Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Lonely, Little Christmas Tree

There’s a country road I travel a lot and I’ve noticed a Christmas tree lying on the side of the road. It’s in a shady area so it’s still green and the fat end is point out at the road…and it’s starting to annoy me.

I know, I know, I should have better things to think about. I’m not lying awake in bed at night thinking about the tree but…well…you get the idea.

Every time I see it I start wondering, “How’d it get there?” There are only a couple of possibilities: Someone just tossed it? It’s out in the middle of an area where someone would have had to stop and throw it on the side of the road. Or, it blew out of the back of a pickup, my personal choice.

We all have little things that kinda gnaw at us and, right now, this is one for me. I realize, though, that I have only three choices: Forget about it, ignore it, or do something about it.

It’ll be hard to simply forget because I drive by it on a regular basis. I could ignore it by looking the other way when I pass it. Or, I can stop and pick it up and dispose of it (which would be the ecologically sound thing to do), stop and push it down the hill so I don’t see it, or take another road.

I’ll say it again: We all have things that annoy us. We only have three choices.

What issue, person, habit or belief do you have…small or large…that’s getting under your skin?

What are you going to do?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Here’s another tip for getting your In box down to a sane number of emails: Every month spend 10 minutes deleting old emails.

Or, delete old emails while you’re on Hold on the telephone.

Or, sing Happy Birthday to You! and delete old emails in the amount of time it takes you to sing the song…or any song.

Or, delete old emails for as long as you can hold your breath.

Or, you make up any gimmick that works for you.

Anything that gets your emails down to a reasonable number is a good thing.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Magic of Delete

I have a friend who has over 4,000 emails in his In box. Last week I talked to an IT professional who consistently has less than 30.

Here are 5 tips that get your email under control:

First, have a goal. Every day you should look at your In box and have a goal of the number of emails you are willing to have. Your brain will start looking for ways to get to that number.

Second, use “Rules” in Outlook or “Filters” in Gmail to automatically direct emails to folders.

Third, don’t have more than 6-10 folders into which you direct messages.

Fourth, create “To Read” and “Follow-up” folders into which you direct emails related to upcoming or ongoing projects.

Five, Delete, Delete Delete. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Musclehead Girls and Making Do

Got into it yesterday with a musclehead…girl…at the gym. I’ve crossed paths with her in the past so I knew she was a loner and something of a jerk.

I was using a piece of equipment and she walked up in the middle of my set and informed me that she had been on the way to the same piece of equipment.

Sorry, I’m not a mindreader. If I was I’d have been able to dodge most of the problems I’ve had, especially in relationships…but, that’s another story.

Anyway, I don’t spend most of my workout wondering what her next exercise might be…and I told her that. As you can imagine, it got worse. No yelling, but it was her—forcefully—explaining that I was interrupting the flow of her workout and me explaining that just by coming up and yammering at me she was doing the same to me.

After we parted I got to thinking about it and thought it was stupid so I figured, why not do the right thing. I walked back over and opened with, “You know, it’s ridiculous to have conflicts in the gym and…” That’s as far as I got. She started in again and I responded in kind.

Last night while thinking through the encounter I realized that she was so rigid in what she was doing and thinking she could not be inconvenienced even by a few seconds.  

Unfortunately, I also realized that I’ve had similar attitudes in the gym, in traffic, in the grocery store, taking care of my mom, in relationships and in many other situations.

Life doesn’t owe us anything. It especially doesn’t owe us the phenomenon of things always going exactly the way we want them to.

You know how you always think of the best things to say after the confrontation? Early this morning, in the gray time, I realized I wanted to say, “Get a life!”

Calming down and taking the bumps in stride is just the way to do that.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weaknesses Versus Challenges

Usually, I try not to use the word weaknesses. I’ll tend to talk about challenges.

I know it’s a matter of semantics, but no one likes to feel weak and I believe most people like to overcome challenges so using a positive word gives’em a head start.

So, what are your challenges and what are you doing about them?

