Monday, September 30, 2013

Think About It

Whenever I talk or write about the fact that most people think thinking is hard work so they don’t do it I wonder how many folks are turned off?

I can hear’em, “That Collins guy is such a jerk!”

Believe me, I’ve been called worse…much worse…by people who are bigger, meaner, richer, smarter and more intimidating than the people who might yap at and about me.

But, the only way you can get where you want to go in life is by thinking. Recently, speaker and author Brian Tracy talked about two types of thinking: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 thinking is what we do almost all day, every day.  Type 1 thinking is fast and jumps around to many different topics.

Type 2 thinking is much slower, deeper and more focused. Type 2 thinking is what we have to do when we are planning and making important life decisions. Setting aside some time each day for Type 2 thinking is a key to a successful day and successful life.

A friend from long ago taught me that if you spend about 20 minutes at the beginning of each day doing some Type 2 thinking you accomplish much more than you might have and it’s easier to stay focused on important tasks.

If you’re unfamiliar with Brian Tracy you need to know about him. Try this short piece:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Make This Weekend the First One of a Great Season

Last night I was reading something about success by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, the Chicken Soup for the Soul guys.

The first point they make is that you have to know what you want. Then, you turn the desire into a goal and create steps to help you reach the goal.

Figuring out what you want can be a tuffy, though.

It’s easy to jump into the fantasies of I Want to Win the Lottery and have a marriage made in heaven with perfect children and win the Super Bowl and be able to tapdance.

Ok…the tapdance thing’s a little out there…but, you get my drift.

It’s nice to want all that stuff but when you get down to being specific the process requires some slowing down and thinking time. Most of us don’t like doing that because it takes effort.

But, stay with me: This is the first weekend of the fall, it’s beautiful…at least here in North Carolina…and this could be the weekend that changes it all for you if you’ll get started.

Here’s my suggestion: No matter where you are in life, take this weekend and ask yourself, “Where do I want to go in life?” Just roll that thought around in your head and see what you get.

And then, on Monday, if you’re completely happy with where you are, you’re great! If not, you’ll have some ideas about how to start moving in the direction you need to go.

Have a great weekend! See you Monday. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Uh, Oh....Another Quiz

I’ve always liked taking surveys, assessments and tests that show me who I am (or who the test said I was supposed to be).

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said self-knowledge is the best knowledge. He also said it's the hardest to gain.

I believe the more I know about myself the better I can manage myself. And, my fundamental belief is that unless you can prove to me that I get another ride through life I’m going to try and make the best of this one trip I have. Being able to better manage myself seems like the key to appreciating, enjoying and managing my one life experience.

Last night I was retaking the DiSC survey, an assessment I took over a decade ago; it’s one of the most popular behavioral assessments. A leadership group I’m teaching today will take it and I’m facilitating the exercise so I thought I should refresh my memory of it.

One of the best things about surveys and assessments of this type is the surprise factor. You read through the descriptions and think, “Yep, that’s me. Uh, huh, I’m like that.” Most of the time those thoughts have to do with the good stuff and the mildly questionable stuff.

But, when we read the descriptions that essentially say, “You’re not a nice person. Left to your own devices you’d be cutting your neighbors’ heads off and burying them in the back yard,” you think, “Well, jeepers! That’s not me!”

Maybe not. Or, maybe.

We’re never all of what we see in the surveys. Some of the stuff is spot on and other descriptions are so far off it’s as if they are describing another person.

And they are. We are lots of people, lots of options and lots of behaviors wrapped up in one package. The variety of experiences, our genetic makeup and the simple chemical combinations that rule our brains and bodies mean we’ll come out as a wild combination that equals a human.

However, having said all that…it’s not a bad idea to get a reading on some of the things we think, do, say and feel.

You can find free personality tests, leadership style surveys and relationship quizzes just by using those phrases to search the Internet.

Who am I? The answer might entertain, enlighten or frighten you.

The real question is: Who are You?

PS: If you're wondering how my survey turned out after more than a decade of living and growing since the last time I took's much the same as it was except the dominant characteristic--the personality type that wants to make people do what you demand--is even more dramatically a part of my personality. If you're one of my neighbors you might want to keep a back yard light on.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How Valuable Are You?

