Wednesday, November 30, 2011

You're Being Replaced With a Bobblehead Doll

Saw a cartoon this morning. Two guys sitting on a bench and one says to the other, “I was saying ‘no’ so many times my boss replaced me with a bobblehead doll.”

Is your default reaction to almost any situation a ‘no’?

Don’t automatically take the reaction as a bad thing.

Saying ‘no’ keeps you from taking risks which can lead to mistakes or failures which can lead to all kinds of bad outcomes.

There’s a whole management philosophy based around saying ‘no’ initially until the other party has either come down to a bargain price for you or proved their case to the point that you know they can’t fail.

On the other hand (a friend of mine at this point would say, “she has a tattoo,” but that’s an old joke and I digress) by saying ‘no’ automatically you self-select out of experiences that could be successful, career-changing or…life-changing.

When you are exposed to new people, situations, opportunities and experiences is your default reaction… ‘no’?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

God, Bikinis and Baseball Bats

An Eastern North Carolina woman recently ended up in jail after she beat her husband with a baseball bat. She said she’d had enough of him getting drunk and playing loud music.

When I heard the story I immediately thought of a poster and email photo that’s been around for a few years. There’s a beautiful, young woman in a bikini and the tag line at the bottom says, “Yeah, she’s hot. But, somewhere there’s a guy who’s just tired of her &#$%!!”

Relationships are not easy. I’m reminded of the woman who, while in couples therapy with her husband, said, “We have religious differences. He thinks he’s God and I don’t.”

As I’m writing this the Huey Lewis song, “Stuck With You,” is playing in the background and the line, “I’m happy to be stuck with you” jumps out.

Whether it’s your work life or personal life finding people you’re happy to be stuck with can be difficult. Or, it could be as simple as finding effective ways to put up with their &#$%!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Do They Smell Better Than You?

So, how was your Thanksgiving? Hope you enjoyed a great time with wonderful food and friends.

One of the main rewards of the holidays for many of us is that we get to see folks we don’t see on a regular basis. That can be good and…well…you know…

A friend recently told me he appreciated the holidays because it was the only time he had to put up with some of his relatives.

When I pushed him a little he owned up to the fact that one of his relatives has been pretty successful and in comparison my friend doesn’t come out looking so good…to him.

That’s the problem with comparing, you can ALWAYS find someone who is richer, taller, prettier, stronger or smells better.

If you want to look to other folks for examples of accomplishment or some other issue that's fine if you’re using those examples to put together your plan of goals to reach. If you’re using them to beat yourself up because you’re not there, that’s not fine.

Compare your progress to your plan and nothing else.

The issue isn’t so much where you are, it’s do you have a plan at all? And how do you compare to that? If you don’t have a plan you’re just wandering around out here in life and now you’re ticked off because other folks who’ve made more progress planned for it and are doing it.

And you ain’t lookin’ so good, are you?

A loose plan is better than no plan at all.

PS…and don’t tell me you’re simply enjoying each moment…I get the Zen connection, but if that’s all life is to you you’ll come to a moment you won’t enjoy.

What’s your plan?

Friday, November 25, 2011

If the Only Prayer You Ever Say Is....

If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.
Meister Eckhart

Be careful if you are traveling.

Happy Thanksgiving!

See you Monday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Get the Cattle Prod

The next few days will, depending on who you’re talking with, be a shopper’s dream or nightmare.

Overcrowded stores, surly salespeople, tired and frustrated shoppers, toooo much traffic, long lines, crying children, toooooo little money…pick your combination or just lump them all into the experience.

So, here’s a tip for lowering your frustration level and raising your enjoyment of holiday shopping…expect less.

Expect less of the salespeople, expect people to be less courteous when driving, expect the stores to be overcrowded so plan ahead and take more time, expect to budget your money.

If you expect less the experience itself becomes the key. Enjoy the people you’re with. Revel in the hunt when shopping. Savor that iced tea/Coke/coffee/cold beer you have during a break in the action.

Expect less and you’ll end up with more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Still Living In the 8th Century

Are friends who stop by and bring food the best or what?!!

A good friend stopped by last night and brought dinner. He’s a great guy who travels around the world for fun and he has a VERY practical view of life based on what he’s seen.

The topic of the Mideast came up and I said, “A lot of those folks would be better off if they didn’t cling to living in the eighth century.”