Here are 3 easy-to-do steps that will get you closer to overcoming the challenges. Altogether, this should take no more than 5 minutes:

- Write a list of 3 work challenges you’d like to overcome or, at least, improve. They could be time management, organization, communication, delegation, software skills (such as using Excel or Outlook)…the list can be anything you want. Don’t worry about finding the biggest, worst or #1 Challenge. Just pick 3.

  - For each challenge, write down three steps to making it happen. The steps could be things like make a phone call, schedule a seminar, buy a book, talk to someone who has overcome the challenge.

 -  Finally, pick one challenge topic and Google it (or, use whatever search engine is your default) and read one entry relating to the challenge. Or, go to and see if there is a video about the topic. I love doing this because I’m a visual learner.

For instance, let’s say one of your challenges is to lower your level of procrastination. One of the steps would be to start a project you’ve been procrastinating as soon as you finish step 3 on this list. When you Youtube procrastination you can watch a wonderful, short (1 ½ minute) video about the topic from the folks at Mere Existence. Then you get to work on the project you’ve been putting off.

If you don’t invest in yourself, commit to personal development, you stay where you are. And this simple, 3-step plan gets you closer to improving in an area you're deficient in.

And in a rapidly changing workplace, that ain’t good.

Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away..."

Yesterday is one of my favorite Beatles songs.

But, we’ll let yesterday, things that have happened in the past, dominate our thinking, our worries and our focus.

This past weekend, in an interview on CBC Sunday Morning, Warren Buffett said, “I don’t think much about the past.” That’s good advice from one of the most successful business men in our country’s history and one of the world’s richest people.

LOL!!! Let’s quote Jamie Farr, the actor who played the role of Klinger on the legenary M*A*S*H* television show. When Farr played Sheik Abdul ben Falafel in the comedy movie Cannonball Run II he tore his rearview mirror from the window of his Rolls Royce, threw it aside and exclaimed, “I am not concerned about what is behind me!”

Not bad advice.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Greatest American

Yesterday on CBS Sunday Morning, author and talk show host Travis Smiley dubbed Martin Luther King, Jr., as “the greatest American this country has produced.”

In the interest of full disclosure Smiley noted before his comment that he has always idolized MLK.

Who do you believe has been, or is, The Greatest American?

If pressed for a quick answer I’d have to say Thomas Jefferson. I have a friend who offers Abraham Lincoln.

But, doesn’t it come down to your definition of Greatest?

What about the million-plus Americans who have given their lives in the service of the nation?

What about the other Founding Fathers?

Here’s one to think about: What if the Greatest American has been a civil servant who didn’t succumb to the slack stereotype, someone you and I would never know, and he or she worked in the General Accounting Office or the Department of Defense or the Agriculture Department and made decisions that had profound effects on the nation?

Greatest American. Whataya think?

Friday, January 18, 2013

What If?

Once again, lots of folks lost their minds when a weatherman said the word, “Snow.”

My area did not get snow but some of the counties to the west and north received 1-3 inches. The news last night said that at 7 pm the police in our region were investigating a handful of auto accidents…by 11 pm they were investigating 32.

What is it about a little ice and snow? Do peoples’ brains start sending a message saying, “Be stupider. Drive faster. Panic.”?

A friend says that after a light snowfall she always has a couple of employees who call in and and say, “I can’t come in because I can’t get my car out of the driveway.” She thinks, “The roads are clear. Why didn’t you plan ahead and park it at the end of the driveway?”

(I won’t be the one to explain that they are lazy to begin with and don’t want to come to work and ANY reason to stay home is a good one.)

In short, they didn’t play the game, What If?

What If it snows and I need to get to work? What If I’m out of work and need some savings? What If I own a small business and sales are half of what I predicted? What If I own a small business and sales are twice what I expected?

We’re taught to play What If in drivers education classes. What If that car ahead stops abruptly? What If the car to my left turns in front of me?

What If is a simple game that allows us to plan ahead.

What If you tried it?

What If you had a great weekend? What would have to happen for that to occur?

Now, make it happen.

See you Monday. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No, She Ain't Dead

Manti Te’o (pronounced, “Tayo”) was an All-American linebacker last season at Notre Dame University. On September 15, during the week before the Michigan State game, Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly told the media that Te’o’s grandmother and a friend had died. Te’o played in the Michigan State game and, supposedly inspired by the losses, had one of his best games of the season.