If I asked you, “What have been the two major advancements in your field, industry or job during the last decade?” could you tell me?

If you could, that’s great! Your knowledge means you’re doing a reasonably good job of staying on top of what’s going on in your profession.

In fact, it probably means you’re doing a much better job than most of your peers.

Most people learn about 80% of what they need to do to function within the first 18 months of starting a job. Then, they pick up some of the finer points here and there and usually learn just enough to keep the job.

The number of people who actively seek out new knowledge and attempt to grow in the job is small…probably 15-18%.

I’d love to ask folks to learn something new every day but for most people that’s too much of an effort.

So, here’s the deal: Try to learn one new thing about your job every week. Read an article online or in an industry magazine, talk to someone who has a skill you don’t have or who is better at a task than you are, try a little bit of something new to improve a skill.

You don’t have to go to a lot of effort to improve and every time you improve you make yourself more valuable in the workplace.

In today’s work world, being valuable is priceless.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One Hit Wonder

Today is National One Hit Wonder Day. It celebrates those musicians and songs that became hits and then you never heard from them again. Or, musicians who have one song that overshadows all their other work can become known as one hit artists.

The term is also used in business. For example, software companies known for one product can become seen as one hit wonders.

However, being a one hit wonder is not necessarily a bad thing. The one hit can be big enough that it lasts a lifetime.

There’s a wonderful saying, “You only have to get rich one time if you know how to keep it.”

Unfortunately, most of us don’t even have one hit. So, go for your one hit and then look for ways to build on it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

If You Don't Like Me, Leave Earlier

(please excuse me for a little bit of a rant first thing on Monday morning)

Last Friday morning I presented a program about change to a state association group of about 350 people in Asheville. About 5 minutes into the program a group of three women got up and started to sneak their way out the back doors.

I’ve had this happen before and I always make a crack about it, “Whoa! Don’t leave yet! I’m not that bad!”

It always gets a laugh—and some groans from folks who don’t think I should be calling out the leavers—and then I move on with the program.

I’ve asked other professional speakers if they call out those folks who are trying to sneak out and the numbers of who do and don’t are pretty much split down the middle.

Here’s why I do it: I’ve been speaking professionally for long enough to know who the leavers are and why they leave. They are people who don’t respect what I do, don’t respect the people who worked hard to put together the conference and don’t respect their own jobs. They look at conference attendance not as a professional growth opportunity but as paid vacation days, a way to get away from work and still get paid.

And, don’t tell me, “They might just be going to the bathroom.” Not three at a time. “Maybe they are getting an early start on the long trip home.” That’s fine, but don’t stick your organization with another night in an expensive hotel. Leave at the end of the previous day.

A few years ago I was in Greensboro when the early-leaving situation occurred and I handled it the same way. In fact, people came up to me after the program and applauded me for calling out the early-leavers. Later that evening, in the hotel lobby, I ran into the people who left early and I asked them why. They said, “There’s a sale at Lane Bryant and we wanted to get there early.”

Professionalism on parade.

I realize that not everyone loves what they do, like I do. But, if you aren’t going to act like a professional, stay home. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

:-) Happy Birthday, Today!!!

On this day in 1982, Professor Scott E. Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University proposed that humorously intended computer messages be punctuated with a , colon, hyphen and parentheses, creating a horizontal “smiley face.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bounce-Back, Bounce-Back, Bounce-Back

If you are getting a lot of bounce-back emails there’s a simple way to cut out a lot of them.

You know what I’m talking about; you send someone an informational email and they feel the need to respond, “I liked this” or “Wow! That’s cool.”

The email they send back is just one more thing you have to deal with.

You can cut out a lot of bounce-backs by simply adding, “No Reply Necessary” to the subject line.

When receivers see the “No Reply” message they automatically understand that your message is informational, not actionable.

And yes, there will be some people who feel the need to respond, but if you can cut out 30-50% of the useless bounce-backs you’re ahead of the game.

Monday, September 16, 2013

My Paper Was Soaked

Evidently, it rained after my delivery guy tossed my newspapers into the yard. Both of them were soaked.

My first thought was to take them in the house, spread’em out, dry’em out, and then read.

Then a thought hit me as if someone had popped me on the back of the head.

