuing decades, polio vaccines would all but wipe out the highly contagious disease in the Western Hemisphere. Today, polio has been eliminated throughout much of the world due to the vaccine.

As humans we have great powers to create change in our lives and the lives of others. We often resist using our power or, in many cases, even believing that we have it.

But, when we focus our thinking as Jonas Salk did, we can improve lives beyond measure.

None of us are small people. We all have great powers. We simply have to use them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Be Dangerous Today

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."
- Lawrence of Arabia (1888-1935)

Are you going to be dangerous today?

Friday, April 22, 2011

What's Around the Next Corner?

If you are working today I hope it's an easy day and a wonderful start to a great Easter weekend.

If you are lucky enough to be working without a lot of your coworkers around you...and that doesn't mean that all the work falls to you...why not take time today to slow down and do some thinking and planning about the future?

So often we run at a pace that keeps us from thinking about what might be around the next corner...or, planning which corner we might want to turn at.

What do you think your life will be like over the next 36 months? If you don't take a little time to plan life may take you places you don't want to go.

Have a great Easter! We'll talk on Monday.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Apple a Day

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."

The simple cliche holds a dramatic truth.

What simple action could you perform each day that would keep a problem at bay, or help you overcome a challenge or reach a significant goal?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Doughnut Today.....

I just ate two sour cream doughnuts and a big glass of milk for breakfast.

Then, in one of those ironic messages life tends to send us on a regular basis, I picked up a book and opened it to a paragraph about life being the summation of the choices we make.

I’ve decided not to go straight to a mirror and be reminded of all the choices I’ve made.

We’ve all made some great choices and also some choices we’d love to do over. But, that’s life if you truly want to live it.

Spending your life regretting past decisions and agonizing over future ones doesn’t leave much time to actually live life.

It’s such a cliche: Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Well… is.

Relish the good decisions you’ve made; make new choices in the areas you want to improve on.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues

Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues came out in June, ’73. Singer/songwriter Danny O’Keefe wrote it and the song was covered by Charlie Rich, Waylon Jennings…even Elvis did a version.

The two lines that always caught me were:

“You play around you'll lose your wife.
You play too long you'll lose your life!”

When I was young I thought the second line meant that if you played around too long with someone else’s wife you’d get shot.

But, from an older perspective I now see the second line much differently. If you aren’t focused on something that matters in life you’re playing around. And, if you play around too long you’ve wasted…lost…your life.

Are you still playing around?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Clarity is the New Creativity

There's a basic point about marketing. It’s called The Shiny Penny Theory…goes like this….if you are walking on a sidewalk on a dreary, nasty day and you see a shiny penny the shininess makes it stand out from all the dreariness. The point is that your marketing has to stand out from all the other messages.

In 1978 the marketing research firm Yankelovich discovered that the average American was exposed to over 2,000 marketing messages every day.

Messages come from TV, radio, newspaper, billboards, signs, pens and pencils with messages on them, caps, t-shirts, business cards…you get the picture.

Yankelovich asked the same questions in 2008 and found the average American bombarded with over 5,000 messages a day.

If you are a business how do you stand out from all that noise?

You have to be a shiny penny.

In the past businesses used creativity…humor, unique artistry, volume, or other techniques, to catch your interest.

Today, the new creativity is simple clarity. There’s so much information coming at us that the shiny penny is based on clarity and simplicity.

In your worklife…in your personal life…clarity is a gift that sets you apart from everyone else.

It’s also a gift you give yourself. Are you clear about what you want, what you are trying to accomplish, who you want to be?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

So, I'm On an Elevator

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of visiting with Larry Clark, dean of the Cameron School of Business at UNC-Wilmington.

I'm exploring the idea of pursuing a Ph.D. and am in the fact-finding stage. Larry was kind enough to meet with me and offer his thoughts.

The most important idea came early in the meeting. Larry asked, "Let's say it's five years from now and you have your Ph.D. and we meet in an elevator and I ask you,'What are you doing now?' What are you going to tell me?"

He added that the answer to my question would guide me in what I needed to do in order to arrive at my destination.

I immediately thought that the elevator ride is a great metaphor for life. You're riding up and down and it stops at a variety of floors. Seldom does it go directly to the floor you want. When the doors open you get to see what's on other floors. Sometimes it looks attractive, sometimes not. Sometimes you hop off on a floor and regret it when the doors close behind you. Other times you're happy with the surprises you encounter.