Details were later revealed that the friend was Te’o’s girlfriend. The media jumped on the sob-stories like a fat baby jumping on a doughnut.

Now, it’s been revealed that the girlfriend was an online contact and the story about her death was a hoax.

Te’o says, “over an extended period of time I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought was an authentic relationship.”

Needless to say, Te’o is embarrassed by the whole thing and the fact that his grandmother died the same week makes it worse.

The lesson we should all take away is the risk of online contact and information.

Human resource hiring professionals are increasingly looking at the facebook pages and Twitter messages of interviewees. If they see embarrassing, off-color, or offensive postings they are dropping the interviewee from consideration. Or, in some cases, firing the offending employee.

What a lot of young—and older—people still don’t realize is that the Web is forever. Pictures, comments, rants and websites that seem funny today may not be so funny in the future when they are trying to get into graduate school, looking for a job or proposing marriage (think about your future in-laws seeing the picture of you passed-out on spring break at Myrtle Beach).

A couple of my friends are very right-wing. I love’em, but these guys are pretty close to being the hobnail boots, brown shirts and invading Poland kind of right-wing. They love to use facebook to air their grievances about the president, politics and life. Neither of them would stand on a street corner and yell their beliefs out loud, but that’s what they are doing digitally.

I’ve got to believe there’ll be a day when their grandchildren read their swill and look at them and ask… “PawPaw. Really?”

***If you have a friend or co-worker who has a loose sense of digital decorum you may want to pass this on.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Karaoke Star!

The cruise ship had a karaoke bar.

Yes, I’ve done some crazy things. In fact, I’ll admit right here that I’ve done some things that were so outrageous they prompted my friend, the great American philosopher Al Ward, to say, “You know, brother, to you crazy looks like fun from across the room.”

But, one of the crazy things I have NEVER done is sing at a karaoke bar or at any type of karaoke event. No. Never.

So, as I watched some of the folks on the cruise singing in the karaoke bar I was actually embarrassed to watch them. One guy was so bad people started leaving.

However, another singer was wonderful! He sang a country song and was on key with a strong voice and lots of personality.

After his session the MC asked him his name and what he did. He told his name (I forgot) and then said, “I’m a dad.”

I’ve thought about that guy for over a week. Now, I’m not saying “he had his priorities right” because that was his priority, not mine or yours. But he knew exactly who he was.

And not many people do.

Most of us show who we are through our actions even as we say we’re something else.

But, I saw the guy around the ship with his wife and three sons before and after his singing session. The actions I saw backed up what he said when asked, “What do you do?”

If someone asked you the same question what would you say?

To be honest, I don’t know if I have a ready answer for myself.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Uh, Oh...the Floor Is Moving!

Last week on the cruise I worked out a couple of times in the onboard gym.

It was pretty cool. The gym had big windows overlooking the bow so you could look out at the sea while running, riding and lifting.

However—at least at first—the rocking of the ship was pretty disconcerting.

I’ve never worked out in a gym where the floor—the gym itself—moved.

When I was using machines it was not so much of a problem. But, when I used dumbbells I had to be aware of the rocking movements and compensate.

After a little while I got used to the movement and found that it actually added an new element, balance, to the workout.

Life’s like that: We can focus all we want on specific issues but there’ll be all this other…stuff…popping up around us. And, if we focus just on the stuff it’s hard if not impossible to reach our goals.

We have to pay some attention to the distractions, but if that’s all we focus on the distractions become IT.

Believe me, no matter what your ship is it’s rockin’. Accept the movement, the distractions, as part of life and keep your eyes focused on the port to which you’re headed. You’ll find that after awhile you become acclimated to the distractions and they simply become part of the cruise through life.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Hey Mon, You Give Me a Dolla!

Another lesson on the Bahamas trip came from a 15-year old who held the horse that pulled us on a carriage ride in Nassau.

The kid, Barry, spent most of the three or four minutes he was near us asking for a tip. He was pretty persistent. If he can get some education and combine it with his persistence he’ll go far.