What is the likelihood that there is anything in those papers that will affect my daily life? What is the likelihood that I can’t walk in the house and with a few clicks get whatever is in the papers online?

I know, I know…I’ve understood the logic for years, but until this morning the reality had not hit me.

So often in our lives we have to experience the reality of a change—feel it—before we make it happen in our lives.

Another quick shower just blew by as I was writing that last sentence. It was almost as if life was giving me a simple reminder.

What’s staring you in the face? You know the logic of it, but the reality of how it affects your life really hasn’t bit you? If you’ll go ahead and accept the reality and act on it how can you use it to change your life for the better?

I like walking outside in the morning to get the paper, I enjoy the ritual of eating a light breakfast and reading, I love the feel of turning the pages of a newspaper, but are those things enough to keep doing what I’m doing? If they are, if their value is great enough, that’s fine.

But, if there is a faster, cheaper, easier, more efficient and more effective way to reach a goal maybe it’s time to change.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stepping to the Window

Whenever 9/11 rolls around it always seems trivial to talk about anything other than What Happened.

(If you are easily stressed or shocked you’ll probably want to stop reading and move on right now.)

So often, when I see pictures relating to What Happened I think about the people at the windows…and their two choices.

We all have choices to make in life; jobs, companions, habits, diets, attitudes…all kinds of choices that define the type of life we have.

We rarely have a choice that determines the type of death we’ll experience.

The choice we rarely have to make was this: Until about an hour ago you were in your office or your cubicle. You were annoyed that your stapler was out of staples. You had to choose whether you’d have more sugar with your coffee (because you know it’s not really good for you) or whether or not to say something about that dope in the next office who sounds like he’s yelling into his phone.

But, not now.

Now your office is an inferno. The fire is like something alive—which it is—and it is a monster consuming everything it touches. Your desk is in flames. You can see it across the hall and you can see those cute little pictures of your kids, the ones you made a few weeks ago at the Outer Banks, those shots are already cracked and burned. And that award you won last spring at the annual banquet, the brass is reflecting the orange/red flames leaping in front of it.

You can feel the heat of the fire. And it’s rapidly getting hotter…and you know the monster is coming for you….and you know the choice is coming.

So you put your foot on the window sill. You’re sixty floors up and the windows are made so that they don’t open like they might if you were a few floors up in an older building. Someone threw a couch through the window and there’s broken glass around the edge. There’s a bit of blood on one of the edges…you know how it got there but you don’t want to think about it.

The wind is howling by the window with a sound that reminds you of a dragon’s roar…another monster…one inside and one outside. It’s as if stepping up and into the window is like stepping into the mouth of the dragon.

You look out the window and see a snapshot of some of The City. You see TV and police helicopters circling. It seems that some of the cameras pointing out of the sides of the TV choppers are pointed right at you. You wonder if those happy children whose photos are already smoke and cinders will see you on the news tonight.

And you look back into the room and the fire is getting closer and the choice is almost at hand.

The monster inside or the monster outside.

That’s really the choice, isn’t it? let the monster inside consume you or to step into the dragon’s mouth.

And then you realize there might be another choice…to see if you can fly.

Fire or fly.

Looking at it that way changes the choice, doesn’t it?

Time is getting short.

You knew someone else made the choice when you saw the bit of blood on the glass at the edge of the window. Maybe they flew.

You put your hands on the edge of the window and glass nicks the meaty part of your hand.

You step out onto the ledge.

The blue sky seems so welcoming.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Skimping on the Mac and Cheese

Yesterday, I had lunch at KFC. When I was a little boy in Lumberton, NC, I remember when KFC, or as we knew it at the time, Kentucky Fried Chicken, came to town. The franchise operated out of a trailer and fast food franchises were new to us so food ALREADY COOKED that Mama brought home was really cool!

Over the years the heavy breading drove me away but I always respected what Col. Harland Sanders created

Now, KFC, in a nod to a more health-concious nation offers grilled chicken that is really good. In a less than health-concious nod to lunch I had grilled chicken, mac and cheese, and cole slaw.

As I was finishing my side dishes…or, maybe I should say, “side samples,” in a nod to portion size, I noticed that the small, plastic containers are made so the bottoms aren’t flat, they are convex…if you hold them and look into the container the bottom curves towards you. This means there is less room in the container for product. It means they are giving us less food.

