Monday, April 30, 2012

It Might Only Take a Minute

Was visiting a client last week and he was bemoaning the fact that his office was so messy he couldn’t find some info he really needed for a report. The report was due two weeks ago.

His work area was kinda junky, but I’ve seen a lot worse.

He pulled out two BIG notebooks and said, “I know the information I need for my report is somewhere in these things.”

I asked how long it would take him to write the report once he found the information and he said, “Not long at all.”


I pulled out my iPhone, tapped the clock app, tapped the stopwatch and held it up so he could see it. I said, “I’ll bet you can find the information you need in less than 90 seconds.”

I hit Start.

It took him 49 seconds.

I asked him to open the second notebook, held the phone up, tapped Restart and then Start.

Finding the second chunk of info took 12 seconds.

61 seconds to get a handle on getting a job done that he had procrastinated for TWO WEEKS.

What are you waiting for?

You can do as good or better….I’m tapping Restart on my stopwatch.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Baby Steps and Big Things

If you could start out the month with a penny and double the amount each day you’d have over $5,000,000 by the end of the month.

Small, incremental successes mount up.

SUCCESS Magazine publisher Darren Hardy calls it “compounding.”

Don’t procrastinate starting a worthwhile effort because it appears too daunting.

Take baby steps and pretty soon you’ll be running.

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

PS...This is the 900th Perfect Workday Blog. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

National Pick Up Your Poop Week

Whether you know it or not, this is National Pick Up Your Poop Week.

While I realize this refers to pet owners I started wondering if there should be a week like this for all of us.

We all make mistakes and leave poop of one kind or another in our wake.

Do we do a good job of cleaning up our poop after we make it?

Probably not.

Is there some poop out there you need to clean up or, at least, apologize for?

Might be time to pick up a plastic bag and…well…you know…

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast

Since my mother has been ill the tempo of my life has speeded up dramatically.

Trying every day to visit the assisted living facility where she now lives and regularly talking with my brother about her care has laid a layer of complexity on my life that I didn’t expect.

The stress is having a variety of expected and unexpected effects.

The other morning, while on a trip, I was getting dressed. I looked in my travel bag and realized that I had packed two left shoes. I’d just grabbed them and headed out of the house.

I’m forgetting notes I need for meetings; in some cases I’m forgetting the meetings. The office is messier, I’m not working out as often, and I’ve found myself on edge when presenting some seminars.

So, I’m slowing down.

NASCAR has a saying, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”

By slowing down a little you catch what might have been forgotten, you operate more efficiently and you don’t have that just about to fall off a cliff feeling.

Slowing down a little doesn’t mean you get less done. Ironically, it means you can get more done, better.

Slow down just a tad. Catch a breath.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Advice From The Tower of Power

Over the weekend I was listening to "You're Still a Young Man" by one of my favorite R&B groups, The Tower of Power.

 It's a song about a young man who is wooing an older woman. At a point in the song the woman tells him, "You're still a young man and you're wasting your time."

 I love the young man's response, "Well, it's my time."

 So often, we have pasttimes, hobbies, interests and ideas on which we want to spend time but others, who aren't interested in those things, may insinuate or outright tell us that we are wasting our time on those pursuits.

 Well, it's our time.

 If you have a healthy activity or idea that peaks your interest, pursue it. The pursuit is the type of thing that creates a well-rounded, full life. Remember, it's our time...not theirs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Be Me or Courtney Today

(This is a little bit of a rant but it does have a point and a happy ending.)

I’ve been going to gyms for 45 years and am now a member of one of the best gyms I’ve ever been in; lots of space, decent locker room and well-maintained equipment.

However, Some of the employees at my gym now think I’m a jerk.

Until yesterday I tried to be a better member by complaining about a new entry system.

My gym was bought by a bigger company, Lifetime Fitness, based in Minnesota. Instead of letting members continue to present a keyring plastic card like you use at the grocery store they’ve made a decision to go to a credit card-sized entry card. The new card is obviously too big to put on a keyring unless you carry one of those duffelbag purses so it’s one more thing to keep up with.

Here’s the company logic as voiced by every employee: “In May we’re renovating the locker rooms and you’ll use the card to open a locker where you’ll store your stuff.” And then they explain how beautiful the locker room will be.

Ok.  Let’s not get into the point that if you are going to a gym because you like to hang out in a ritzy locker room you already have more issues than I can help you with.