His answer was wonderfully astute. He said, “Why should they change? If you’re a male in that part of the world you have all the power, you don’t educate anyone who might be a threat, you don’t build roads for people who might oppose you, and it’s all about you. As Americans we believe it’s supposed to be about everyone else. We believe we have all the answers. What if we don’t?”

We also agreed that the Penn State scandal was caused by people who ducked their moral responsibility because they wanted to maintain and be part of the power elite. They wanted it to be all about them.

Fear is a strong motivator. Whether you’re living in Libya or coaching in State College, PA, fear of a change in the status quo, whether you admit it or not, can be a primary force behind your actions. Whether we admit it or not we all do things based on fears that life won’t turn out the way we want it to.

When we answer the call of fear we are less than we can be. But, as minister T.D. Jakes points out, “Even strong people stumble.”

If you don’t do what’s right (and you know in your heart what that is) you never sleep well at night.

What keeps you up at night?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sometimes a Man's Gotta Do What a Child's Gotta Do

Happy Feet Two premieres today and I’m all over it.

If you saw the first Happy Feet movie and loved it as I did you’re trying to figure out a way to call in stupid this afternoon and head to the local cineplexathon. If you didn’t like it I understand, you’ll be at work bemoaning the fact that your 401-k is now a 201-k and thinking other grown-up thoughts.

If you live long enough you become an adult. It’s a biological thing. Being a grown-up is a psychological thing and sometimes you have to unzip that grown-up suit and let that runnin’ wide-open kid out. Happy Feet does that for me.

Plus, you can’t pass up Robin Williams as the Mexican penguin and there are two new characters. Matt Damon and Brad Pitt are the voices of two krill (little bottom-feeding shrimp-like creatures) and early reviews say the come close to stealing the show.

So, to you grown-ups who’ll be at work all afternoon, don’t steal any office supplies. To those of you who like me are scrounging in the couch for popcorn money, I’ll see you there. And to you semi-grown-ups who’ll at least have the good sense to go to the movie but can’t stop thinking about work, TURN OFF THOSE DAMNED CELL PHONES!!

Have a great weekend! See you Monday.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You Calling You? How Does That Work?

In the small business programs I present I suggest that budding entrepreneurs call ten people during their planning/research process. The calls can be to suppliers, potential customers and, especially, people who are in the business/industry they hope to be in.

Then I ask, “To whom should your first call be made?” (The answer is an association that supports the industry. They are always a treasure trove of information about the business.)

I get all kinds of answers; your spouse, a friend, my pastor, my lawyer or CPA…all kinds of answers.

But, the one that has always amazed me is, “My first call should be to myself.”

Now, I have to admit..and I’m embarrassed to confess this…I’ve always busted people who offered the comment. I always thought, “How dopey is that?” And I’ll mimic holding a phone to my ear and saying, “Mike, do you think this is a good idea?” Do you get the joke?

Well, the joke is on me.

Whenever we think about trying something new in our lives, making a change or challenging ourselves we DO, in essence, call ourselves. We ask ourselves in our hearts and minds, “Am I up to this? Can I do it?”
The answer you get back, positive or negative, will often set the course for how the experience will go.

Do you hear that ringtone in your head right now? That’s you calling to tell you whether you are or are not up to doing something you’re considering. Pick up the phone.

What’s your answer?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cocoanut Radios and the Titanic

If you’re old enough to remember Gilligan’s Island (’64-‘67), the situation comedy about an unlikely group of people stranded on an island, you’ll remember The Professor.

The Professor was the go-to guy for knowledge and technical skills. In fact, in one episode, he made a radio out of a cocoanut.

Now, my question is this: If The Professor was so smart why couldn’t he fix the hole in the boat and get the group off the island?

I’ll bet you know someone like The Professor; they spend most of their time solving problems that don’t really need to be solved while ignoring the most important ones. They’re like the person who spends a ton of money on weight-loss gadgets but wouldn’t walk around the block if you held a gun to their head. They’re the guy rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The psychological reasons for why we don’t solve the problems right in front of us could fill a textbook…in fact, they do. Everything from lack of simple skills to a fear of success keeps us from getting to work on key issues.

Try this: Don’t worry about what you do or don’t have, what will or won’t happen, or who will or won’t have something to say about what you are doing…just…get…started. There’s magic in right action.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How Lucky Are You?

In almost all of my programs there’s a moment in which I talk about luck.

I write LUCK on the board or show it in a PowerPoint and then I explain that LUCK is an acronym, L.U.C.K., that means, Laboring Under Correct Knowledge.