I certainly understand it’s a trend that allows companies to make more profit. If you pick up an 8 oz. container (or what looks like one) of shampoo in the grocery store it won’t contain 8 oz., it contains 7.5 oz. They’re doing it to milk, salad dressing, you name it.

Lots of us do it at work. We leave a few minutes early, get there a few minutes late or take a few more minutes for lunch…almost every day. In new research about telecommuting many of the telecommuters confessed that they work fewer hours when working at home than they do if they are at the office.

KFC has passed through a number of corporate hands. It’s been a long time since the late-Col. Sanders ran the company. But, I’ve got to believe that if Harland Sanders ran KFC today they wouldn’t slight us on the mac and cheese and the cole slaw.

When you think about your work day, are you giving a full measure?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Being Smart on Farnam Street

A recent article about Charlie Munger, the 90-year old partner of Warren Buffett, noted that Munger was a fan of

The blog is about how to be smarter, read better and think more effectively.

I’ve said it more often than I care to remember, “Most people don’t want to think because it’s hard work.”

If you want to think better, learn more and learn faster, check out the folks at Farnam Street.

Being Smart on Farnam Street

A recent article about Charlie Munger, the 90-year old partner of Warren Buffett, noted that Munger was a fan of

The blog is about how to be smarter, read better and think more effectively.

I’ve said it more often than I care to remember, “Most people don’t want to think because it’s hard work.”

If you want to think better, learn more and learn faster, check out the folks at Farnam Street.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Take It!

Just pulled my exercise bike out in front of the house and put a “Take It!” sign on it.

I decided that if I wasn’t going to use it maybe someone else could get some good from it.

I was motivated to make the move when I read that 700 airline attendants revealed that among the items air passengers have left on planes are a live parrot, a box of dried fish, a toupee, handcuffs and a glass eye.

Now, it could just be me, but I figured if someone can do without a glass eye and a toupee I can do without an exercise bike I don’t use, anyway.

I mean, I can understand the parrot, the dried fish and the handcuffs…those are optional kinds of items...well…maybe not the handcuffs, it just kind of depends of your interest…mmm…ok….maybe later on that one.

If you have stuff you don’t use, give it away, toss it, recycle/repurpose it, barter with it just get it out of your life and  you’ll have less clutter. Every year I try to get rid of books, CDs, magazines, clothes, furniture…lots of the stuff cluttering up my life.

And I still have too much stuff! I’m determined that when I die I’ll be buried in the few items I have in my closet and they’ll give away the rest of my stuff at the wake. Ha! Or, as in the 1964, Anthony Quinn movie, Zorba the Greek, my neighbors will run in my house and steal everything when they learn I’ve croaked.

Speaking of croaking…or choking…all 25,000 students who took an entrance exam for the University of Liberia failed the test. An official said, “They lacked enthusiasm.”

A live parrot’ll cure that.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

85 Days

Welcome back from Labor Day! Hope you had a safe and restful holiday...or, a wildly scary and wonderfully exciting holiday.

Now, wake up! Here’s the reality: We have 85 days until the next holiday, Thanksgiving.

Here’s the reason the math is important: 2013 is two-thirds over…done…fini…can't get it back…gone forever.

And what have you done with the previous two-thirds of the year?

While on a trip last week I asked myself, “Mike, the year is two thirds over and what have you accomplished? Are you any closer to reaching the goals you set at the first of the year? How close are you to making some of your ideas realities?”

I’m not sure I liked my answer. I’ve blistered through some goals and that tells me I need to set them a little higher. But, with a lot of other things I’ve let a range of obstacles, irritants, people, lack of resources (or, perceived lack), laziness, ignorance, injuries, more laziness and cosmic stumbling blocks slow me down.

Here’s the deal: We all have one-third of the year left in terms of days. But, you know how this works. Once it gets to Thanksgiving…then just around the corner is Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day. So, what most of us do is start slowing down around Thanksgiving in order to enjoy the holidays and revel/wallow in whatever victories we’ve had during 2013…or, gloomily wallow in the recognition of our lack of accomplishment.

What will you do with the next 85 days? What will I do with the next 85 days?

Tick, tick, tick.