So, I asked, “How do you get back into the locker after your workout?”

“Well,” they answered, “There’s a key in the locker. So, you’ll leave your card and take the key with you to get you back into the locker after your workout.”

Something else to keep up with. Do I wear the key on a fancy-Nancy bracelet on my wrist or ankle? Or, do I put it in the pockets I don’t have in my workout pants?

No, they advised, we’ll give you A SAFETY PIN SO YOU CAN PIN IT TO YOUR PANTS!!

Now, I’ve been in gyms for over 45 years and the only people I’ve ever seen who have A KEY PINNED TO THEIR PANTS are 5 year-olds or people who’ve never been in a gym. And by the way, I’ve only ever had one thing stolen from a locker because I don’t take valuables into the gym. Here’s a clue: If you are taking the Hope Diamond into a gym take your own lock with you.

Here are my two points: (1) Successful organizations spend a lot of time thinking through customer interactions and trying to make the service better and more positive. (2) Every successful organization on the planet is trying to make the customer interaction lighter; less stuff, easier to do, people to help, more intuitive and satisfying.

In fact, the most successful companies are essentially saying to customers, “We’re going to make it as easy as possible to do business with us. All you have to do is show up.”

Ok…rant over…here’s the happy ending.

Courtney is an employee whom I’ve frequently encountered. She’s great. Always smart, positive, smiling, good interaction and remembers my name. Basically, what you need in a great employee.

I’m doing my complaint with Courtney she gets this smile and says, “That’s no problem Mr. Collins. I can cut the bar code off your card and punch a hole in the space left and you can put it on your keyring.”

And she does. And it’s perfect.

Somewhat timidly (because I’m stunned at the simplicity and genius of her solution) I asked, “Courtney, I have two cars and two sets of keys…”

And before I finish she turned to a computer and ordered a new card…which we’ll modify to fit the other keyring.

You go, Courtney!

The instances like I experienced with the new card system and with Courtney are called moments of truth. We have them in work and business, and in life. They are the moments at which we determine whether or not we are being served in the way we want to be served…not in the way some suit has determined we OUGHT to be served or a way that is easier for the company to operate.

Courtneys are rare.

Be either me or Courtney today. Complain about a stupid decision or think through a moment of truth enough to find a solution. Either action can move life ahead.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Today Ain't Your Day

My friends David and Felice sent me a goody box for my birthday. There are a variety of items that, while they certainly delight me, are better left unmentioned.

But, one of the presents is a coaster that says, “WARNING! I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.”

I think that is hilarious!

However, I started thinking about it and realized that on a lot of days that’s my attitude about dealing with people.

You might be like me, you’ve encountered so much poor service, so many people who are lackadaisical about their jobs and so many sour people that you’ve started to expect that most people you run into will be pinheads. And so, that’s what you get.

Years ago I had an attitude that everything turned out for the best…and usually it did. But then I hit some rough patches and forgot that life philosophy and, yes, I got what I expected.

Now I’m trying to change back to a more positive outlook…and I’m getting more of what I positively expect.

So, I’m declaring here and now that I’m going to do two things: Raise my level of expectations about the strangers I encounter and lower my expectations of the job they’ll do.

I’m going to start expecting that they are good folks who want to do a good job…until they show otherwise. And, I’m going to expect a minimum so that whatever I get over that will be a bonus.

How about you? Do you expect the best or worst from folks? Be aware of who you encounter over the weekend and see what you think.

Have a great weekend. See you Monday

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Last Song for "America's Oldest Teenager"

It’s too bad that the only view many younger Americans had of Dick Clark was as some old guy counting down the ball on New Year’s Eve.

Clark (82), who died yesterday, had a significant impact on American rock and pop music for over 50 years as a DJ, music publisher, TV star and producer. He was dubbed “America’s Oldest Teenager” in the ‘60s.

A great part of the Dick Clark story is that we might never heard of him if it hadn’t been for a drunk driver. In 1952 he was the fill-in host of a radio station sock-hop (for the younger of you, in the ‘40s and ‘50s sock-hops were dance parties where girls would dance in, usually, white socks). When the regular host was arrested for drunk driving Clark was hired as the full-time host. The rest, as they say….

Here’s the unintended lesson we can learn: Be ready to step into the job, role, leadership position or life dream to which you aspire.

Invest in yourself so you know what you need to know to be a success…or, at least know enough to know what you don’t know so you can quickly learn as you go.