But, if you don't get on the right elevator or you aren't telling the operator which floor you want to get off on it's just an exercise in riding up and down.

Lots of us either didn't get on the right elevator or we have changed our minds about which floor we want to get off on (or life has changed our minds for us). So, it might be time to change elevators or talk to the operator.

If you can describe a realistic destination, what's on the floor you want to get off on, you can start figuring out which elevator to get on and which buttons to push.

What about you? If I meet you in an elevator in five years and ask.......

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wouldn't It Be Nice

There is a wonderful thought in my devotional this morning.

“Forgiveness is the key to a life well-lived. It allows us to move forward without carrying the excess baggage of yesterday’s pain…Lay past issues to rest once and for all. Set yourself free to move into the new day unimpeded by yesterday’s events.”

What a great thought!

It’s one of those truths that we all say we know but we don’t let ourselves believe down deep…or practice on a regular basis.

And I love the word unimpeded.

How great would it be to move through a day unimpeded by yesterday’s events?

Who do you need to forgive?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ya Say It's My Birthday?!!

Today’s my birthday!

Someone once said that any person who celebrates their birthday after the age of 12 is wasting their time.

I totally disagree.

Birthdays are times to look back over the last year and ask yourself, “Am I closer to where I want to be, or not.”

Granted, we’re certainly “another day older,” as the song goes.

But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you learn something new each day.

Here’s what’s happened on my day. If you want to know about your day Google Chase’s Calendar of Events.

Thomas Jefferson Day, Birth anniversary of the third president of the US (1742-1826).

150th anniversary of the attack on Fort Sumter at Charleston, SC—the first major engagement of the American Civil War.

50th anniversary of the first man in space: Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space when he made a 108-minute voyage orbiting Earth on Vostok I.

Children’s Day in Florida
National Be Kind To Lawyers Day (seriously?!)
National Licorice Day
Walk on Your Wild Side Day (In that case it should be Mike Collins Day)

Death anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt at Warm Springs, GA, in 1945.

In 1742, Georg Frederick Handel conducted the first performance of Messiah at Dublin, Ireland. Handel also was the harpsichordist.

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published.

And Happy Birthday! David Cassidy, Tom Clancy, Claire Danes, Herbie Hancock, David Letterman, Peabo Bryson, Bill Conti, Al Green, Garry Kasparov, Davis Love III, Ron Perlman, Paul Sorvino, Lyle Waggoner, Max Weinberg, authors Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) and Eudora Welty (1909-2001).

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Just You

Yesterday, I received some tough health-related news from one of my best friends. He’s one of those good-to-the-bone people and you always hate to see good people in difficult situations.

He mentioned a mutual acquaintance who had heard the news and said, “He’ll be in this with me.”

Well, to be honest, he won’t. When we face difficult challenges other people may be able to comfort us or ease the way, but they are not in it with us. We are the only ones in it.

I know, I know, some of you are thinking, “Here goes negative, pessimistic Mike.”

Not really.

I see these times in life as tests that allow us to find out who we are. And then, when we know who we are, we understand one of two things (or both): 1. We are who we need to be. 2. We now know what we need to learn to get to who we want to be.

You don’t have to face a health crisis to ask yourself, “Am I number 1 or number 2?”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Are You Serving the Music?

Like most of you I love music. I’m sure I go a little overboard by having SiriusXM satellite radio in the car and on my computer, and I have all the music channels on cable television. So, I’m surrounded by music most of the time.

This morning I saw a musician’s quote on the television while one of the songs was playing. It said, “If you keep doing the same thing over and over you really don’t serve the music.”

Serve the music. I love that line.

Writer and philosopher Max Depree says, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”

Put’em together and get…remaining what we are doesn’t serve the music.

We all have music inside us; whatever that thing is we bring to the life party that adds to everyone else’s music.

And we can’t bring it by doing the same thing over and over.

Unfortunately, I’m definitely a member of the, “Change isn’t as easy as I wish it would be” club.

But, if playing your music matters to you, you have no other choice but to step up.