The lesson I learned is that if you want something you’d better figure out a way to get it by asking for it—persistently—or making it happen.

Have a great weekend…see you Monday.

PS…no, I didn’t give Barry a tip. I didn’t think he’d done anything to earn it. Now, on reflection, I regret not giving him a couple of dollars. The cost of the disappointment in myself is higher than the tip would have been…a second valuable lesson.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cruisin' for a...Bruisin?

Spent most of the last week on a cruise, my first. We sailed out of Charleston and went to Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas, and back.

The Carnival Cruise ship Fantasy has a gym near the bow (the front of the ship for you non-nautical folks), a buffet near the stern (the back) and four bars and a pool in between so in lots of ways it’s kinda what I expect heaven to be like.

A friend of mine says my life seems to revolve around learning so yesterday, while driving back, I asked myself what I’d learned. During the next few days I’ll offer some of the lessons.

Here’s the first: I’ve been there a couple of times and have discovered that there are two distinctly different Bahamas. And, you get to choose which one is reality for you.

In one vision, what most tourists see in the Bahamas is not what the advertising shows. Ads show palm trees, friendly people and lounging around on a beach with a coconut drink in your hand.

What most tourists see once they get past the bars/trinket stores/t-shirt shops is very different. Imagine going to the worst part of your city--trash everywhere, beaten and broken buildings, broken-down cars, and a lot of folks you wouldn’t want to be caught with after dark, essentially, a third-world country--now , paint everything in pastel colors. That’s the Bahamas.

In the other vision, there are nice, welcoming, smart people; gorgeous scenery and fun places to go; and experiences you’ll remember and talk about for the rest of your life. That’s the Bahamas.

I had some of both visions on this trip. Now, I get to make a choice of which vision I’ll remember most of the time. In my mind and in my comments to others I get to do a thumbs-up or thumbs down.

Life is like that every minute of the day. We get to frame (that’s the term psychologists use) experiences as positive or negative and the direction we consistently choose determines our life outlook.

How’s your cruise through life lookin’?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Get Started: A Little Bit

The first week of the new year is almost over. What have you done this week that will set you on the path to one of the best years you’ve ever had.

Whatever you do doesn’t have to be big and flashy. In fact, it’s probably better that it’s a small step, an easy goal, something you can look at and say, “Well, ok…I got that done, now let’s move on to Step 2.”

Meet a new person, buy that book you’ve wanted, find the website with the instructions you need, walk to the end of the block and back, read for an hour instead of watching a TV show, don’t read the newspaper today, eat a healthy lunch, call a meeting…

And don’t wait. Don’t spend all morning trying to decide what to do.


Do it now.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Passing Failure

“You always pass failure on the way to success.” Mickey Rooney, American actor (b. 1920)

Here’s one of the truths of life I’ve learned: If there is a goal in life you really want there will be a moment when—just as you can see the finish line—an obstacle will pop up that will try to convince you you’ll never reach the goal.

The obstacle can be a minor failure or a big stumbling block, and it will send your thoughts down a negative road that ends with you not getting what you want. In fact, it can pop that Yeah, I’m There! balloon you’ve been inflating.

The best thing you can do is keep moving. What’s the line from the country song, “When you find yourself in Hell, keep on moving”?

In order to keep moving you should set small, achievable goals that move you step-by-step through the obstacle…they little wins mean you’re getting closer to the goal.

Now, here’s the hard part: Running into the obstacle and overcoming it can lessen the sweetness of attaining the goal you’ve worked so hard to reach. Remember the balloon?

The best way to address the deflation is to look at overcoming the obstacle as a little win prior to the big win…a two-for-one!

Don’t let the last minute obstacle derail you. Keep moving.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Have You Gotten the Date Wrong Already?

It’s only January 2 and I’ll bet that before the week is over you’ll write the date least once.

We all do it. We’re on autopilot 95% of the time and then there’s a change, like the year.

Try this: For the next couple of weeks, any time you have to write or type of the date, slow down...and make sure you get it right.

What you’re doing is focusing and focusing is a key to being successful. It’s something we don’t often do.

Focusing is a habit and slowing down for just a second helps you develop the habit.