Where do you want to be in life in 6 months? Do you know what you need to know to get there?

In the last week I’ve had 3 people point out that younger workers want to be CEO in 6 weeks.

Don’t fool yourself, being The Man or The Woman takes a lot more than dreams, desire and a Red Bull. Dick Clark had been preparing for that moment in 1952 from the time he was a teenager.

Thanks, Dick. Rock on.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What Happened to the "And Don't Come Back!" Letter?

I’ve been going through some of my mother’s files. She has what looks like three basic files; one for me, one for my brother, and one for the rest of the world. There were newspapers noting the end of WWII in Europe and the Pacific.
Like most good mothers she’s kept everything from 2nd grade drawings to every picture of me that was ever in the newspaper. There are poems, invitations, announcements and comments on bits of paper.

I found a letter of acceptance from East Carolina University, a rejection letter from the early admissions program at UNC-Chapel Hill and then, the acceptance letter from Carolina.

What I didn’t find were the three letters from UNC-CH explaining that they’d rather I not come back due to my…ahem…lack of academic progress.

I was kinda hoping to find at least one of the we’ve kicked your tail out of school because you’re stupid letters. I wanted to frame it between my undergraduate acceptance letter and the one I received last year appointing me to the adjunct faculty of the nationally-ranked executive masters program at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health; irony in a frame.

As I get older I believe that if you don’t have at least a few dark times in your life you haven’t been trying hard enough; either to have fun or to accomplish something. I’ve done both.

If you've experienced a bump or two in life ask yourself, “How did that bump get me further down the road to where I want to go?” You should have a good answer. If you don’t have a good answer you can still use that time as a motivator simply by asking what you learned and have you applied your hard-won knowledge.

Stop right now and look back. Where have you run into obstacles? How can you use what you learned to boost you to a better future?

I’m going to find one of those letters even if I have to write one of my own. It’ll essentially start, “Dear James Michael Collins, We’re stunned at how bad your grades are. We’re sure your parents are, too. We’re wondering why you aren’t.”


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Could Get Somethin' Done!

The most amazing thing about visiting Monticello for me  was coming face-to-face with the stunningly prolific nature of Thomas Jefferson.

Statesman, architect, botanist, engineer, legal mind; you have to admire the range of his interests and how much he accomplished.

However, the most interesting continuing discussion I had with a friend yesterday centered around how much time Jefferson had to read, study, think and pay attention to his pursuits.

Granted, he was running his plantation and doing all the things for which we as citizens recognize him, but without telephones, television, video games, texting and a lot of the things that occupy our time, he had hours, days, weeks, months and years to read, study, think, discuss and exchange ideas.

I’m not saying we all have Jefferson’s intellect, but think of how much more you could learn and accomplish by freeing up a little more time.

Or, would you use the free time to watch more television or do something that really doesn’t add to your enjoyment and accomplishments in life? 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Walking Through a Dream

In the early ‘60s, when President John F. Kennedy hosted many of the Nobel Prize winners for dinner he said, “This dining room has never hosted such a collection of intellect…with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

In about 2 hours I’ll be fulfilling a dream by walking through Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

Spent a little time yesterday walking around the campus at Mr. Jefferson’s University, Virginia, here in Charlottesville. In fact, I had chance to stand in the exact spot where he sat and looked out from the rotunda onto the surrounding hills.

Jefferson has always been, along with Leonardo da Vinci, one of my lifelong heroes, so this weekend is kicking up a lot of emotions; excitement, fulfillment of a dream, creating more dreams, a feeling of satisfaction.

I spent a couple of hours in Kenan Stadium last Saturday watching the football Blue/White intrasquad game. The 2 hours kicked in a lot of anticipation of the coming football season (why can’t they play in the summer? I mean, it’s almost 5 months away!!!).

Is there some WHERE you could go that would pump you up, fulfill a dream, help you feel more complete, make you feel happy?

And, yes, if you’re thinking, “The Greek Islands,” or “Mt. Everest,” or “St. Paul’s Cathedral,” your next thought may be, “I’ll never get there.”

I’m willing to bet, though, that by doing some long- or short-term planning you may be able to make it a reality.

And, I’ll promise you that if you go to the beach, or Mt. Mitchell or the Duke Chapel you’ll  get at least a little of that feeling you seek. If you sit down in a quiet place with a big, coffee table book about your destination your imagination will get you part of the way there.