Then I spend some time talking about the importance of Correct Knowledge. I’ve NEVER directly addressed the importance of Laboring…until now.

Oh, I talk about the importance of getting things done and can show you lots of ways to do things more efficiently and effectively. But, I’ve recently realized that I’ve been assuming that folks knew the importance of action. And, we all know what happens when we assume things, right?

A lot of my recent reading and research keeps pointing to the fact that action, even if it’s in the wrong direction at first, is more important than we realize.

The key entrepreneurs of today understand that starting the thing has a power of its own. Actionseems to attract forces that help move the thing toward success.

I’m all for the carpenter’s adage, “Measure twice, cut once,” but in a lot of areas of life the best thing to do is get to cuttin’.

I recently wrote about the importance of 5 minutes. What could you do in the next 5 minutes that would get you started on something?

PS…yesterday I spent an hour raking leaves to the curb in front of The Cottage…5 minutes after that the city truck came by and sucked’em up! How lucky is that?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Knowing the Path Is Not the Same As.....

Yesterday I caught a small bit of the first Matrix movie and was rewarded with one of those, This Happened for a Reason moments.

Morpheus, the Laurence Fishburn character, says to Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, “Knowing the path is different from walking the path.”

Take just a moment and let that sink in as I did.

I run into lots of folks in my small business seminars who, I believe, know the basics of what it takes to start and run a small business. But, they won’t take a first step out the door and start one.

Relationships are the same way, I believe. Folks know that it takes to have a positive relationship, but they won’t do the hard work.

Which, for some reason, brings to mind the thought, “Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?” Seems like a natural connection there.

And, if you’ll indulge me for throwing in a gratuitous skydiving reference: Everybody knows how skydiving works, but getting on the plane, stepping out the door and landing a parachute is…a…VERY…different…thing.

What do you know but won’t do?

PS…at the end of the question above if you had one of those middle school or parental thoughts like, “I know how to slam my hand in a car door, but I wouldn’t do that!” Grow up! This is your life we’re talking about and none of us are gettin’ any younger!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Long Leaf's Fall

A few minutes ago I walked out to get my paper. Turning to back into the house I looked up and saw a bright, yellow leaf fall from the top of the beautiful tree in my front yard to the ground.

In the 8-9 seconds it took the leaf to get to the ground I wasn’t thinking about the Penn State mess, the dangerous situations many of our troops are in around the world, the NCAA stupidity at Carolina, my ankles hurting from a skydiving landing, relationship silliness or the fact that I’ve GOT to clean up this house.

Mini-vacations like that can save your sanity.

Hang tuff. It’s fall, it’s Friday, the weekend is around the corner, The Heels are playing The Spartans ON AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER tonight! If that isn’t America on a variety of levels I don’t know what is!

What is a momentary vacation you could take right now?

Have a great weekend and remember to take a quiet moment to thank the veterans for the freedom and safety in which we lead our lives.

See you Monday.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Look Down. What's On Your Shirt?

Yesterday a client paid me a wonderful compliment. He had asked, “How’s business?” And, when I told him that I was pretty well booked for the coming winter and spring he said, “A number of your competitors have been telling me that bookings are down, you obviously don’t have that problem. Can I tell you why I think that is?”


He said, “I’ve noticed that you don’t have twenty choices of seminar topics. You have only a few and you’re really, really good at them.”


Being a generalist has its advantages, but in today’s marketplace being a specialist, especially if your skills solve today’s challenges, is the way to go.

The tough thing is that in a tight marketplace there’s a tendency to want to try and jump after any opportunity because it means gaining some…any…business.

If you focus on what you’re good at and methodically seek out people who need that talent, skill, solution you can at least create a state of sufficiency.

(Sufficiency is a useful new word I just learned and it refers to having enough)

What are you good at? In today’s marketplace if you’re good at screwing off, ducking work, schmoozing instead of producing and taking credit for work you didn’t do, then I promise you you’ve got a bullseye on your shirt. You’ll be found out sooner or later. And, in this marketplace, if your managers are even reasonably mature you’ve already been found out and they’re simply looking for a way to drop you.

However, if you have a useable skill and you’re good at it, let people know. Now is the time for problem solvers and workers. If you’re one of those folks who have a star instead of a bullseye on your shirt, which my client believes I have and I know I have, now’s our time.

What solution do you provide? What’s on your shirt?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pull Off At the Rest Area

Am on I-95 on my way to present a seminar. Needed to take a short break so I pulled off at a rest area.