That’s what serves the music.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'm Not Customer Service

I can’t get the phone encounters I had day before yesterday out of my mind. In addition to PSNC Energy I called the bank that has my car loan, Fifth Third Bank (I don’t have a clue how it got the name…some sort of bank espionage probably), to ask a simple question.

Considering the trouble I had getting through their automated system to a human you’d have thought that I was trying to call Moammar Ghadaffi to order a pizza.

I finally get a person who sounds like a young guy and he’s got that, “I never actually thought I’d have to work for a living” attitude.

I get the information I need and I take a moment tell him how hard it was to get through to him.

He says….wait for it….”I’m not customer service. I’m customer information.”

In today’s world EVERYONE is customer service.

If someone has a negative encounter with your company they’ll tell, on average, 26 people about it during the coming year.

Word gets around.

Whether you want to believe it or not, you are customer service for your employer, your family and YOU, Inc.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Are You Living or Dying?

Saw these two lines this morning in my devotional, “You are alive only to the degree that you’re trying something new. You are dying a little bit each day with each repetition of the things you’ve always done.”

If that doesn’t make the light bulb go off over your head I don’t know what will.

Fear keeps us from doing new things. We’re worried about being embarrassed, overwhelmed, that we’ll lose control, that we’ll fail. But, think of the old acronym, F.E.A.R.: Future Events Appearing Real.

Think of the worst that could happen. Then, ask yourself, “How would I deal with the worst?”

Now, understand that not only have you identified the worst that could happen, you could deal with it.

Fear keeps us from having the life we imagine for ourselves. Fear leads to what Thoreau described as lives “of quiet desperation.”

I have a fear of the future I’ve been trying to conquer. The worst that could happen relating to the fear is that I’m sitting here a couple of years from now in the same life. And this life is pretty good. So the fear is unfounded.

I’m making some phone calls in the next few minutes; the first steps in seeing if I can make the dream come true.

Are you going after the new, or settling for the old?

Are you living or dying?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

There's Some Jerk On Line 2!

Yesterday my car was covered with pollen. When I told my mother about it and mentioned that I needed to get it washed she said, “Well, don’t wash it. There’s some storms rolling in and they’ll wash your car for you.”

And, sure enough, that’s what happened.

I’m not known for patience. Every couple of years I send an email to a wide range of friends and clients and I ask two questions: What is my greatest strength? And, what area of my personality, if I could improve it, would have a positive effect on my business? (the second question is a low-key, Southerner’s way of asking, “What is my greatest weakness?”)

Every time I do the exercise the answer to the second question is the same: My impatience. It translates to being irritated with folks who don’t move fast enough, rude to people who don’t seem smart enough, and off-putting to folks who might want to get closer to me.

So, getting a little older, I’ve decided that maybe I need to work on being a little more patient.

It isn’t easy. Today I came pretty close to lighting up a customer service rep with PSNC Energy because they couldn’t find some information. When they put me on hold to transfer me to a manager I could see them walking to the guy’s doorway and warning him, “There’s some a**hole on line 2.”

Patience, patience.

I AM trying.

What area of your personality, if you could improve it, might have a dramatically positive effect on your life?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Get'em Drunk and Get'em Into a Fight?

How do you really get to know people?

A recent story about Isaac “Biz” Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, notes that he often takes employees out for “beersonbiz.”

He said, “I think it’s a really big deal to meet people outside the context of something like a conference room or someplace where everything feels like formal talk.”

A few years ago Keith Ferazzi, the youngest person ever made a partner at Deloitte Consulting, wrote, Never Eat Alone. His concept was pretty much the same as Stone’s.

Richard Marcinko, former commander of Seal Team 6, one of America's prime counter-terrorists teams, used to take potential members of his team to bars, get’em drunk and get’em into a fight. He said it was a low-risk (having people shoot at you and try to kill you would be high-risk) way to see how they would act under pressure.

In relationships we often see a different side of people when we’re with them in unfamiliar settings or situations. You can take the country boy and put him in a city, or vice versa. You can watch how employees or significant others act when they are under pressure.

Getting a broader view of someone is a good thing. You might not like what you see right now, but aren’t you glad you knew it before you decided to take a long journey with them?

Sometimes you discover that you should be Two Ships That Pass in the Night.

Who in your life do you need to see in a different situation so you can get a more complete picture?