Go places! See things! The world is a big place and we’re meant to explore and make our dreams come true. This weekend has done some of that for me and encouraged me to want more.

Dream and go get some for yourself.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Every Day's Your Birthday

This morning one of my first emails was from a good friend who asked me what my first morning at 60 felt like. Great question!

As you can imagine, it felt a lot like the morning before at 59.

It's almost a poetic justice kinda thing that my first morning at 60 is Friday the 13th.

But, you know as well as I do that it's up to me to determine what the day...and life...will be like.

What type of day have you decided to create?

What type of life have you decided to create?

Have a great weekend,,,see you Monday.

PS....I've decided to continue my birthday throughout the weekend. Life's like that if you decide it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What I've Learned at 60

It turns out that starting a seventh decade (damn…that makes turning 60 sound a LOT older, doesn’t it?) is easy. You just wake up; which is wonderful considering the alternative.

I was lying in bed this morning thinking, “If I’ve awakened for about 21,900 mornings have I learned anything?”

Here’s what came to mind. This is some of what I’ve learned and doesn’t apply to everyone:

-        It’s probably better to stay away from the hard stuff.
     Moderation in a lot of areas is better than going off the deep end; but sometimes going off the deep end is the only way to go.
-        No matter what your age, your heart can still be broken and your heart can still awaken.
-        Stuff can make you feel better, and better about yourself, but only for a little while.
-        No one likes tight shoes or tight underwear.
-        You can always learn new stuff and learning keeps you young.
-        When you wake up in the middle of the night somewhere unfamiliar and have to go to the bathroom walk slowly and make sure you’re really in the bathroom.
-        You can do something really crazy like skydiving and live to tell about it. It’s amazing what you can do if you at least try.
-        Most people are lemmings, finding a comfort zone and following the crowd. The simple word “excellence” means you are standing out from everyone else.
-        If a friend wants you to taste something make sure they’re your friend and look at it first.
-        A locked door when you REALLY have to go is true frustration.
-        Jumping out of an airplane at 13,500 feet with two parachutes packed by someone you don’t know is TRUE faith.
-        Life IS all about attitude.
-        Time is an ally but time CAN run out on some things.
-        Your best friend doesn’t have to live next door.
-        You can make a decision that turns out good for a lot of folks…you can make a decision that hurts a lot of folks.
-        Kindles and such will never replace books.
-        There are some people you will never like.

-        Kenan Stadium on a bright blue, fall Saturday afternoon when the Tar Heels are winning big is about as close to heaven as I’ve been.
-        Soft is good, but hard ain’t always bad.
-        Farts ARE funny! And, there are some girls/women who think so, too.
-        In heaven they use 600-count, Egyptian cotton sheets.
-        You can’t tell your mother you love her enough, until you can’t.
-        That last point goes for everyone you care about.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guess Who Else is Turning 60

The actor Steven Segal’s birthday was yesterday. He’s now 60. Considering how he’s looked in some of his recent movies I’d say Father Time has been Hai Karateing his butt lately.

Other folks hitting 60 this year are Mr. T, George Strait, Dan Akroyd, John Goodman, (Paul Ruebens) Pee Wee Herman and Mickey Roarke. Some are weathering the storm gracefully while others are not.

George Carlin said, “I'm sixty years of age. That's 16 Celsius.”

This whole thing of turning 6o has been wearing me out for 6 months. The anxiety peaked last week…I think.

My birthday is tomorrow.

If you have some words of wisdom send them to me:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I Buzzed My Head

I’ll turn 60 on Thursday and realized that some ridiculous, outrageous gesture had to be made.

So, I buzzed my head.

I’d been thinking of doing it for awhile and I needed a haircut and thought, “What the hell?”

When I sent a picture to some friends their responses ranged from a lot more humorously obscene than just “What the hell?!!!” to serious questions about my sanity.

My mother really doesn’t like it. She’s used to seeing me a certain way and any big change doesn’t agree with that image she has of me.

And that’s the point.

Every now and then you need to shake things up. You don’t want to screw up so dramatically and badly that you can’t recover, but making a change can give you a whole new outlook on life…and on the people who encounter you and supposedly know you.

The best response was from a wonderful friend who said, “Hey, you look stupid. But, it’ll grow back.”

What could you change today just for the fun of it?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Ah Oooh Ga! Ah Oooh Ga! Submarine Weekend

If you’ve never heard the term, “Submarine Baptist” it means they only surface twice a year: Easter and Christmas.