Life's kind of like that. Sometimes you simply need to pull off and take a short break.

Most of us can't take sabaticals from our jobs or families but we can find a place, situation or activity that gives us a little respite.

The pull-off could be for a few minutes, days or months.

This isn't so much a vacation as it is a relaxation; we all know that sometimes vacations aren't relaxing.

My rest area is my little house, The Cottage. Lying on the couch watching the leaves fall, listening to some tunes and reading with the fire going is about as restful a situation as I've ever encountered.

What's your rest area?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Stairway to Heaven....and The Big O

Forty years ago today Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven debuted on the band’s fourth album. Let’s slide right by the fact that the song is about a drug connection and to the fact that, according to experts in a wide range of music, Heaven is the greatest rock and roll song (some say the greatest song) of all time. One reviewer said it was the closest music has ever come to reproducing an orgasm.

Mmmmmm…..I’ll be back in a minute, let’s see if I can find that CD.

OK, I’m back!

For those of you who automatically chose, Happy Birthday to You!, as the greatest song, God Bless you. You can close your books and go wait outside for your parents to come pick you up.

I don’t know if I’m on the greatest song bandwagon—or even the greatest rock and roll song—but I know it can be a wonderful positive message song if you listen with different ears.

Here’s the question: What is your stairway to heaven?

We all have one. Is it a relationship? Money, or the pursuit of money? Sex? Adrenaline rushes? Being right? Spiritual awareness? Going to a specific place? Being with a certain person?

Sometimes we don’t know our stairway to heaven and we have to have the faith that, “the piper will lead us to reason.” So, who or what is your piper? We all have one. What or who is a driving force for you? Is it “the norm,” “the status quo,” and “traditional values?” Or, is it being “different,” “one of a kind,” “an artist?”

Our piper is often based on the image we hold of who we are. And, that leads to how we frame, experience and pursue life.

Better, though, that we choose as our piper the person we hope ourselves to be; the image that is the happiest, most positive, best we can be.

Which leads to my favorite two lines in the song:
“Yes. There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Ultimately, as Jimmy Page yells at the beginning of the song, “It’s a song of hope!”

If you don’t have the song handy play it on your computer sometime today for no other reason than as a tribute to the good rock and roll has done in the last 60 years.

Oh yeah, and you might want to play it in private….just in case.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Ground Comes Up Pretty Fast

I wish I was a good enough writer to tell you how beautiful the sunset is when you see it while you're hanging from a parachute at about 4,000 feet. It’s incredible.

I also wish I could tell how how to land a parachute…but I can’t…yet.
So, I’m lying here on the couch with my ankle iced realizing that it’ll be a week or two before I can get back in the sky.

Learning to fly and land a parachute appears to be a slow process and, obviously, I’m a slow learner. Remember, my last landing dinged up a part of my body we’ll leave unmentioned. To paraphrase Michael Corleone in the third Godfather movie, “Just as one bodypart was healing another one needs help.”

The folks teaching me to skydive are wonderfully patient and encouraging. My fellow rookies are showing me that I’m not the only one limping away from the first few landings as one guy put it.

And, yes, the question, “Is what I’m going through worth it?” has come up; so far, it is.

Learning to skydive continues to be a wonderful metaphor for a variety of life issues. It isn’t as easy as I’d like for it to be but I have to keep trying until I either get it or it stops being worth trying.

There’s some issue you’re asking the Is it still worth it? question about…and you know the answer in your heart. It may be difficult to face…but…you…know…the…answer.

What’s the issue?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Monty! What's Behind Door Number 2?!!

What if life was like a Let’s Make a Deal show?

You remember Monty Hall telling us what was behind some of the doors and then asking the contestant, “Which door will you choose, Number 1, Number 2 or Number 3?”

Life’s kinda like that. You broadly know what might be behind some of the choices you could make but let’s be honest, you don’t rrrreeeaaallllyyyy know…now, do you?

I’m running into a time like that. Lack of clarity is creating some anxiety and I’m confused about doors. Serendipitously, I’ve just taught a couple of classes on goal-setting.

Ha! The blind leading the blind!

Also, it just happened—or did it—that my devotions for the first few days of this month have been about clarity, focus and purpose. Hmmmm, when the student is ready the teacher shall appear.

Once we’re clear on our purpose, on where we want to go, the path is often self-evident. Finding or deciding on the purpose is often a struggle, though.