So, this Sunday there’ll be a lot of surfacing.

I’m reminded of that by an editorial in today’s paper that noted Caesar Chavez, the Latino and farm labor leader of the late-‘60s who died in ’93.

Chavez said, “Talk is cheap. It is how we organize and use our lives that tells what we believe in.”

If making a difference in anything in life matters to you then start making a difference in the smallest way possible and grow from there.

Easter is about endings and beginnings. What a great weekend to make a commitment to make a difference in some area of your life or the lives of others.

If making a difference isn’t important to you then step off the path and get out of the way of the rest of us.

Have a Happy, Safe Easter! See you Tuesday.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Are You Courageous Enough to Ask the Question?

We all have difficult questions about life that we need answered.

Please note that I said need, not want.

Most folks dodge the questions so they don’t have to deal with answers.

If you need an answer in life have the courage to keep asking the question.

Sooner or later you’ll get a response.

However, be ready for the reality that sometimes the answer you get won’t be the one you expect, like or want.

Some people can take the step of asking the question, they get an answer, and then can’t deal with it.

It seems that there are three points of courage at difficult times in life:
1. Ask the Question
2. Accept the Answer
3. Use the Answer to Move Ahead

You can do this.

You already know what the question is.

What’s the answer?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Buh-bump, Buh-bump....Pull over!

Yesterday could have been a really bad day.

First, my phone battery died so my alarm did not wake me. I rushed to my program and made it on time.

In the afternoon I almost backed over a woman while leaving my driveway. When I realized what was happening she was standing less than a foot from my driver's side door.

Less than 3 minutes later, as I was speeding to an appointment (75 in a 65), I passed a parked highway patrol car. As I slowed I saw him pull onto the highway and come flying up behind me. He passed me and pulled a guy about 200 yards in front of me.

My initial reaction when looking back was that I had dodged 3 bullets. Yay! The glass is half full!

I then realized that my current fast tempo of life is causing me to pay less attention to what is going on around me.

When your responsibilities/goals/challenges increase to the point that they keep you from focusing on the basic habits that get you safely through life you need to slow down a little. I know, I're thinking, "I CAN'T SLOW DOWN I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO!!"

So, do you have the time to explain to a valued client why you were late? Can you imagine the impact of injuring or killing a neighbor? Do you have time and money to deal with a speeding ticket?

I don't.

Slow down a little and look around. Has the temp of your life increased to the point that it's causing more problems than successes and happiness?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Happy Birthday, Doris!!!!

So. you got that the April 1 blog you saw yesterday was for April Fool’s Day.

But, today is no foolin’… this is Doris Day’s birthday!

Growing up in the Sixties I saw all the Doris Day movies with Rock Hudson/Rod Taylor/Brian Keith/Cary Grant as her husband.

I came to adulthood thinking the Doris and Whoever model was what marriage was supposed to be like. In fact, someone once told me that I thought marriage was like a Carpenters or Johnny Mathis song.

And I did.

Later I came to wonder if marriage was actually ACDC singing “Hell’s Bells” in an on-fire school bus going over a cliff into a pool of hungry crocodiles who….ok…you get the idea.

I think I’ve finally come to understand that both those ideas are extreme ends of a continuum.

Any relationship, whether it’s romantic, work, friendship, spiritual or…yes…with an inanimate object (ever cussed at a computer or lawnmower?) will have ups and downs.

Rarely are relationships as good or bad as you fantasize. And that’s a disappointment and a blessing all rolled into one.

What have your over-fantasized, good or bad?

And, are your fantasies holding you back?

PS…aren’t you glad I’m not off somewhere dancing for Chips Ahoy? Me, too. The costume smells like chocolate.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gotta Dance!

I’m writing this on Sunday instead of Monday for a specific reason.

I’ve made a big decision and wanted you to be the first to know.

This is my last blog.

For years friends, program attendees and gawkers have complimented me on my dancing so I’ve decided to give professional dancing a try.

Since I obviously couldn’t pass the physical for the Chippendales I’ll be performing with the Chips Ahoy dancers on a national road tour for Nabisco during the next two years.

You’ll be able to catch us at openings of Food Lion, Lowe’s and Harris Teeter. Our Christmas show will be held at The Cookie Museum (yes, there’s a real place) in Singapore.

Please wish me the best as I chase my dream!

Gotta Dance!!!