But, if you don’t define your purpose, goal, direction, then you’re just floating. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice in the Wonderland, “If you don’t care where you’re going it doesn’t much matter which road you take.”

I don’t know if I’m tired of floating, anxious about lack of direction or feel that I’m wasting precious energy walking in circles.

Whatever the reason, it’s gettin’ close to time for me to look at the audience, look at Monty, look up at heaven and point. “Monty, I’ll take door Number……..”

There’s something in life you’re trying to make a choice about. What door will you choose?

Have a great weekend. Keep me in mind, I may be skydiving on Sunday. See you Monday.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Where Are You Putting Your Nose, Lately?

Not long ago a good friend paid me a wonderful compliment. He said, “I just want to be reading what you’re reading. What book do you have your nose in right now?”

Like a lot of you I do try to read widely and I find that reading beyond my field helps create all kinds of wonderful connections and ideas.
Well, Christmas is right around the corner, so between now and then I’ll offer suggestions for books that could be wonderful stocking stuffers or gifts.

Here’s the first: A History of the World In Six Glasses by Tom Standage. You can get it for $5 or less at This is a wonderful book for: the beach (lots of what you read will make you want something cool and wet to drink), winter (you’re holed up in the cold anyway, you might as well learn something) or the bathroom (you can read a few pages at the time and still get some great info).

Standage shows that six drinks represent the progress and history of mankind over the last few thousand years. Beer, wine, distilled spirits, coffee, tea and Coca Cola have changed the world.

One section I continue to think about was his comment that the coffee houses of Europe were the Internet of their day. They were places people could go to exchange ideas, find out what’s hot and get folks jazzed up about accomplishing tasks.

This is one of those book gifts that surprise and then delight folks. It’s an, “I’m glad you gave me this,” kind of gift they’ll end up starting on Christmas afternoon.

What book do you have your nose in these days? Zap me at and tell me or tell me on Facebook. I’m always looking for a good place to put my nose.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

There's No Good In Being a Good Guy

Yesterday I was informed of a breach of confidence that may harm my business.

I was trying to be a good guy and help someone out and I asked them to keep the gesture between us. They appear to have revealed the gesture and it may backfire on me.

Increasingly, it’s being proved to me in a number of areas of life that trying to be a good guy may not be worth the effort. In fact, the effort may not be seen as a positive gesture at all.

So, what’s the solution? Do I assume that the negative side of life wins out every time and be a jerk and do a preemptive strike?

It’s really tempting. If you take the negative view of life you’re right a lot of the time and when you’re wrong and things work out for the good you’re pleasantly surprised. If you take the positive view you’re wrong a lot of the time and when you’re right you’re not surprised.

It would be nice if most folks were smarter and believed that most of the time we’re operating on the basis of our better angels. It’s just frustrating waiting for them to catch up.

Who are you trying to be today, the good you, or your evil twin?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No Costume? Are You Kiddin'?!

If you had visitors for Halloween last night who had the best costume?

I had the usual troop of princesses, butterflies and vampires. There were soldiers, dancers, Mario Brothers characters and werewolves. I didn’t see many cowboys but I think that’s more an issue of my age and the TV shows I grew up with.

My most imaginative visitor was a kid who came as a stack of pancakes. Surrounding him were layers of foam about 3” thick and some kind of goo that looked like syrup. I kept him at the door to ask about the costume and gave him a ton of candy.

However, I was surprised at how many kids made no effort whatsoever to come up with a costume. They or their parents had spent $1.99 on a plastic pumpkin bucket and they simply showed up at the door (no “Trick or Treat?!” request either), held out the bucket and expected candy.

I usually gave’em one piece (didn’t want to stiff’em, they might come back and egg my house) and they turned, usually without a comment, and walked away.

At the end of the evening I asked, “Why?” and immediately starting making the usual excuses for them….parents were busy, parents were unimaginative (You don’t need a lot of money to create something, though), kids were unimaginative…or…they were simply lazy and felt entitled.

Here’s a basic point about life…more so today than ever before…if you aren’t willing to give a little extra, to get a little bit out of your comfort zone, you won’t get much more than the basic share.

Now, maybe that’s enough for you, and if it is, God Bless You. But, don’t complain about how little you have. Just sit there with your bowl of gruel, be satisfied and shut up.

If you want something more, though, something better, you’d better step up with a more-than-the-minimum performance in work, relationships, sports, spiritual life…whatever.

So, what’s your plan today? Are you comin’ to the door as a stack of pancakes or showin’ up with just a bucket?